Visiting the Oregon Coast

oregon coast

Ah, the magical land of Oregon. Each time I’ve gone there I leave behind more pieces of my heart. This summer we went on a family road trip to the Oregon coast, and introduced the Beast to the land where he was conceived (our first trip to Portland was in September 2013 and nine months later out came our little Beast).

cannon beach oregon

The Oregon coast was AMAZING. We rented a beach house in Manzanita, which is just south of Cannon Beach. Manzanita is a tiny, sleepy beach town and much less busier than the better known Cannon Beach. It was perfect. If we go back again I would choose Manzanita again in a heartbeat.

manzanita oregon

We spent four nights in Manzanita with my parents. Because we had childcare taken care of by my folks, the Dude and I got to actually enjoy ourselves. We rode bikes on the beach, went hiking, and enjoyed a peaceful dinner at a local restaurant. The other benefit of having my parents with us was that my mom cooked for us. She spoiled us with yummy Korean food.

tillamook cheese factory

Visiting the Tillamook Cheese factory was a highlight of our trip. We toured the factory and learned how they make their tasty cheese. This place is worth visiting just to watch the assembly line. It was downright mesmerizing. The Beast’s favourite part was sitting in the Loaf Love Tour van, which he did not want to leave so we had to pry him out of there. He also indulged in lots of cheese, of course, being the cheese fiend that he is!

modo car oregon coast

We borrowed a Modo car for our trip since we don’t own a vehicle. To my surprise, it was about the same price as renting from a car rental agency so we went with Modo because it’s way less of a hassle. No car rental agency BS to deal with whatsoever.

Visiting Oregon never disappoints. Manzanita provided the right pace (slow) and environment (stunningly beautiful) that allowed us to relax and take it easy. I truly felt rejuvenated by this trip, mainly thanks to my parents who were with us to help out with the Beast. Otherwise, vacationing with a toddler simply becomes parenting in a less convenient place. When you have a toddler, every little bit of help you can get really makes a difference.

I’m already daydreaming about our next trip to Manzanita…

Camping with a Toddler: A Survival Guide

camping at goldstream provincial park

We recently went camping on Vancouver Island for two nights with our two-year-old. It was our first time camping with the Beast, and there was much teeth-grinding dread in anticipation of it. Would the Beast sleep through the night? Given that our toddler has a tendency to make a run for it any chance he gets, how were we going to enjoy ourselves while being on high alert 24/7? Was I going to have my sanity intact by the end of the trip?

Fortunately, the Beast did sleep well for the most part. And we ended up having heaps of fun in spite of the challenging moments. Things certainly did go wrong, but in the end it was all worth it.

Every time I’ve gone camping I’m astonished by how at ease I feel being outdoors all day and all night. It’s like some primal part of my being instantly feels at home being out in nature. It was gratifying to provide this experience to our son and watch him enjoy his first camping adventure.

I am no camping expert, but I wanted to share some tips based on our first camping trip with our two-year-old that I hope other parents with toddlers will find helpful.

Here are 12 tips for surviving a camping trip with a toddler.

surviving camping with a toddler

1. Have non-ambitious plans
Our agenda for this trip was to make it as easy as possible. We made no plans to do anything that would require a great deal of effort. We mostly just hung out. Our campsite was right next to a playground so we spent a lot of time there with the Beast.

2. Go with friends
I wouldn’t have done this camping trip on our own, and I’m so glad our friends invited us to join them. It’s gobs more fun to go with another family. We took turns preparing meals and that worked out really well. After our kids went to sleep we sat around the campfire chatting and drinking beers. Speaking of beer…

3. Bring plenty of booze
They don’t call alcohol “mommy’s little helper” for nothing. Booze is a good way to reward yourself after a long day of being hypervigilant and looking after a toddler who has absolutely no regard for his own mortality.

4. Mentally prepare yourself not to get much sleep
Does anyone ever get a good night’s sleep while camping? I felt like I slept no worse this time around than I did on previous camping trips in my pre-baby years. If possible, take a nap in the afternoon to catch up on some Z’s. That’s what I did, and it helped mitigate the wretchedness I feel after a night of poor sleep.

camping with a toddler

5. Find ways to contain your toddler
Our boy is a super active toddler who is allergic to staying still. Being outside 24/7 with no walls to contain the kid proved to be exhausting, so there were times when we were very tempted to tie him to a tree. We gave ourselves breaks from having to chase him all over the place by attempting to contain him occasionally. We brought a portable booster chair in order to strap him down during meals. He slept in a pack ‘n’ play so that he wouldn’t be bouncing around in the tent like a crazed ferret. We slapped on a harness (a.k.a. a baby leash) on him to prevent him from darting into the road after he almost got hit by a car. It turned out that the best way to contain him was to park him in the back of our friends’ SUV. He loved chilling in the trunk with the door open.

6. Prepare food ahead of time
I chopped veggies at home to avoid having to bring a cutting board and knife. I also pre-cooked food and froze it. When it was time to eat, the food was already defrosted and all I had to do was reheat it. For fruit, I packed grapes and blueberries because they travel well. I also brought dried fruit and cheese sticks – easy finger foods.

camping with a toddler

7. Use disposable everything
In an effort to have a hassle-free camping experience, I resorted to using disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and paper towels. It’s wasteful and terrible for the environment, I know, but camping with a toddler is hard enough so I get a free pass, right? I highly recommend doing anything it takes to minimize the number of dishes to wash.

8. Accept filth and dirt as inevitable
I mentally prepared myself to be okay with dirt because that’s part of the camping experience. We did not bother bathing the Beast, and we used baby wipes to clean his hands before meals. I managed to brush my teeth and face once a day and that was good enough. Remember, easy is the name of the game!

9. Go on a hike
We went on an easy 1-hour hike with our toddler. He walked most of the way since we didn’t bother bringing our stroller. It was a great way to tire him out for his afternoon nap! This was our most ambitious activity during the entire camping trip.

10. Try to stick to your toddler’s routine but be flexible
The Beast normally has set meal times, but while camping I let him eat whenever and whatever he wanted to eat since food was always within reach. We pretty much stuck to his sleep routine, putting him down at the usual times he normally goes down for naps and bedtime.

11. Bring warm clothes and blankets (yes even in summer)
Even though it was July and sunny, it was freakin’ cold, especially overnight. We unfortunately were underdressed, and my sleeping bag didn’t keep me warm at night (hence the reason why I didn’t sleep well). We used a winter-weight sleepsack for our toddler but next time I would definitely get a sleeping bag for him. I worried the whole night he wasn’t warm enough even though for PJ’s he was wearing a onesie plus a fleece sleeper over it. But then again maybe he wasn’t that cold because the second night he sprung a major diaper leak that soaked right through his sleepsack and he slept fine the whole night. Anyway, better to be safe than sorry – so take extra blankets and sweaters!

12. Pack extra extra clothes for your toddler
Every parent who’s traveled with their toddler knows to pack extra clothes. Toddlers are exceptionally talented at generating all sorts of liquids from every orifice of their body. So for camping take even more spare clothes because you won’t have access to laundry facilities and your toddler will manage to soil herself one way or another. During this trip, the Beast had more diaper leaks than normal. Given his overnight diaper leak (see #11), next time I would put a pull-up diaper over his normal diaper for bedtime in order to prevent him from soaking his PJ’s and sleepsack.

Bonus tip: Let go and have fun.

Camping with a toddler turned out be more enjoyable than I expected. It’s a shitload of work (literally, as the Beast pooped generously and frequently during our trip), but it’s fun to see your kid have a great time as he explores the outdoors. I hope we do it again next summer!

Have you gone camping with a toddler? Any tips you’d like to add?

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Palm Springs 2014

We recently flew down to Southern California to get our Palm Springs fix. I think going to Palm Springs is becoming an annual thing as this is the third time the Dude and I have been there together. I was a bit afraid we would be bored because we are so familiar with it, but it was totally the opposite. For such a small city Palm Springs is a very lively and fun place to be.

We visited Sunnylands in nearby Rancho Mirage. It’s considered the “Camp David” of the West Coast. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the house tour because you have to book way in advance, but we did walk around the garden, which was full of cacti and other desert plants.

Sunnylands is definitely worth a visit for design, garden, and architecture buffs.

ps_2014_sunnylands
ps_2014_sunnylands2
I finally got to make my pilgrimmage to Pappy & Harriets in Pioneertown. I’ve been wanting to check out this music venue for years and years so I finally made it happen this time. It’s near Joshua Tree National Park in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, nowhere. The drive to the restaurant was very scenic, and I want to go back there just to explore the desert-y goodness that is all around. The place was very crowded so I’m glad I made dinner reservations. We saw a band that plays there on Sunday nights, and they mostly played blues and rock covers.

ps_2014_band
We stayed at the Ace Hotel, predictably. I can’t imagine what it would be like to visit Palm Springs and NOT stay at the Ace. Our room was just across from the mural painted by Erin Garcia last year.

ps_2014_ace
In the mini fridge we discovered the most hipster bottle of water called Fred. It was so ridiculous. But this bottled water company actually seems to have a worthwhile mission.

ps_2014_fred
I don’t know if we’ll ever tire of Palm Springs. As long as we live in the Pacific Northwest I think we’ll enjoy going down to PS for a much-needed sun/warmth injection every winter. However, I’m not too sure if we’ll make it down there next year as we’ll have an infant in tow. Can’t imagine traveling by air with a little one, but we shall see…

Visiting Portland, Oregon

The Dude and I spent a few days in Portland last week, and we really, really liked it.

The number one thing I wanted to see was Cathedral Park to behold St. John’s Bridge, and we did just that on the day we arrived. I had seen photos of it on Instagram and was totally captivated by it. Seeing St. John’s Bridge in real life was everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s seriously one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The little neighbourhood around the park, St. John’s, seemed quaint and interesting but we didn’t have time to explore it. We did return to St. John’s our last evening though to catch a movie in a theatre that serves beer, pizza, and popcorn! Everything else was closed unfortunately (except for the sketchy-looking bars).

portland_stjohn

After visiting Cathedral Park, my agenda was to eat yummy food, drink as much coffee as my body could stand, and walk around the different neighbourhoods in PDX (airport code for Portland).

portland_food

I particularly wanted to focus on breakfast. The first morning, I munched on a delicious almond croissant at Nuvrei Påtisserie and Cafe in downtown Portland. I actually don’t really care for almond croissants but the one at Nuvrei was calling my name. It was probably the best almond croissant I’ve ever had. The second day’s breakfast was had at Broder, a Swedish restaurant. I had the smoked trout skillet with two eggs, and really enjoyed it. Our last day, we had breakfast at Pine State Biscuits. I ordered fried chicken and biscuit with a side of shiitake mushroom gravy. The gravy was surprisingly good, given that I don’t really enjoy gravy normally. For lunch, we hit up a couple of food trucks: Nong’s, which specializes in chicken and rice, and KOi, which is known for its Korean tacos. The Dude requested kimchi on his tacos, and he scarfed them down (he needs a regular fix of kimchi). PDX is food truck city. They are everywhere, tucked into the most unexpected places sometimes.

portland_coffee

There are soooooo many cafes in Portland, like any good Pacific Northwest city. We like our coffee, yes sirrrreee. One of my favourite coffee roasters is Stumptown Coffee which was founded in PDX. In Vancouver, I only know of one place that serves Stumptown. In Portland, it seems that almost any decent establishment serves it, so I was in heaven.

portland_ace

One of the places where I enjoyed a cup of Stumptown coffee was at the Ace Hotel in downtown PDX. There’s a Stumptown cafe attached to the hotel so I sat in the lobby, drinking my coffee and admiring the crazy beautiful spread of air plants and succulents on the humongous coffee table. You bet I took a lot of pictures, but I’ll spare you the plant porno.

portland_barista

The best coffee I had was at Barista in the Alberta Arts District. I also really dug their interior decor. I couldn’t help but drool over the industrial, Victorian-ish, vintage decor. The plumbing pipe wall shelves by the cashier are my dream shelving.

portland_bikes

PDX is a quirky town. If you watch the TV comedy Portlandia, you’ll know what I’m talking about. One funny thing is that all the street signs are peppered with stickers, and some of the stickers are really funny. You’ll have to go to Portland to see them for yourself.

Ace Hotel Palm Springs Memento

I’ve been wanting to frame the Ace Hotel key card for ages and finally got around to it recently. I haven’t added a new decorative item to our apartment in a while so it was exciting to toss in something new finally. Now I have a daily reminder of the good times we had at the Ace and to get my ass over there the first opportunity I get.

If you hang out with me long enough, you will quickly learn how much I love Palm Springs, especially the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. It’s actually quite ironic how much I love Palm Springs because as a kid I used to hate going there with my parents. I thought it was sooooooo boring. Now I sometimes seriously consider moving there! I doubt I’ll move there any time soon but I would seriously consider retiring there.

I think living in Vancouver has made me love Palm Springs. I always daydream about escaping the dreary Vancouver rain for the sun-infused, toasty climes of Palm Springs. I also wonder if a large part of the reason I adore Palm Springs has to do with staying at the Ace. If the Dude and I went to Palm Springs and didn’t stay at the Ace I think we would have a very different experience.

Speaking of the Ace, we visited the Ace Hotel in Portland recently. We didn’t stay there during our visit but next time hopefully we will. My goal is to stay at all the Ace Hotels. Photos from our Portland trip will be on the next blog post!

Visiting the Zimmerman House

It’s hard to believe that just last week I was in New England! The Dude and I made a quick visit to his family that lives near Boston. While we were there, my in-laws took us to view the Zimmerman House in New Hampshire. This house was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1950’s. It now belongs to the Currier Museum which conducts public tours of the house.

It was such a treat to be able to see a house by the great Frank Lloyd Wright. I was in design heaven. Unfortunately, I was only able to take photos of the exterior as photography inside the house was not allowed. I don’t think pictures would do it justice anyway. This is a house that should be experienced.

The shot above is the back of the house. A pair of french doors was being repaired, hence the plywood. The house has only one floor, which I love. My ideal house would only have one floor as I abhor stairs. The Zimmerman House is pretty small (it only has two bedrooms), but because of its smart design it seems pretty spacious. Another thing I love about the house is that it sits on a diagonal relative to the lot so it doesn’t face the street directly.

Every aspect of the house was intentionally and thoughtfully designed, and I was truly blown away by the beauty of it all. After seeing the house I now understand why Frank Lloyd Wright is so highly regarded. The man was a genius.

You can view photos of the interior here.

Road Trip to Calgary

August has been a busy, busy month and I’m waaaay behind on my posts. Before I fall any more behind, here it goes…

At the beginning of the month, the Dude and I drove to Calgary to visit his relatives out there. The drive there and back was very scenic but it was a looooooooong drive. My bum was definitely feeling sore post-trip.

View of downtown Calgary from Prince’s Island, a lovely park in the middle of the Bow River. This was my first time visiting Calgary. I wish we had more time to explore the city as we were there for only two days. Because we were there during the long weekend, it seemed very quiet and vacant. Maybe all the Calgarians did the smart thing and fled to BC to escape the crazy heat wave that was oppressing the city.

Donuts! We enjoyed awesome gourmet donuts at Jelly Modern Doughnuts in Calgary. They were so good that we actually went there twice. Plus, we needed an air-conditioned place to take shelter from the brutal heat, and what better place to chill than in a donut shop! I had the lemon curd and the Madagascar vanilla ones – both scrumptious. My lips are smacking just thinking about them.

We took two days to travel back to Vancouver in order to gawk at waterfalls, lakes, and mountains as we drove through the Rockies. My favourite was driving through Yoho Valley Road – seriously one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. The road took us to Takakkaw Falls, which was spectacularly wet.

Near Field, BC where we did a pit stop. You may read into the clouds what you’d like.

We hiked around Emerald Lake, one of those gorgeous turquoise-coloured lakes that abound in this part of the world. That big patch of white in the mountains is a glacier, which casually exist here and there in Western Canada.

Pretty wildflowers growing in an avalanche field adjacent to Emerald Lake. They get obliterated by an annual avalanche. You’d think the flowers would be fed up by now and go grow somewhere else.

Rogers Pass. More mountains, more glaciers, and more of those ubiquitous trees. All very breathtakingly beautiful.

I highly recommend driving through the Canadian Rockies if you ever get the chance. Your eyes will thank you for it.

Joffre Lakes

For years I’ve been wanting to hike Joffre Lakes and finally this past weekend we got to go.  The three lakes were absolutely stunning and ethereal. It’s the hardest hike I’ve ever done but it was totally worth the pain, sweat, and mosquito bites.

Joffre Lakes is about a three-hour drive from Vancouver. Hiking up to to the upper lake and back takes about five hours to do round-trip. The hardest part was going from the first lake to the second lake. I felt like giving up and turning back, but we stuck to it and were well rewarded by the view of pristine turquoise-coloured Middle Joffre Lake. The colour of the lakes was really unbelievable. We took a lunch break at the edge of the lake soaking in the spectacular views.

It didn’t take long to get to the final lake from Middle Joffre Lake. Upper Joffre Lake is quite impressive because of Matier Glacier towering over it. You could see the melting glacier feeding the lake. Out of the three lakes it looked the most stark probably due to its high elevation.

Lower Joffre Lake

Lower Joffre Lake

Hiking from Lower to Middle Joffre Lake

Middle Joffre Lake

Joffre Creek

Upper Joffre Lake

Matier Glacier

Ace Hotel Seattle

Part of our trip to Massachusetts involved staying in Seattle overnight as we were flying in and out of Sea-Tac airport. So I booked a room at the Ace Hotel, of course! We so enjoyed our stay at the Ace in Palm Springs that we want to try to visit all the other Ace Hotels.

The Ace Hotel in Seattle is in a historic building and it’s chock full of mouth-watering vintage decor.

I especially loved the horse themed wall paper in one of the bathrooms in the lobby. I’ve come to love using horses in my own decor.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos of the room we stayed in because it was too dim even with the lights on. There were no windows, just a door to a covered courtyard. All I can say is that it was not your typical hotel room. It actually reminded me a lot of the room we stayed in at the Craft Hotel in Buenos Aires.

We also got to tour around Downtown Seattle for a bit. The weather was gorgeous and made exploring very easy and pleasant.

When we visited Pike Place market, it was during a Sunday morning and the place was abuzz with shoppers and tourists. There were so many yummy eateries and I wanted to eat at all of them.

Even though Seattle is less than 3 hours away by car from Vancouver, we rarely go there. I hope that we can spend more time exploring this super cool city in the future.

Visiting Boston

The Dude and I spent last week visiting his family who live right outside of Boston. We went into the city a few times to see the sights and meet up with the Dude’s friends who live in the area.

I happened to discover during our trip that Instagram is finally available for Android phones! I was so excited because I’ve been wanting to use Instagram for so very long and it was the only reason why I’d get an iPhone. I still do want an iPhone because it has a superior camera; the pictures I take with my Android phone are so, so sucky. Even though it’s kinda embarrassing that I’m posting my crappy photos, the fact that I processed them through Instagram kinda redeems them.

Paul Revere statue in the North End.
Cool old building in the North End.
Main drag in the North End.
Newbury Street. Known for high end designer stores.
Fenway Park. Celebrating 100 years.

Boston was a nice change of scenery from cold, gloomy Vancouver. There was a heat wave so we got to enjoy unseasonably warm, toasty weather. I loved that it was sunny every day we were there. Now the Dude and I are wondering if we should move to Boston. We’ve been vacation-seduced!

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram my user name is laxtoyvr.