The Birth of Arthur Jacob

toesI had a baby. For the first time. Giving birth was a crazy, wonderful experience.

There are many horror stories about birth out there, but I actually had a positive birth experience. So I want to do my little part and share my story so that if perhaps a pregnant woman happens to read my story she will be encouraged rather than terrified.

My water broke on Tuesday, June 17 at around 2:30am. I felt a “pop-pop” sensation in my belly as I turned myself to the left side, and then a small amount of water rushed out in my underwear. I felt strangely detached from this event even though it was the moment I had been waiting for. Even though I knew it was a sign that labour was imminent, I felt rather calm about it. I went to the bathroom to check the colour of the fluid – it was pinkish. Yep, definitely amniotic fluid. I wondered if I should page the midwife but decided to try to go back to sleep instead. However, it was really, really hard to fall back asleep because I kept anticipating contractions to start but all I felt were menstrual cramps, which I’d been experiencing on and off for weeks. Ian was sleeping in the other bedroom, but I didn’t wake him up to let him know what had happened. I wanted to make sure he was well rested in case I went into labour that day. We had been sleeping in separate rooms during my last trimester because of all my thrashing about in bed and the infinite amount of pillows it took in order to prop my pregnant self so that I could sleep comfortably.

Finally at 7:30am I paged the on-call midwife, who happened to be Jasmine, and she told me I was actually supposed to call her as soon as my water had broken because I had tested positive for GBS. Oops! Jasmine told me to meet her at BC Women’s right away so she could put me on antibiotics to reduce the risk of baby getting an infection. She also mentioned that it was recommended that I be induced within the next 24 hours, again to avoid the risk of infection.

I texted my sister-in-law Martha to come pick us up right away, and she drove Ian and me to the hospital (we don’t have a car). Even as amniotic fluid continued to leak out of me, it did not sink in that labour could start at any moment. Also I was worried about being induced. I didn’t know that induction was the protocol if my water broke before going into labour.

When we arrived at BC Women’s, the labour and delivery ward was pretty busy, so we had to wait for a while to get an assessment room. Some time after 9am I was checked in and got the antibiotics. Jasmine talked to us about options for induction. I really wanted to avoid a medical induction and opted to try castor oil to get labour going. All I was feeling were irregular menstrual cramps since my water broke. So on the way home from BC Women’s, we picked up a bottle of castor oil and a carton of pineapple juice at Safeway. I blended four tablespoons of castor oil with a cup of pineapple juice as Jasmine had recommended and drank it at around 11am. I hoped for the best. Afterwards, I tried to sleep but I kept worrying about being medically induced. Even though I had heard how effective castor oil was at starting labour, I was afraid that it might not work for me.

About two hours later, at around 1pm I started to feel strong menstrual cramps. Plus, I felt very nauseous. By 2pm when Jasmine showed up at our apartment to give me another dose of antibiotics, I was in active labour and the contractions were quite intense. I asked Ian to call our birth photographer Megan, and she showed up right away. I couldn’t even say hello to her because by then I was in hindbrain mode – I had crossed over to a more primal state of being.

As labour intensified, I vomited a few times, which was a weird sensation because I hadn’t thrown up since I was a kid. When the contractions finally started to feel very painful, I fired up the TENS machine to help cope with the pain. The TENS machine didn’t numb the pain but it did distract me from it. It gave me something to do when a contraction surged through me. Ian and Martha helped me keep my rhythm and breathe through my contractions, which I found harder than I thought it was going to be. They took turns warming the heat pad, which was very soothing on my stomach. I heard Jasmine talking on the phone. Later I learned she was trying to get me a room at BC Women’s as they were on the verge of being over capacity. Meanwhile Megan was quietly taking photos. Weirdly at this point it still hadn’t really sunk in that I was in labour. I was moving around our apartment changing positions to help me deal with what felt like the worst menstrual cramps of my life. I suppose because I was home things just kind of felt normal and natural.

At around 5pm I was 6 to 7 cm dilated and contractions were 2 minutes apart; it was time to head to BC Women’s again. I had no idea how I was going to walk over to the car as the contractions came over me. But somehow we inched towards Martha’s car, stopping every couple minutes as I breathed through each contraction. Fortunately we live close to BC Women’s so the car ride was just bearable as we went through rush hour traffic. Miraculously, traveling to the hospital and being in a new space did not stall labour. Things were progressing at full throttle.

When we arrived at the hospital Martha went in and brought over a wheelchair to me, and I was appalled by what I saw. The wheelchair resembled a shopping cart. It was made out of wire mesh with no padding. It was extremely uncomfortable to sit in, and I would have preferred to walk instead of riding on the damn thing but I couldn’t talk. Also the whole time as I was being wheeled around I was thinking I need an epidural but again I couldn’t vocalize my thoughts. Even though I wanted an epidural I had some misgivings about it – I was afraid it would stall labour and I just wanted get the thing done. So I’m glad I didn’t say anything about the epidural. I had overheard that Jasmine was going off duty at 8pm and I didn’t want to face a midwife change during labour so I was determined to get the baby out before then.

As soon as we arrived at our hospital room, the bath was started. When it was ready I stripped my clothes off and jumped into the bathtub at around 6pm. When you’re deep in labour you have no qualms about being naked. You’re just like any other animal, doing what we females have been doing for millenia. I did throw on a tank top though because of the photographs that were being taken – no one wants or needs to see pictures of my naked self in labour. As soon I was in the bath I felt so much better. It provided the best relief by far. If it weren’t for the bath, I would have probably asked for an epidural.

bathAt around 6:30pm I felt the urge to push. I found “toning” very helpful during the pushing stage. I literally “moo’d” during contractions as that seemed the most helpful in getting me to relax down there. I was also screaming my head off every time I had to push. I didn’t scream because it was painful but because of the effort I was exerting to push. Jasmine quietly advised me that I would have a sore throat afterwards if I kept screaming like that so I tried to scream “inside.” Eventually I discovered that doing “horse lips” really helped with the pushing. Turned out that pushing wasn’t so painful as it was exhausting.

Fortunately during the pushing stage the contractions were less intense and frequent, or at least it seemed like it. I worried that the baby would be uncomfortable being squished through the birth canal so I was relieved whenever I heard his happy heartbeat when they checked him with the doppler periodically. And so I continued to push and push. I began to feel frustrated that baby wasn’t crowning yet. Seriously it felt like I was taking the biggest dump of my life. With each push I wasn’t sure how I was going to muster up the strength to do the next push. While pushing I was spontaneously changing positions now and then, hoping that a new position would get things moving faster. I think my body knew what it needed to do in order to birth this baby.

At around 7:30pm the bath water had to be changed and I was told that I’d have to get out of the tub. I thought “Are you kidding me?!” It was going to be impossible to do. I noticed that the bath water had become murky. Even though every fiber of my being wanted to stay, somehow I managed to find the will power to get out of the bathtub. I was also reluctant to get out because I was hoping to do a water birth. I sat on the toilet while they cleaned the tub and refilled it. Sitting on the toilet really intensified the pushing, and I wanted to get onto my hands and knees to get some relief. Also I was slightly concerned that baby would be born into the toilet. So I dropped onto the bathroom floor onto my hands and knees, but everyone encouraged me to walk over to the bed which was just four feet away – it felt like miles to me. Again, I somehow managed to walk to the bed and immediately got onto hands and knees. I really didn’t care that I was going to give birth with my ass in the air.

By this point, baby’s head was crowning. I started to feel the “ring of fire” that I had read about and dreaded while pregnant, but surprisingly it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I was actually relieved because it indicated that we were going to meet our baby very soon. Ian stayed by my side as he wasn’t allowed to be at the “business end.” Everybody in the room kept telling me how close I was and to keep pushing. I seriously doubted my ability to continue pushing but somehow my body managed to do it. After pushing a few more times the baby’s head was born at 7:52pm and the rest of him slurped out at 7:53pm. Arthur Jacob weighed 8 lbs, his head measured 37 cm, and he was 53 cm long. Everyone was surprised by how long he was.

ip_ak_ajJasmine handed AJ to me. I picked him up and laid on my back. Then I took my top off for skin to skin contact. I was completely stunned that the deed had been done. No more pushing! Ian and I looked at our baby in wonder. AJ was initially quiet and then started to cry. I told Ian to sing him a song, hoping it would soothe him, so he sang “Rubber Duckie” and it worked. When the umbilical cord stopped pulsing Jasmine asked who wanted to cut it. Ian didn’t want to do it so Martha did it. Soon after, I birthed the placenta, which involved more pushing to my dismay but I got through it. It was easy peasy compared to birthing a baby with an above average sized head.

aj_ipI couldn’t have asked for a better support team. Ian helped me keep my rhythm, reminded me to breathe, said words of encouragement, and moo’d along with me. Martha, my sister-in-law, who is an ER nurse, was also a tremendous source of help in countless ways. Jasmine, the midwife, was awesome and gently guided me throughout the whole journey. Megan, the birth photographer, not only documented our birth, but she offered her support, encouragement, and guidance throughout the whole time she was with us. The nurses at BC Women’s were terrific. We feel very lucky to have been accompanied by such great people during our birth journey.

All photos by Megan Taylor.

Making a Belly Cast

bellycast_01_webYes, I did it. I made a belly cast. When I first learned about it, I thought it was a weird thing for pregnant women to do. But then I read up on the process of making a cast of your baby bump and became intensely curious about the experience of creating one. Honestly, it seemed like a fun DIY project to do with the Dude. And it did turn out to be fun.

Of course, now I don’t know what to do with the belly cast. I simply wanted to make one, but I’m at a loss as to what to do with the final product. It will probably be stuffed in a box and buried in the closet. But I do want to take pictures of it with Nuggz once he’s born (Nuggz is our nickname for the babe). I’m especially keen to see his reaction to it when he’s a bit older; I think it’ll be hilarious.

The belly cast is still in its raw state. You’re supposed to sand it down and seal it with gesso. There are plenty of instructions on the web and YouTube videos showing you how to make a belly cast. Here are some tips I’d like to share based on my experience:

  • Start from the chest down.
  • Make sure to grease up your skin really well at the start or you’ll get a surprise wax job when you remove the cast. I used olive oil.
  • Try to avoid wrapping plaster gauze beyond the sides of your torso on to your back or it will be difficult to get the cast off of your body. The Dude went too far behind my sides, and he had to cut the sides of the cast a bit so he could wriggle it off of me.
  • Work fast! The plaster gauze dries pretty quickly.
  • Maintain good posture while sitting or standing so that the cast doesn’t look weirdly lopsided.
  • Do at least two layers. It’s a good idea to reinforce the thin parts with more plaster gauze later, but make sure the cast is completely dry before reinforcing (about 48 hours later) and it’s important to apply the additional gauze on the underside of the cast.

bellycast_02_webGiven that I didn’t have professional maternity portraits done, I suppose making a belly cast is an alternative way to remember this unique time in my life.

Posted in DIY

Fabric Wall Hanging

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What I really call this wall hanging is the “Poop Shield.” I made it specifically to go by the baby’s changing station so that when he pees or poops during a diaper change, the wall will be protected. Frankly, I did this project as an excuse to do more fabric painting because I really enjoyed the first time I did it with the cushions.

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If you can sew in a straight line then you can easily do this project; all you need to do is hem the edges. Again, I used a piece of canvas dropcloth like I did with the cushions (I have tons of this material!) and used a dowel to hang it up. The cross pattern was inspired by this DIY project I saw on Pinterest.

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Supposedly, infants like to look at high contrast objects so hopefully our kiddo will be entranced by this wall hanging whenever he gets his diaper changed.

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Posted in DIY

Painting Fabric by Hand

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Making these cushion covers has been a long saga, one that began last year with the idea that I wanted to make my own ombre dyed cushions. I had a ton of canvas dropcloth left over from a previous project and so I first had to sew them into covers. I was debating between a zipper closure and an envelope closure and decided to go with the latter because I didn’t want to take the time to learn how to sew zippers (my sewing machine skills are very basic). Once they were sewn up, I had to decide what colour they would be and the dying technique I’d use. Originally I had my heart set on black ombre cushions, but as I looked into how to do it, I realized it would take more time and effort than I was willing to commit. I also considered shibori dyeing, which I just discovered, but that also required a fair amount of effort. Finally, I decided on the easiest technique: using fabric paint. Of course, I agonized over which colour to go with, and at the end I finally decided on yellow because I find that I’m really drawn to yellow these days. But I did paint one pillow using black (I couldn’t resist!). So the cushions ended up looking wildly different from my original plan of black ombre cushions. Still, I’m so pleased with how they turned out.

So here are the steps for how I made the cushions.

Materials
Cushion covers made out of 100% cotton
Fabric paint
Disposable plate or shallow bowl for fabric paint
Foam brush
Paintbrushes (smallish and biggish)
Painter’s tape (optional)
Water soluble fabric pencil (optional)
Newspaper or dropcloth to protect the surface you’re painting on
Iron

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First make sure to launder your cushion covers as this will make the paint adhere better to the fabric. For the pillow with the black lines pattern I used Jacquard Textile paint in black and a foam brush that was 2 1/8 inches wide. Using the fabric pencil, I marked the cushion cover every 3 inches so as to ensure that I painted the lines evenly spaced apart more or less across the pillow.

Lay some newspaper or a dropcloth on the surface you’re working on. Additonally, place a layer of newspaper inside the cover so that the paint doesn’t seep through to the back part of the cushion.

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Pour some of the fabric paint onto your plate or bowl, dip the foam brush in it, and paint away! The Jacquard Textile paint is quite thick so a little goes a long way. I also used a yardstick as a guide to help me paint the lines evenly.

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Ta da! So easy and it looks so good. Let the paint dry and then heatset using an iron according to the fabric paint’s instructions.

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For the yellow striped cushions I used Jacquard Dye-na-flow, which is a very watery fabric paint. I used a regular paint brush to apply the paint initially.

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Use the painter’s tape to mark the stripes you want to paint and then paint away. Peel the tape away and then use a smaller paintbrush to paint the edges of the stripe to make the lines look a bit jagged.  If you prefer you can skip the tape and freehand it.

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Another couple of progress shots. Don’t forget to heatset the paint once the pillows are dry.

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Voila! Because the Dye-na-flow paint is pretty watery, when it dries it doesn’t make the fabric too stiff.

This project was so easy to do that now I’m inspired to paint more fabric. I have a few ideas floating around in my head, and hopefully I will share the results here.

Posted in DIY

Painting the New Apartment

Yes, we moved. Again. Since the Dude and I got married five years ago, we have moved five times. Anyway, I think this time we found a real winner, and we don’t want to move for a long, long time. We absolutely love our new place. It has everything we wanted: insuite laundry, dishwasher, open concept kitchen, a huge balcony, and a second bedroom. The only trade-off we had to make was the view. We have a lovely view of the alley.

The first thing I did was paint the bedrooms. The photos below were taken with my phone, hence the crappyness.

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The master bedroom got a black accent wall. I absolutely love it (the Dude likes it too). The rest of the walls are a crisp, bright white. Originally, the bedroom had sad, beige walls. I found it really depressing. I’ve tried to live with beige before, and I absolutely hated it.

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The second bedroom originally had light blue walls, and I painted them white (same paint used in the master bedroom). The white paint I used is called “Snowy Pine” by Behr. It’s a really nice white that has no blue or grey undertone, and it doesn’t feel sterile. Rather, it feels clean and serene.

We are still in the process of furnishing the apartment. As things come together, I will post photos. We feel really fortunate finally to live in a quality apartment after living in less-than-ideal ones for so long.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

Freebie: 2014 Calendar PDF

Christmas has already come and gone, and now the new year is just around the corner. Hard to believe, eh?

I’m very excited to share a calendar I designed for 2014. Yes, I still like paper calendars even though they are becoming obsolete. I usually buy a calendar from Etsy but this year I wanted to design my own. And the good news is that I’m offering it as a free downloadable PDF!

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To have a calendar of your very own, download the PDF, print it out on cardstock paper, and then cut down the middle of the page. Voilà, it’s ready hang up! I usually like to hang it up with a binder clip.

Download your free copy here:
2014 Calendar PDF

Please be nice and do not modify the calendar or reproduce it for selling.

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My Favourite Buffalo

Every time I look at the buffalo I’m so pleased it’s in our home. I first laid eyes on this buffalo a year ago, and it was love at first sight. I knew I had to have it. But I waited six months to make sure it wasn’t just a whim before I took the plunge and bought it from The Animal Print Shop. Once it arrived I had to wait a few months before I could get the perfect frame for it. And it finally went up in our dining nook a couple months ago.

It was worth the wait.

I don’t know why I’m so captivated by this buffalo but I am.

A couple years ago I read an interesting piece of advice on home decorating in The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needham. She stated that in order to have a beautiful space it’s good to include something that is quirky, whimsical, or even ugly. It adds character to a space and shows that you don’t take decorating too seriously. I thought this was a really interesting piece of advice since my natural inclination has been to purge anything I consider ugly from our home. Anyway, I think the picture of the buffalo is the perfect quirky/ugly thing to display in our apartment. It’s definitely not “pretty.”

On another note, I know I’ve been totally delinquent in updating this blog. It’s been a busy season as I’ve been developing two client websites, and not much has been happening in the way of decorating our apartment. Also, I was finishing up my last design class at Emily Carr. I am so relieved not to have homework anymore!

I am currently working on a home decor DIY project and look forward to sharing it on the blog in January hopefully!

 

Once You Go Black…

So my obsession with black continues. For ages I’ve been wanting to paint these baskets some other colour so that they would contrast from the wooden floor and the wooden shelf. There was just too much wood going on in that part of our living room, and it was irking me to no end. Not surprisingly, I chose to paint them black because I’m still obsessed with black paint.

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See? A simple paint job makes a world of a difference! I also like that the baskets match the black floor lamp.

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I first tried using regular paint but it wasn’t going on to the basket evenly. So I switched to spray paint and it was much better. First I did a coat of primer spray paint as the photo above shows. Then I did a couple coats of chalkboard spray paint. Chalkboard paint gives a nice matte finish.

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The baskets are from IKEA. I just discovered that these baskets now come in black, but when I purchased them a few years ago there was only one colour option. I have another small thing in our apartment that I’m planning to give a black paint makeover. Can’t wait!

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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.