Taking a Diet Coke Break in Atlanta

Q5jnH6RvjTI'm in Atlanta this week for Coca-Cola, drinking my fill of free Diet Coke. The trip has been fabulous, especially for one reason Coca-Cola couldn't have imagined when inviting me: my own hotel room. Getting a break has been awesome – even a short one, and boy has it felt too short – from the remodel while I cozy up in a comfy bed, my own TV, and even more luxurious, my own bathroom. Even if the shower is glass and in the center of the room. The W is risque like that. And it seems like attitude behind the shower openness is reflected in the hotel bar… Oh my. 

Back to reality tomorrow. 

Disclosure: Coca-Cola paid for my trip to Atlanta. All opinions are my own. 

Portland with Kids: 48 Hours of Fun

Portland, we couldn’t have loved you more. We’ve been talking about taking this road trip for over a year, but finally, we couldn’t find a reason not to do it now. It was one of those trips the kids are still talking about. Okay, so it was our last trip and less than a month ago, but still, they loved it. Maybe it was the giant doughnuts or make your own pancakes, but I’d like to think it was something more than that.

What we did:

Sauvie Island


Sauvie Island was perfection. The weather was gorgeous. It was Labor Day weekend, which felt like the unofficial start of fall in Portland.

Fruit picking at Sauvie Island Farms


Sauvie Island Farms is beautiful and huge, much bigger than the u-pick places we’ve been to in California. They had a great variety and pretty flowers, but because we were traveling, we stuck to the peaches. We were told they were for canning, but they tasted great. Rocket ate all but one of the ones we picked (and he wanted more). It’s a beautiful spot.

The Pumpkin Patch


We’d just been talking about corn mazes when we saw a sign advertising one. We ended up at The Pumpkin Patch on its first big fall themed weekend. There was a corn maze, free (that weekend only) farm tours on a flat bed towed by a tractor, fresh corn ready to eat, apple cider, farm animals, and more. I’ve wanted a woven basket for taking to the farmer’s market, but they’re pretty pricey in the Bay Area. This bag cost $20 (and no tax)! Love! Even better, I shopped while Kevin and the kids did the maze (which spelled out Portlandia).

The Tram

This is actually what we didn’t do. We excitedly head over to the tram, paid for parking, then saw that the tram was closed for servicing. We were hardly the only ones turned around by this news (ahem, websites are there for a reason, tram operators…). It was our only disappointment in Portland.

Street haircuts at Bishops Barbershop

It wasn’t really on the street, but it felt like it because the place was so opened up to the street. I saw the sign for haircuts and beer, and was confused, but interested because school was coming up fast and we hadn’t been able to get haircut appointments. Bishops, which I called Hipster Haircuts, was our savior. And they offer free beer with a haircut. (The beer wasn’t for kids, obviously.) Saturday night entertainment and a haircut, all in one. Awesome.


This usually isn’t our thing, but Oregon has no sales tax (holla!) and who can deny themselves a City of Books, and quality art supplies? Not us, anyway.

Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s is a must visit, by law, I think. Before we left on our trip, someone asked Rocket where were going, and he responded, “To a city of books!” The kids went wild scoping out all of the comics, graphic novels, and other books they love. I like having the option of either new or used, especially when it’s a second copy of the Calvin and Hobbes book we already own (one per kid).

Dick Blick

There’s one in Berkeley, but that may as well be hours away. Clover loved walking the aisles at Dick Blick, dreaming of the possibilities. We went in to get back ups of her cartooning and drawing gear, including one of the most logical inventions ever for Rocket, and we may have walked out with a tad bit more.


The outlets are outside of Portland, and something we hit on our way in and out of the city, but so worth the stop. Before stopping, I would have skipped the outlets, but they have The North Face, and I thought it would be worth a quick stop. Hundred of dollars later, we left. Again, no sales tax. It was so very much worth the stop.

Where we ate:

Food trucks are awesome in Portland. They’re great in San Francisco, too, but here they move, while in Portland, they take up empty lots and set down semi-permanent roots, making them easy to find. In many places, it’s like a quality food court.


The Grilled Cheese Grill – We ate the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever in a double decker bus. How is that for memorable? The kids both had The Kindergartener with bacon, I had The Gabby, and Kevin had something else. He was going to order an Original Cheesus, but made a specialized order. Maybe with bacon and jalapenos? I cannot remember.

Slappy Cakes – Alicia of Posy Gets Cosy had mentioned the make-your-own pancake place before, and I knew it was a place my kids would love. They devour pancakes, and adding the griddle on the table aspect was exciting for them. We picked two batters for the four of us – regular and peanut butter – and it was the ideal amount. For toppings, we selected chocolate chips (Rocket), butterscotch chips (Clover), and bacon (everyone). Away we went, making little silver dollar pancakes where the kids experimented with different flavor combinations. It was tasty fun. Get there early or expect to wait. We arrived soon after opening and the wait was minimal, but it filled up super fast.


Lardo – We hit Lardo at a bad time for us. We were hungry, it was busy, Rocket, and our mostly vegetarian, announced he hated the menu and wouldn’t eat there. Somehow our order got confused and while we ordered three cold fried chicken sandwiches, only two showed up, which ended up being sufficient. We split it four ways, with Rocket not eating the meat, and with a side of fries, it worked fine. The chicken sandwich was fabulous and the fries had a great herb flavor. Next time we’ll try again with out a mostly vegetarian.

¿Por Que No? - This was my favorite place we ate, hands down. There was a long line, and we felt lucky to find a seat, but it was so, so worth it. Why don’t we have a place like this in the Bay Area? I had the chorizo taco and a calamari taco and pomegranate margarita. It was perfect. The only thing I would have done differently is order for Clover from the adult menu. The kids menu burrito was small, and because the line was long, she was stuck with un poquito burrito.


Voodoo Doughnuts – The kids thought they were dreaming when I said we were getting doughnuts, but when they saw the doughnuts, they didn’t know what to think. They’re huge and crazy, with topics not at a corner donut shop. Tips: Skip the downtown location and head SE. That shop still has a line, but it’s much smaller because not every tourist or drunk college kid knows about this location. On our way home, we stopped at the location in Eugene, which did not have a single person in line. We walked right up. Among the doughnuts we ordered and mostly shared over two visits: Grape Ape (surprisingly good), Voodoo Doll (the kids loved it), bacon maple bar (Clover said it was good), The Loop (Fruit Loops), Dirt Doughnut (Oreos), Marshall Matters (M&Ms – it was like eating a cake), Butterfingering (saying it outloud is the hard part), and the best: Old Dirty Bastard (chocolate, Oreos and peanut butter. get a fork for that one).

Ruby Jewel – They sell their ice cream sandwiches at our local Whole Foods, and when we stumbled over the scoop shop in Portland, we had to stop for dessert. It was a great end to our night.

Burgerville – we stopped at a Burgerville on our way home through Oregon. People compare it to In-N-Out, but it’s no In-N-Out. It was fine, healthier than other options, and definitely kid-friendly. One thing I noticed was that there were many kids at Burgerville, but only one with a soda. And she belonged to me. Good work, Oregon.

Where we stayed:

Portland has some funky, cool places to stay, but those features don’t necessarily make them family friendly. Because this trip was planned late, yet over the Labor Day weekend, our options were limited. However, where we ended up was a winner, and I’d definitely do it again.

Hilton Portland & Executive Tower – The hotel has a central location, is connected to a parking lot with in and out privileges, a nice sized room, and a pool. We were set. The staff weren’t the most welcoming, but thankfully, we didn’t need them other to check in. The confusion with the hotel is that it’s in two locations kitty-corner from one another. We pulled up to the wrong location first, but luckily, the valet (who was nice) had a list with the names of all reservations, and was able to direct us to the right building before we unloaded. The bonus was that our building (executive tower?) was the one next to the self-parking option, which turned out to be a win.


Portland, we’ll be back soon.

The Weird Family’s Summer Road Trip to Oregon and Washington


My kids go back to school late. We're talking this week, the second week of September, which is long enough to have to answer the question of why they are not in school about one hundred thousand times. To escape the unofficial truancy officers, and with most kids in school, we headed out for a less crowded vacation. We packed up the car and headed north on our longest road trip yet.

SF–>Gold Beach–>Portland–>Seattle–>Grants Pass–>home.

After a week on a road, we found ourselves spending the last night in a room that smelled like it had been bombed with Febreze and carpet cleaner moments before we checked in, just north of the California border, eating Voodoo doughnuts. "I think this is our lowest point as a family," I said. After a pause, Rocket said, "We are a weird family."


"We do weird things," he explained, while picking the mini M&Ms off his doughnut.

That came back to me when uploading our photos and finding this picture of us eating grilled cheese sandwiches in the top of a double decker bus. 


He says weird, I say awesome. Tomato, tamato.

(Tomorrow I'll post about what we did. Every last weird detail.)

Hanging on to Summer Vacation


We're back from one last vacation before school starts next week. Actually, the kids are still on vacation, having been dropped off at my parents' house last night. I've got one day to unpack, do the laundry, clean up, work, pick out more things for the house (like a new roof…which was unexpected) and get ready for school and soccer before the kids return tomorrow afternoon.

Summer was great, but I cannot wait until we have a consistent schedule again. More on what we did on our longest road trip yet and what's going on with the house very soon. 

It’s Possible to Do Yosemite in One Day with Kids


Self titled experts would have you think that you shouldn't go to Yosemite unless you had three days minimum (!) to spend there. We were going to be close to the park on a trip to Sonora, and it seemed crazy not to go in, but the message boards on travel sites were full of discouragement if anyone suggested spending only a single day in Yosemite. Come back when you have more time, they all said. You can't really experience Yosemite in a day, they'd continue.

This is total bunk.

I'm so glad we ignored the naysayers and went anyway. The one day in the park was perfect for the kids. We saw the sights, hiked a short bit, took photos, explored, and had fun, then left. We left before anyone got tired or cranky, and honestly, the kids wouldn't have gotten more out of additional days there.

Yosemite in a day is possible, people! No we didn't hike Half Dome, but those message board experts didn't either.


To track how we tackled Yosemite, head over to Silicon Valley Mamas.