The Symphony


It all sounds like a muddled mess of an argument that will never be resolved.

That one brave soul steps in. The signal is given.

Respect, leadership and admiration.

For a brief moment, all is resolved. We are transferred into a place…

Where all emotions are settled and in tune.

Saying Goodbye to Our Allie Girl


On Mother’s Day of 2005, I asked for a dog.

Sort of.

I think it was more that I gave in to my husbands constant nagging for a fury family member, but regardless we went for it.

Our oldest was one and a half and in that sweet wobbly walking age, so why not?…

Is it a written rule to get a puppy when you have wee little ones?… I am sure somewhere it is….

Kinda like a new car and a new house. Right…

That year, I told several people in our lives I’d gotten a dog for Mother’s Day. You can imagine the reactions were varied. Most came with a hard cold stare, or with a good chuckle.   

So that was Allie Compton. She was the sweetest most loving bundle of energy.

We were smitten. 

Saturday morning we woke up and she was gone. She was almost 13. A long time to live for a dog. 

Being completely aware this day would come soon, we’d been trying to get mentally prepared for the day our girl would leave us.

Try as hard as you may, nothing prepares you to say goodbye to a faithful friend. 

She was in the house most of the day Friday, as usual, and the kids were loving on her. She was in the yard playing like her normal self just a few days before.


I am grateful we did not have to see her suffer, she was always in optimum health.

I am grateful for the dog that patiently watched us grow as a family, and was just there, keeping us company all the way through.


 Almost 13 years of having her in our lives, it’s gonna take a while to get used to her not being around anymore. 

Without a doubt in my mind, she did more for us than we did for her. Whatever good or bad we may have had with her were all worth it. I feel like I am a better person because I got to experience having her as part of our family.

Love, Helen

The responsibility, patience, selflessness, and commitment that comes with having a dog makes us stronger, all-around better people – Emily Wang from Barkpost





Grief and the Holidays

I consider I’ve experienced moments of grief in my life. These have been times of loss and doubt. Or both. 

Some I look back and wonder how I ever thought they were grief… good grief…

I am sure some of you can relate.

I remember the day I found out we were pregnant with our first child. It was not a joyous time. I felt like a failure because I was young, afraid and did not know who to turn to. 

Of all the things I thought could happen to me in that time of life, being a young mother was far removed from it all.

It did not help that the man I was expecting from was a stranger to me. And I was a stranger to him. 

Now I can see, I had plenty of support, I was taking it for granted.

This year, mid October my father-in-law passed away. Unexpectedly. Of all the things I could have imagined for us, loosing my father-in-law was far from my mind. 

There were behaviors and actions he displayed that were not good for him. Sometimes he was not easy to deal with.

He sometimes made it difficult for us to see him in public places. He had lost a lot of friends and contact with loved ones.

As parents, Ryan and I had set many boundaries for him.

Boundaries we did not want to have to set, but we thought these would help him do better. We wanted to have a functional, happy, healthy father and father-in-law.

More than anything I wanted my father-in-law to love our kids with a constant love. These behaviors were stealing his ability to provide that for them. For anyone really. 

I had a lot of faith that he would get help. We offered him all we could.

We thought we were getting close to finding a solution and he seemed almost willing to take help.

He was only 70.  I imagined  many more years with him. Him holding his great grand children and loving on them. Restored into a new life of freedom from all his hang ups.

But then he died. 

A few days before Christmas we found out a little more about how he died. 

I can’t describe the pain we felt to know these things. We still have questions that will forever in this world go unanswered. 

Doesn’t matter. 

Easter 2017. Last picture of Sammy with his boys, his pride and joy.

I have hope he is resting and free of the bondage of these things.


Christmas was tough. Tougher then I thought it could be, but yet it was a different sort of good. 

We enjoyed being with my mother-in-law but a few times I found it hard to swallow our meal and sat wondering. Wondering what it would be like if he were still here and well.

I am also grateful to God because even in the grief, He has brought to mind sweet memories of my father-in-law. I have been able to shared some with my husband and the kids.

Some memories I recall and forget almost immediately. I think it is helping us to get on to recall. 

I am grateful to the many neighbors, friends and family who ask us without reservation how we are. 

I understand reaching out to those grieving can be uncomfortable. 

Here is an article that was helpful for me: What Grieving People Wish You Knew At Christmas.

One thing I do regret; I regret not reaching out to those who have suffered in this time. Or anytime.

Even though things may seem well, grief is a rollercoaster of emotions. 

I pray you can find, or help someone find, the Merry and Happy in the Holiday season.

No matter what your grief is. 

Merry Golden Christmas 2018




Touch of Many Countries in the City

I love, love, love what the city of Doraville did this year with the Mayor’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting.

What a wonderful way to celebrate the diversity of this community and open the eyes of it’s residents, and it’s visitors, to the many cultures and customs of other lands.  

It started off with an amazing performance from the Dunwoody High School Choir. They did an excellent job with the accapella Christmas Carols. 

The Chinese Cultural School of Atlanta yo-yo performers were impressive to say the least. 

The Gokul Nritya Raj Dance Academy cultural dance routine was reflective and beautifully presented.

U.S. Marine Corps singers came out and gave it their all. God bless the men and women who are willing to lay down their lives for us. 


Mayor Donna Pitman did a great job getting the kids (and adults) excited about the new tree being lit. Which is beautiful. You have to get by and see it in person. Great choice guys. 

And Donna P. did a great job getting the kids pumped about Santa’s arrival. He got a little upgrade with his ride this year and was riding happily in the passenger seat of a hot rod. Next year Mrs. Clause needs to do the honors of escorting him in.

He also came accompanied by  the Panamanian Marching Band who really got the party started.

Once Santa and his helpers got to City Hall, they took their place and got down to business. I believe we were family # 90 something, so that tells you he was up to a busy night.

B.T.W. You know who you are Santa’s little helpers, you did a great job with pictures and getting the kids comfortable with their photo shoots.

We mingled out of doors while we waited for our turn to get pictures.

The light show started while we waited and it was dazzling! The kids had a blast practicing their dance moves. 

We were a touch late upon arrival, so we missed the craft making and s’mores on the fire pit. Still we had a great time. 


Fact is, D’ville had a night packed with activities, we almost missed getting our pictures done with St. Nicholas.


Making changes and re-vamping can be a scary thing sometimes. Hats off to a hard working team of folks!

You greatly succeeded and knocked it out of the ballpark!!!! 

Go D’Ville!!!

♥ all of us




A Small Kind of Accomplishment

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Ours was restful and enjoyable in many ways.

I thought I would put some thoughts down since I have been feeling overwhelmed and this is quite therapeutic for me.

Over two weeks ago our washer gave up. 

It was a Friday night, November 10th to be exact. I’d just finished washing an un-earthly amount of things. I figured it was just having a fit so I ignored it and didn’t bother with it. 

Four days later I remembered it was broken and mentioned it to Ryan expecting he would try and fix it again.

He had taken it apart this past summer after it choked on him. I was off in Phoenix galavanting, and he was home alone with all the kids and mountains of laundry.  

Whatever he did worked.

The washer and dryer combo were here when we moved in. It was a nice upgrade from what we had, nothing. Who doesn’t love free?!

Kitchen entry before with pantry and laundry. The washer and drier combo were left by the previous owners.

Unfortunately, both had been problematic since we moved in. The washer had a permanent stench to it and mold. The dryer did not dry well. Clothes had to be run 2 or 3 cycles before they dried to my satisfaction. Sometimes it dried fine with 1 cycle. 

We went to Lowe’s a few days before Thanksgiving. Delivery was backed up a week or so.

In the meantime I inconvenienced my amazing neighbor by getting a few washes in at her house, what are neighbors for right?… Now she needs to come over and use our new washer and dryer… wink*

And we went to the laundromat twice with $50 worth of laundry to wash and dry.

The delivery truck came today and we got our new washer and dryer!

In trying to stay in that grateful mind set, here are some things to be thankful for:

  • We got a good deal on both appliances because it happen to be Thanksgiving, pre-Black Friday madness.
  • The drier came with a big dent in the corner. That got us an additional 20% discount on the drier and we did not need a new dryer hose. Another 11 bucks saved and credited back to us. 
  • It had been a good 5 years since I washed at a laundromat. It was taxing lugging all our stuff in and out of there and I was shocked at how expensive it can be to use a laundromat on a regular basis. 
  • Going to the laundromat with our 7 year old was a good reminder that the kids are well and capable of helping with the laundry at home. He did such a great job sorting and loading the washers at the laundromat. I need to re-kindle our chore chart.
  • I was trying to remember if in the 14 years we’ve been married we have had to buy a new washer and dryer…?… I don’t think so. We’ve always had used. 
  • The new ones washed and dried like a champ! 

It’s the little things.

Thanks for reading,

♥ Helen



Thanksgiving 🍁 11/23/17

Thank you for allowing me a voice.

A whole lot has been going on in our personal lives. Some difficult, some joyful. We are healthy and all our needs are meet.

I am wanting to write about it all but I do feel stretched to the limit. 

So, even with the disappointments and difficulties we’ve been facing, God has been faithful and I have many things and people to be grateful for. 

So this Thanksgiving season, I am choosing to be very thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving 

Little Bird Says

In Need Of Renovations

I feel selfish saying we have a need for anything.

Our home is beyond comfortable and livable. From the outside looking in, everything looks fine.

The reality of home owing is different. Like most home owners, you begin to dwell in your humble home, and you begin to see things that need attention. Necessities. 

For several years we’ve been making a list of home improvement projects. We’ve also been working on saving to tackle them. And at the beginning of this summer we were pretty pumped and ready to do something about those necessities. 

Although, we think we have the ability to do most of the work, Ryan’s schedule is far more demanding than it was 4 years ago, when he tackled the interior remodel. The time commitment is huge. And I think it would overwhelm us both. 

Since we homeschool, and are normally home most of the day. It may become the end of us. 

We decided to bite the bullet and explore contracting the projects out.

With a ballpark amount in mind, and once we felt like we had enough savings, we began the tedious task of getting bids.

Immediately we focused our energy on getting bids on relatively big things.

We realized if we started with little things, it could be counter productive to go small, then big. Running the risk that once we went on to the bigger items on our necessities list, we could potentially harm the smaller work done.  

Just to give you an idea, here is what is on our list

  1. A pool. Just kidding. Wrong list. 
  2. The retaining wall in the backyard. Original to our 50’s home, the cinder block retaining wall is falling apart, and holding back our neighbors side yard, they are on a hill above us. Another section is all railroad ties from the early 80’s (work my father in law did). These are disintegrating and work as an island that keeps back a large amount of overgrown trees in our own yard. We are concerned with making sure that someone very knowledgable can take this on.
  3. Replace the entire carport. It is rotting and falling apart, and since we would already be replacing the wood, we would go ahead and widen it a touch.
  4. Remove the front shed. It is currently right in front of the front door. So the curb appeal is off to say the least. Right now it functions as our dogs (Allie’s) outdoor room. 
  5. The soffit and cornice around the house are starting to fall apart and are rotted in several places.
  6. Re-paint the entire house. Brick and siding. The caulking is coming loose, the wood is becoming exposed, this allows for the potential of water damage. 
  7. Gutters and downspout, we have none in the front, so there is a waterfall when it rains making mud puddles all around the front perimeter of the house. 
  8. The roof line would need to change since the carport would widen a touch. 
  9. The fireplace. I didn’t like the fireplace a few posts ago. I think I hate it now. The smell of wet that comes from it is beginning to wear on me. The kids had walking pneumonia this summer, never before. I blame it on the fireplace. That may be a bit of an irrational conclusion to come to.
  10. Our electrical box is at its max capacity. We need to change the service line. The house is asking for more power than the line can deliver. 
  11. We would like to bury all the lines that come from above into the house. 
  12. Finish painting our McDaddy shed. Fix the shed roof because months after we finished the shed, a tree branch poked a significant size hole in the roof. Although we patched it, it still leaks when it rains. 

It’s a long list.

The Hard Cold Numbers

When we went into this we really thought $60,000 would take care of A LOT.

Which is more than we had managed to save, but it couldn’t be more than that — could it? 

Well… All the bids we received were somewhere in the $65,000-$80,000 range.

That does not include the retaining wall replacement, that was another $20,000.

Or the electrical work from GA Power which would have been another $5,000

I should have laughed it off. But… I am pretty sure my eyes bulged when I saw the numbers, and my heart broke. 

Okay, that may have been a bit dramatic. It was more like someone socked me in the stomach. 

Theoretically, lets just say we had the cash. Which we don’t.

Do we feel like this is a good investment. We think it necessary.

Do you know what I mean though?

Am I looking at it all wrong

Ultimately, for another $100,000 we could have a house that could be in much better long-term shape.

But what if God calls us away from our beloved Doraville in 5 to 10 years?

Will our house be worth the $300,000 (plus) we would have invested into it? (mortgage 129. First major remodel 50. Endless yard work 20. The necessary, new, not yet done renovations to the exterior 100. This is a rough estimate in thousands. Cash money y’all!!!)

Not sure we would be getting our money back.

We would still have 1,100 sq. ft. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom.  

We would certainly have to put our “wish” list aside. 

I need to forget about the things I dream we could have one day:

  • pool, sunroom/ portico
  • new fence
  • metal roof
  • a 2 car carport (instead of a 1 car carport, oh the 50’s were simpler times ♥)
  • Master suite, just one more bathroom (even if just a half bath), so our house is more hospitable when we have visitors.

How will we ever be able to afford it all when this damn house needs, needs, needs…

Rage. Episode. Over. This is truly where I am. 

I think of a little more space sometimes. It’s hard to explain the dynamics of being in a house with constant noise and chatter. I am so grateful that we have to be forced into living life together (together is our favorite place to be, right?).

But… sometimes I just want to go hide in another part of the house and not be found.

I can’t, there is no other space to hide in the house. 

Yes, I am making the 1,100 sq. ft house experience sound treacherous. I am just being honest. Real. Sometimes I, we, just need a little space. 

So here we are. All summer has felt like we’ve had our hands tied behind our backs with this whole thing. 

I think that’s why I haven’t written about the house in months. I loved writing about something different, like Portland. Thank you for reading. 

I wanted to take my mind off of homeownership. I was fortunate enough to traveled this summer, besides Portland. I tried my best to focus on enjoying the sights, and the special time with friends. Love you my BFF N.P!

I kind of regret not writing about my first time visit to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, during fourth of July. It was amazing.

And our family beach trip to our favorite forgotten coast island in Florida, which was interrupted by Irma – in Saint George. 

I should be grateful that not one of the items on our list is truly pressing. Still, they run the risk of becoming problems. If you’ve owned a home. You know that problems, mean more money. 

One positive thing we got done this summer to the house is that we had an overgrown, trashy privet removed from our front yard. It was taller than the house, so it provided a little shade.  

We also had a massive tree in the front yard trimmed, so that hopefully if it falls it will go into the street and not land on our or anyones home and kill us all. Melodramatic? 

That set us back several thousand. 

Even though we trimmed it significantly, the tree services we used warned us that taking the entire tree down would still cost us several grand. 

I didn’t have a point when I started, but I’m gonna take a shot at it.

I think the point of this story is home owning is a HUGE responsibility. 

It’s not for dandies like me.

Thanks for being my therapy Doravillians, I cherish you deeply!

Closing 4 Blog-2







Saying Goodbye to Stumptown (Portland)

Gesh… I think I wrote this post 3 weeks ago and then we had to get ready for back to school. It takes me a minute to recover from back-to-school, especially when we are “the school.” 

Find out more about what went on – – day 1 and day 2 here!

Day 3 and 4 are below:

Like all the other mornings, we woke up way early, all thanks to the time difference.

I was okay with that, since obviously we gained more day time hours, but our body clocks we were so off.

Not having the kids with us, was probably another contributor to the confused state I was in most of the time. 

Day 3 

Grabbed coffee and light breakfast at Starbucks. 

We had waterfalls and Hood River (breweries) in our sights for the day, so we took it light on the breakfast.

The Historic Columbia River Highway is roughly an hour from the hotel. 


We scooted out early because we wanted to avoid another evening of Portland traffic getting back in to town. 

One of Ryan’s passions is to get out in the mountains and get away from it all. He wants to trek out early on a Saturday, and drive thru the winding mountain roads. It’s so beautiful. Believe me when I say that I feel the same way he does.

On that note, you can’t miss the fall colors in the N. Georgia mountains, it’s coming soon! Last weekend in October, first weekend of November. 

We often go camping in the N. Georgia mountains, but I dread the drive.

I get car sick quite easily, and if you have ever driven towards Blairsville, GA (the direction we generally go), you are aware of the winding roads. It’s really hard on me.

Even if I drive, I can get car sick. 

As we were headed to these amazing waterfalls off of the historic highway. My nerves were a bit jostled!

Surprisingly, it wasn’t anything like going waterfall hunting in N. Georgia. The highway runs directly parallel to interstate 84, and it’s just a short drive up from the interstate exit, about 3 miles.

A few winding roads, and voila!  

Our first stop was the view of the Vista House-Crown Point. You can see below the dome-shaped building on the ridge of the mountain to the right. That is where we are headed.  

I am glad we stumbled on this view-point. This may be one of the only spots on the historic highway where you can see the Vista House cliff side, and really soak it in.

The structure is so unbelievable, especially when you start to put dates together with its construction. Took some serious guts! It really marvels.

We made it to Vista Crown. It was built as a sort of “rest stop.”

The inside of the building is beautiful. you’ll have to take my word for it. It was very crowded, which made it difficult to get decent shots.

Below is a video with panoramic views. The Columbia River and Washington state on the other side of it.

From there we headed east and stopped at the first few falls.

Latourell Falls

Shepperds Dell

Five falls later, Multnomah Falls. It is considered the crown jewel of the falls, it’s only a 8.5 mile drive from the Vista House. I don’t know why I was expecting completely secluded. What we got was beautiful, but bustling with spectators. With a large welcome and historic center,  also has a souvenir store, bathrooms and cafe. 

All the falls were amazing. Wouldn’t you say Oregon lucked out with their falls? 

From here we had to make a u turn, the rest of the highway was shut down. We don’t know the reason but we suspect boulders on the road. 

We only back tracked a little before we were back on I-84, headed east to downtown Hood River

We parked to get lunch by the Hood River Waterfront Park.

Looked newly built, gorgeous and pristine, but packed!

I’m still looking for secluded… Ha to me!

First, a flight-o-beer. pFriem family brewers is set right across the river and had a great vibe. Community style seating and lots of bustle. We shared the mussels and fries, drenched in a fennel and apple cream sauce. The beer was just right. 

A long walk along the river, and I was blown away by the amount of windsurfers. Let’s just say the few novices there stood out, most were highly skilled and fun to watch. 

You can see the loop on the map below:


After Hood River, our hope was to make the loop south over to Mount Hood instead of along the way we arrived on I-84. We decided to head back the way we came, I’d pushed my luck in the car.

Back at the hotel we freshened up and dinner at the Departure was a must. We had Portland local brews in mind for Thursday, our last full day, so we knew this was it for Departure.

Would take 2 be as good?… 

We aimed for new. We’ve had pork belly in the past, and it has always been disappointing. Just too rich. Not this time. It really had a melt in your mouth quality.

The Bibimbap was served on a stone, very hot bowl. It is served as shown then mixed table side. This hot bowl seemed to give the rice a crispy consistency. It was scrumptious.

The brussel sprouts had such a refreshing taste, mint and lime are in the mix. I was determined, once I got home, to make the brussel sprouts. I went overboard with the fish sauce. A bit too pungent. 

Their version was definitely better. 

Here are some views from the Departure restaurant rooftop:

I have to admit the views from above kinda gave me the heebie jeebies. Honestly, Wednesday and Thursday nights sleep was hard to come by, our room was situated right below the sky bar.

Until a certain point thru the night, I have no idea when, it was bustling above us with conversation and footsteps. I don’t think the noise level necessarily bothered me as much as my crazy thoughts.

The mom in me could not sleep wondering if someone would fly off the edge of the rail. Crazy me! 

Day 4: Last day in Portland

We fly back tomorrow, so we decided to stay in town and on foot, for our last full day. We spent a lot of time in the car that week. 

After a quick breakfast we walked into the Pearl district, to Lan Su Chinese Garden.  

Lan Su is considered the most authentic Suzhou-style Chinese garden outside of China. 

Suzhou is sister cities with Portland. I believe it was a process of 10 or more years, getting approval and planning for the garden. 

We started with a 1 hour tour guide. 

Most of the building materials came from Xhin and the plants from traditional Chinese gardens. The 65 artisans from Suzhou lived in Portland for 10 months during the project’s completion. 

After an hour of touring we sat down at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections (teahouse) and enjoyed our first ceremony tea.

Lan Su is one of those places you have to visit to understand the intricacies of it. The respect that is shown to uphold tradition, it’s a treasure.  

We headed out to find lunch.  

Fat Heads was a few blocks away, we sat outside and ordered way too much food. 

The Work in Progress Burger was a fun mix of peanut butter, crinkle cut pickles, balsamic blueberries. And the SmokeHouse chili fries had fresh-cut fries, topped with smokehouse chili, Jack and cheddar cheese, fresh jalapeños, onions, cilantro, a sunny egg and chipotle aioli. Hope you’re starving hungry kind of stuff.

A decent side of fries would have done it. But with beer, the mish-mash was excellently naughty. 

Beer good. Food good. We walked more to get some shopping done, and digest. We stopped in at Powell’s bookstore and it was a mad house. 

Went for a second round at Deschutes Brewery. Wow I was still stuffed. But we wanted more beer.

The rest of the day was spent getting some gifts and taking in the sights. 

We skipped dinner but had some late dessert at Urban Farmer

Our Friday flight was an early morning one. So we called it quits and went to packing!

Everywhere we went during our visit, there were signs of events to be held during the Eclipse. I had Portland on my mind this past Monday (Eclipse day) and the great fun we had. 

We’ll be back Portland. 

Summer Exit






Pt. 2: Stumptown (Portland) in a Nutshell

Yikes! I thought I’d lost a good chunk of my post.

Finally, I figured out what the heck was wrong, and my panic attack is over.

I can breathe.

If you haven’t noticed yet from the previous post, we are serious foodies. We love to try new things. It’s amazing to me how many people we talk to who are not as adventurous with food.

We are often trying to push Doraville eateries to friends, most sell themselves successfully. We love to share our adventures in food with them. But there is definitely one thing, of many we are not as educated in, wines.

I know I like Pinots Grigios and Ryan Cabernets, could we be more opposite on the taste scale?

Who goes to Portland (with so much time) and doesn’t at least give the valley a drive thru?

So wines were definitely on our Portland bucket list. Before we made it out there we were given a hearty list by an acquaintance, Steve G., who also happens to be a sommelier.

We’d heard and read that the Willamette (pronounced by natives something like this: why-lah-met) were a different breed of winemakers. For good reason, we agree whole heartedly.

As wine novices, we were so impressed by the beauty of the valley, the relaxed approach and the ease of the people.

We are not wine experts, so you don’t have to take our word for it but if what you are looking for is people with a fresh and passionate perspective about their wine making, do Willamette.

Day 2!

What is breakfast with out donuts?

We walked to the most bad ass donut place, Voodoo Donuts. I say that because who plays garage rock at 6:00 in the morning?  And they have the most unusual flavors and names for their donuts, i.e. dirty snow ball and old dirty bastard. I’m stopping there to keep it G rated. On the way out, several people in the PDX airport had boxes of donuts with them. 

The wine tasting rooms did not open till noon so we took our donuts over to the Tom McCall waterfront park. It sits along the Willamette River and a close walk from the hotel. It was quite busy with bikes, people running and us; drinking coffee and eating donuts in secret while everyone worked out, ha!

Eventually we made it back to the hotel and enjoyed a decent persons breakfast at Urban Farmer. Nothing out of the ordinary. But enjoyable. 

Wineries here we come!

About an 1.5 hours away from the Nines, our first stop was Cristom Vineyards in Salem.

First on the list that was bestowed on us by Steve G., and man it did not disappoint. 

After a bit of soaking in the views. We decided we would stay there. Forever.  

The Willamette River hidden behind the line of trees
Mount Hood in the horizon
Mount Jefferson peeking up behind (snowy top) the Cascade Range

The views of the Willamette Valley are amazing, Darcy our wine pourer and source of all good information made it extra special. Specially when we told her this was our first time wine tasting. She took it easy on us. 

Cristom pour

After 2 hours of harassing Darcy with our ignorance, and placing a wine order. I went for the Vigonier and Ryan the Syrah. 

We left a little more educated.

We took it into McMinville for lunch. Be warned. The majority of the places do not offer a menu.

Lunch was edible. After talking it over we decided we should take Darcy’s suggestion and drive back to visit Brooks Vineyards. One of her favorites, and down the street from Cristom.

We pulled in and knew we would enjoy this place. First things first. Their label is a dragon eating its own tail. If that doesn’t tell you this is gonna be good, I don’t know what will?!   

Gerry our wine extraordinaire was stellar. He gave us the complete history of the winery and the story is amazing worth looking up. There is a great documentary out called American Wine Story or just follow the link. Hit me up if u wanna borrow it 😉 

We did accompany our wine with a beautiful Charcuterie plate. I think this was my first experience with pate. Not bad. We decided on the Pomona flight, a flight of 3 whites and 3 pinot noirs. They also do lots of great food events with chef Abby. 

House made pate, rillettes, and local salami, with house made seasonal accompaniments

Most of the wineries closed at 5 for tastings. So I can’t see how you can do more than 2-3 a day. The guide book we picked up from the concierge is 32 pages long. 23 of those are dedicated to tasting rooms, cellars, and vineyards.

We really only, barely, touched the surface of the Willamette. 1 day was enough just to tease the palette. We will absolutely be going back. 

We pushed out of Willamette and back to Portland, we needed food that would really satisfy.

Steve G., also recommended that we stop at Pok Pok

There was a long wait but it was totally worth it. Pok Pok is not your classic American Thai place. As a fan of Thai food, I was pretty blown away by the different options and flavors. A great mix of street food and home cooking you don’t normally find outside of Thailand. 

Don’t let the names of the dishes scare you off. Our waitress was glad to help. And the menu is very clear and helpful to understanding the root of the dishes and how to best enjoy them. 

We started with some of Ike’s (massive) Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. Not your classic American wings. Followed by a very spicy dish of Muu Paa Kham Waan served with fresh leafy greens to cool down the heat. And a perfect portion of sticky white rice, swoon… and sleep.  


More coming your way…

Summer Exit



Pt. 1: Stumptown (Portland) in a Nutshell

It’s an unfair title, I can’t really put Portland in a nutshell. It’s got so many good things going for it, and we have way too much to say about it. 

Last week, we were blessed enough to travel there for 5 nights and 6 days. 

My sweet sister, Aurora, flew in from Texas and watched two of our three kiddos for us. Levi, the oldest, was away with Civil Air Patrol doing encampment. Imagine how blessed I feel to have someone in my life I can trust to keep my kids for that long. No way we would have gone with out her help. Thanks a bajillion sis! 

with our beloved tia Aurora

If you have ever considered visiting Portland, summer time is the way to go. When you think of the North West cities, for good reason, rain instantly comes to mind. But the climate was outstanding this early July! 

Mild cool mornings in the 50’s-60’s and mid to high 80’s in the afternoon. We were told that they hit the 90’s the previous week. But that mornings were still cool.

I was surprised by the low humidity. I would have guessed that with water all around Portland we would have been drug down by the humidity, but no! All the places we went to on the 4 days were near a large river or by the ocean. Willamette, Hood and Columbia River and of course the Pacific ocean. And very low non-oppressive humidity levels.

Our itinerary went something like this:

Tell me the view from the airplane of Hood Mountain was not incredible! (checked that off our list)

For our first night, Sunday, we arrived and our bodies were confused. It was 7 p.m. PDX time. Even a 3 hour time change can mess with ya! 

At the airport we immediately grabbed some Peet’s Coffee, picked up our car from our awesome Avis agent and drove in to Downtown Portland. We got checked in to our ah-mazing hotel, the Nines, did a quick walk thru of our room and decided dinner at Departure was a must.

Departure is rated one of the best restaurants in PDX, by several Portland publishings.

Easy for us, it’s located on the rooftop of the Nines. The views are incredible!

By the time we got seated it was midnight in Atlanta, so we ordered lite.

Just kidding… It was impossible to contain ourselves. 

Man was it good!

Day 1!

Woke up way early and plan-less. We had an idea of what we wanted to do pre-arrival, but the truth is we did not have too much time to make set plans. 

So we headed downstairs to maul things over and have breakfast at the hotels other restaurant, Urban Farmer.

I got a vegetable frittata with seasonal vegetables, foraged mushrooms and aged cheddar. I also got a half order of brioche french toast, with peach jam, hazelnut butter and pure maple syrup on the side. 

Ryan got a house made honey biscuit with a fried egg, sausage gravy crispy chicken leg and lemon marmalade on the side. He added a small side of chicken cherry sausage for good measure.

Needless to say we ate a colossal breakfast. Another hit!

I went to the room to digest (sleep). Ryan sat down with the amazing hotel concierge and got the scoop on what to do while in Portland and throughout Oregon.

I say amazing because Ryan came back to the room with a full-on plan! What we mentioned to the concierge we were looking to do, he expanded on. I never knew the power of a concierge. For the rest of the trip we harassed him constantly.  

We hit the road, our route took us North into Washington State for brief bit, thru what seemed to be a large logging community, Longview, WA. 

Soon enough we were back down into Oregon. We followed the scenic route, US-30, along the Historic Columbia River Hwy.  The last half of the drive, we had views of the Columbia River and my thoughts went wild remembering all the stories I’ve read about The Lewis and Clark Expedition.

We made it to Astoria shy of lunch time. If  you are a movie buff, Astoria is where Goonies was filmed. Apparently a lot of good movies were wholly or partially filmed in this area and throughout Oregon. Can you tell, I am not excited with this finding, I don’t consider myself a movie buff. 

Our first stop was Ft. George Brewery and Public House.

Ryan got a tap brew taster tray, I had to pass. I’d taken something for nausea that was making feel not so great. First go at Oregon brews (Ft. George ended up being Ryan’s favorite) and I missed out. Oh well.

We shared the BEST wild Alaskan salmon fish and chips. The fresh salmon taste was distinct. We also threw in another dish in to the mix, a plate of chipotle hummus.

Also in Astoria and just a few minutes from the center, we stopped in at Ft. Clatsop (named after the Indians of that region), this was the winter encampment for the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery missions team. 

I was curious, but admittedly I was quite gripped at the thought of the hardships, dangerous adventures and victories these brave souls experienced. I am really glad we stopped in.

Our main destination was Cannon Beach. It was a quintessential small beach town. Lots of people, traffic and shopping for a Monday afternoon.

Although the sun was out and the uv index was high, it was windy, and in the mid 60’s. People were laid out and kids were playing. Some were in sweaters, I was in a windbreaker and pants. Not the kind of beach weather I am used to. We were obviously not mentally prepared for it because it was short-lived. I like a little sizzle on the beach in July. 

We packed it up and went over to one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, Haystack Rock.

Signs letting visitors know that puffins are easily spotted were about, real bummed we never saw one. Apperantly, when the tide is out you can walk right up to Haystack.  

Once we got our fix, we headed back towards Portland. We took a different route back, still we were back to the hotel in 2 hours. 

We walked around looking for the Columbia Sportswear store (born and grown in Portland) to grab a vest for RYan because it was that chilly, he lost his earlier in the day. When Ryan told them he had lost his, they gave him a 20% off coupon. So thoughtful of them! Since he grabbed a $90 vest.

For dinner we hit up another Portland top restaurant, Imperial. It’s located a few blocks away from our hotel.

We ordered parker rolls and grilled flatbread to share. We also tried to order the half roasted chicken but they were out. We were recommended by our waitress to try the fried chicken instead. It was really good, flavorful, juicy, and boneless. More of a large tender.

I realized later, we were so tired and hungry from the drive (4hrs or so in the car that day), that I had no energy to look back thru the menu. They had a lot of tasty looking seafood and vegetable dishes we’ll have to try next time.

For dessert we had warm olive oil cake with pistachios, coconut crumble, strawberries and whipped cream cheese (no pic:-)). It was just the right amount of sweetness, fluff and portion.  

I’ll update you on the next few days. I still have more on wines, dines, gorge and gardens. 


Part 2 can be found here

Summer Exit