Spring is Here! Upcoming Activities in Portland and Beyond!

Spring is my absolute favorite season.  Growing up in Southern California I was always a summer lover, but since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I have a new appreciation for this transitional season.  Down there, Spring doesn’t really exist.  It never gets cold enough for winter to really take effect, so once March rolls around, it’s just some slightly warmer weather.  When you actually experience winter, though, Spring is what pulls you out of the grey and gives you a new hope.  I love the vibrant colors starting to pop up all over the city and the increase of people being outdoors and chasing the sunshine.

It seems like everyone in Oregon shares these sentiments.  There’s never really a shortage of things to do here year-round, but Spring is the time that things really start to kick up.  We’ll start seeing more events and festivals as we all warm up from the winter chill.  I’ve put together a list of some upcoming events this Spring to get us out and moving!

1. Whale Watching Week–Oregon Coast, March 19-26

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I LOVE Whale Watching Week.  I try to get out to the Coast as much as I can (I AM a beach girl at heart, after all), and this biannual event is the perfect reason to head west.  All up and down the Coast areas are manned with volunteers to help you spot whales as they head north.   There’s nothing quite like it, and the best part is that it’s absolutely free (although in some spots you’ll have to pay the $5 parking fee)!  Make a day of it, and head to one of Oregon’s amazing coastal towns for lunch or dinner.  More than 20,000 whales are expected to pass by our shore, so check out Oregon State Parks’ website for more information and to find which of the 24 designated locations you want to watch from!

2.  Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival–Woodburn, OR, March 18-May 1

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Nothing says Spring quite like 40 acres of stunning tulips! Each year, Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm opens their tulip fields to the public to explore.  It’s an amazing sight to behold, and they change the layout each year, so there’s always something new to see.  It’s great for just taking in the natural beauty of the flowers and the backdrop of Mt. Hood, vineyards, and fresh country air, but there’s plenty more to do while you’re there! You can pack a picnic lunch or dine at the food court on site, buy or pre-order bulbs for your own garden, take a train ride through the fields, and even get some wine tasting done. Admission is $5/person, with a car limit of $20, so grab some friends and make a day of it! Visit their website for more information, and to plan your trip.

3. Annual Spring Beer and Wine Fest–Portland, OR, March 25-26

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Okay, so this one’s inside, but I had to include it because it’s such a quintessential part of ringing in Spring in Portland–this year is it’s 22nd year!  Located at the convention center (so you can enjoy rain or shine!), the festival is open 12-10 PM Friday and Saturday.  You can sample beer, wine, chocolate, and cheese from the region all under one roof! Children are allowed in until 9 PM both days, and kids under 13 get in for free. General admission is $10 for those of us $13+, but there’s all sorts of packages that you can buy which include drink tokens.  The value package is a great deal: $25 for admission, a standard tasting glass, and 10 tasting tokens.  Their site has all the information you need, including vendors and a list of musical acts that will be performing.

4.  Cinco de Maya Fiesta–Portland, OR, May 5-8

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In it’s 32nd year, Portland’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta is the largest multicultural festival in the state of Oregon.  It is located at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and is packed with food, fun, and cultural entertainment.  You can get your thrills on carnival rides, cheer on luchadors at Lucha Libre Portland, or visit the  12 Artisans traveling all the way from Guadalajara to showcase their artwork at this year’s event. With tons of free things to do, and only $9 for admission, it’s not only a great time, but a wonderful learning experience for kids to learn about a different culture!  For more info, visit their website.

5. Portland Rose Festival–Portland, OR, May 27-June 12

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Getting a little farther ahead, the Rose Festival is how we in Portland usher in summer.  Starting at the end of May, the CityFair opens up at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and begins the many events that take over Portland during the Festival.  Fireworks will kick off the opening on May 27 and there’s tons to do over the following couple of weeks, culminating in the always popular Dragon Boat Races and the Grand Floral Parade June 11, where the newly crowned Rose Festival Queen will join the parade of all-floral floats.  The parade starts at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, crosses the Burnside Bridge, and will end in Downtown Portland.  It’s a beautiful sight, and as we celebrate over 100 years, a true piece of Portland history! Get all the info on the official website.

Bonus: Portland Farmer’s Markets

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Springtime means farmer’s markets! Starting in Mid-March, the markets open and will run through the summer and fall.  The Portland Farmers Market is a non-profit that runs 8 different markets throughout the city, but there are many others that are independently run.  If you want the freshest fruits and veggies, jams, honeys, and plenty of other handcrafted goodies, look no further! The various markets run on different days of the week, so you can always find one on your day off.

I hope that this gives you some motivation to get out and get moving after this exceptionally cold and wet winter! What other springtime activities do you love?  Share them in the comments!

Posted on March 15, 2016 at 8:06 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Portland, Travel | Tagged , , , ,

How to Avoid Holiday Hosting Disasters

Thanksgiving is upon us! If you’ve tackled the turkey at your place before, you know that there’s always SOMETHING that doesn’t go to plan.  If it’s your first time, know that no matter how prepared you think you are, there will be hiccups along the way.  Sometimes, it can feel like the entire holiday rests on your shoulders, so when trouble arises, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

I find that the best thing to remember is that the holidays are about being with the people you love, not the meal or sleeping arrangements (I know, it’s really easy to say that now, remind me of this moment in January).  But it DOES do wonders to your sanity to remember that at the end of the day, no one’s going to disown you because the turkey is overcooked.  Of course, we still want the holiday celebrations to go off without a hitch, and there are a few ways to minimize disaster.  A little prep work (including making sure your heater has a working filter to keep your loved ones toasty warm!) can go a long way.

I found a couple really great articles from Houselogic (a part of the National Association of REALTORS®) that I wanted to share with you.  They’ve got some really great tips that even I hadn’t heard before.  Click the links below, and then come back to share how you prepare for the holiday season in the comments!

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Posted on November 25, 2015 at 10:27 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Holidays, Travel | Tagged , , ,

Wisconsin Wanderlust–So Much to See In-Country!

Typically, when we think of a “dream vacation” there’s the thought that it has to be somewhere exotic, and that usually means international.  Why is that the case though?  We live in a HUGE country.  It can’t be that the only destinations worth visiting are outside this 3.8 million square mile hunk of land. Even when we think domestic, it’s still on the outskirts of the country: New York, LA, D.C.  How is it that the entire heartland of our country gets discounted as a viable travel destination?

A couple weeks ago I got a chance to spend 8 days in Wisconsin.  Any time I told someone I was going on vacation to Wisconsin, I was met with puzzled looks.  I started to feel the need to tell people that I was “only going for my boyfriend’s family reunion” as if there was something wrong with going to the midwest just for fun.  Boy, are people missing out!  Not only did I have a great time, but I got to experience a lot of the things that people typically look for on vacation: local cuisine, stunning architecture, and cultural traditions.

When we first landed in Milwaukee, we found out that there was a  make-up Cubs game happening in Chicago that day, so we grabbed the rental car and made the hour and a half drive down to the Windy City (hey, we had already been traveling all night, what’s a little more?).  Even though it was a make-up game on a Monday, Wrigley Field and the surrounding area were electric.  We stayed at a little inn about a mile away from the stadium and walked to the game, where we were met with incredibly friendly and welcoming Chicagoans!  At the game, we ate real Chicago dogs and drank Old Style, the official beer of the Chicago Cubs–not haute cuisine by any means, but definitely authentic local cuisine! We sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch, a tradition almost as old as Wrigley itself.  Best of all the Cubs won in the bottom of the 9th!  We took to the streets with the rest of the fans and celebrated in a Cubs bar.  It was a really great afternoon and evening!

Pretty good seats for last-minute tickets, no?

Pretty good seats for last-minute tickets, no?

The next day, we made our way back up to Janesville, WI.  It’s a small town for someone like me, but in-state it’s a pretty big one.  Here is where I saw some of the most breathtaking architecture of our trip.  We even passed by a condo building that was registered as a National Historic Place.  One thing I really couldn’t get over was how beautiful all the churches were, with their huge, sloping steeples.  I’m terrible about remembering to get my camera out, so I didn’t get any shots of my own, but the internet is a wonderful place:

Beautiful restored facades in downtown Janesville. Photo by artistmac

Beautiful restored facades in downtown Janesville. Photo by artistmac

While we were there, we ate at some really great places.  My favorites were Time Out Pub and Grill which had the best fried cheese curds I’ve ever had, and Citrus Cafe, a place famous for their fresh-squeezed OJ.  I don’t know what they do to that orange juice but it is fantastic.  It’s perfectly sweet and tart, and had I not ordered a huge breakfast scramble I probably could’ve downed a pitcher to myself!

We got a chance to hang out with my boyfriend’s family on their farm.  I quickly learned that I am all kinds of city girl!  So much of what they were talking about was completely foreign to me–like calling the cattle by their number.  I did learn that cows love cucumbers though!  All the food they made for us was so delicious and so fresh.  They had some really amazing cheeses (although I was informed that that wasn’t the “good swiss.”  I can only imagine how heavenly that must have been!) and we feasted on all sorts of meat, buttery garlic potatoes, and a host of other home made sides and desserts.  Midwest kindness is no exaggeration.  I had never met these people before and they welcomed me right into their home and treated me like part of the family.  You could say that it was just because it was my boyfriend’s family, but it was pretty much what I experienced the whole trip.  Everywhere we went we were treated like old friends.

About halfway through the trip we took the day to go up to Wisconsin Dells, a town that is touted as the waterpark capital of the world.  There are so many parks and attractions loaded into this town it’s crazy!  It is a bit of a tourist trap, but we visited Mt Olympus, which was having a special which allowed us access to all four of their parks for $7/person.  Almost every park is part of a resort as well, and admission is included with your stay for most of them.  I am terrified of heights, but they convinced me to go on most of the rides and we had a blast!

Probably the piece de resistance of our trip was the chance to go see a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field.  It was only a preseason game, but we had so much fun! As a lifelong Packers’ fan, my boyfriend was especially excited because he was living out a childhood dream of his.  The Packers lost, but the experience could not be beat.

Getting prepped for the game! The stands went from almost empty to this in about 5 minutes.

Getting prepped for the game! The stands went from almost empty to this in about 5 minutes.

We also spent a day in Steven’s Point, WI, which was a town I had visited before and fallen in love with.  It is a small college town that is full of locally owned businesses.  The most important stop of the day was The Coffee Studio, which we stopped at in the morning for Nutella lattes, and then came back that afternoon for fresh-squeezed blackberry lemonade–with real blackberries!  I spent way too long in a 3-story consignment/vintage store that has something for everyone.

So next time you’re thinking about a fun vacation, I’d suggest thinking about a destination you don’t know much about! Of course, do some research first, but those “fly-over states” have a lot to offer that will give you a fun trip and probably save you a few bucks.  You might even find that you enjoyed it way more than you thought–like me :).

Posted on September 15, 2015 at 8:11 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Travel | Tagged , ,