Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Portland Weekend of Food

Portland has too many amazing chefs!

I know this will taint my taste buds for the rest of my life.

Whether is was celebrating our recent financial goal being met, or the five bags of clothes (and other 'stuff') we took to Goodwill after cleaning out our closets, my wife and I needed some good food!


On Saturday we started with Gravy and ended with Ava Gene's.


If you haven't been to Gravy yet, go early! By 9 a.m., there is a line down the street.

It's conveniently located down the street from us (lucky us!) on N. Mississippi Avenue.

Everything we've had on the breakfast menu has been delicious! (Just a personal preference warning, we cannot say the same for the lunch menu.)

This time we had the half-order of french toast and an omelet. This was more than enough to share, as the plates are gigantic!

If the food can't get you in, then the coffee will! I definitely broke my 'one cup of coffee a day' rule on Saturday.

A regular stop for us...Gravy is perfect if you're looking for comfort breakfast food and good coffee.

Price = $
Food = Thumbs Up

Ava Gene's

We have a list of Portland restaurants that we're working our stomachs through and, with Saturday's dinner at Ava Gene's, we can cross another location off the list!

Whenever we go to a new restaurant, it's hard not to try everything on the menu! I just want to taste it all!

Luckily we went with friends, so we were able to order several more dishes than usual.

Since the menu included a 'few' words that we did not understand, we made the 'mistake' of asking the waitress a few questions about the menu.

I say mistake, because everything she told us about sounded like heaven! With each explanation came another tug on our stomachs and hearts. The food sounded...beautiful...

And it was!

We ordered all over the menu - appetizers, salads, first course, second course, sides, desserts!
  • Formaggi - Rush Creek Reserve (from the waitress' explanation, we'd really appreciate it if we were cheese nerds)
  • Fritti - Beet Arancini, Humboldt Fog (fried ball of beets and cheese)
  • Giardini - Brussels Sprouts, Chanterelles, Frikeh, Pumpkin Seeds, Anchovy, Chiles (I seriously need the recipe for this salad. Raw brussels sprouts with a kick!)
  • Primi - Fusilloni, Pork Sausage, Kale Pesto, Ricotta
  • Primi - Tagliatelle, Duck Ragu, Escarole
  • Secondi - Beef Short Ribs, Carrots, Apple, Horseradish, Hairbender (melts in your mouth)
  • Secondi - Barramundi, Mushrooms, Prosciutto, Mussel Maionese (fish)
  • Contorni - "Misticanza" Sauteed Greens, Olives, Chiles
  • Dolci - Panna Cotta, Saba (I'm not usually a fan of desserts and I couldn't stop myself from eating half of this.)
The perfect combination for our 'next time' meal would be a formaggi, the brussels sprout giardini, the fusilloni primi, and the beef short ribs. Of course, followed by the panna cotta!

Being wine novices, but knowing we definitely needed a bottle of wine to fully embrace the ambiance, we asked the waitress for a recommendation. This definitely worked in our favor, as we ended up with a red that complemented all of the dishes! Silky, smooth...now if I would have only taken a picture of the bottle or written the name down!!

The waitstaff were spot on. Offering and filling up our (sparkling) water glasses, refilling our wine glasses, offering help with any questions on the menu, and being very knowledgeable about the food and wine selections.

I definitely understand why Ave Gene's has received such praise!

I recommend a visit, though watch out for the line. Highly recommend reviewing the watering-holes close by for a pre-meal drink while you wait.

Price = $$$
Food = Thumbs Up


We continued our culinary experience on Sunday.

We were in Downtown Portland taking photos (specifically Chinatown) and decided we needed dim sum for lunch.

It's been almost five years since I last had dim sum, in Hawaii...ahh, Hawaii, I will see you again soon!

House of Louie

I'm not sure if Hawaii spoiled me, or if we did a terrible job of picking out the restaurant (what?! Walking around looking for the busiest spot usually works!). In either case, this was not the place for dim sum.

Enough said.

Well, not quite. My wife picked up a fortune cookie while we were running for the checkout counter. Fortune read "you will demonstrate poor judgment today."

Well, that was spot on!

Price = $
Food = Thumbs Down 


We decided that the only thing that could make up for the lunch experience was french macarons!

And there is nowhere better for french macarons in Portland than Nuvrei! Literally, they are better than in Marseille.

It was the longest six block drive ever, as we picked out the flavors in our heads.

Alas, they were out!

Deflated but not willing to give up, we went with plan B. Plan B was made up on the spot, but it worked!

Papa Haydn

Papa Haydn is great for desserts.

Huge portions, fancy atmosphere...and for those on the move, a counter where you can order and go.

The day was salvaged!

We were able to get our french macarons - pistachio, salted caramel, and (the family favorite) espresso.

We even bought a few extra and ate them again that evening!

Price = $$
Dessert = Thumbs Up

I cannot wait to have more to celebrate! I still have a long list of restaurants to try!

Any suggestions for Dim Sum in Portland? We're still looking!

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wear a Bow Tie! (New Skills - Check, Conversations - Check)

Sometimes it's the small experiences that can make the day.

Today I tied and wore my first bow tie. (Yes, it was not a clip-on.)

What a pain!

But at least I know I can do it...with a little YouTube guidance.

Talk about a conversation starter. Everyone at work has commented on it, even though I wear a regular tie to work (almost) every day.

If you're ever sitting around, wanting to learn something new, but you just can't think of what to do...learn to tie a bow tie!

Here is the link to a great YouTube video for instructions - [tie my bow tie]. This guy does a great job of walking you through the steps (with an accent that helps you feel fancy). Plus, he uses a mirror, so you can look back and forth from the computer to your mirror and know exactly what it should look like.

For me, it worked on the first try!! (Though for full disclosure, it took me more than 20 minutes to get it straight - my arms were exhausted and I had to shake them out at least once!)

In addition to just learning something new...if you ever need a way to start a conversation with a stranger, wear a bow tie!

Comments will be made, ice will be broken, conversations will be had.


Yours in exploiting life!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November Is a Hairy, Bendy Month

November is flying by!

It's already the holiday season and only 34 shopping days left until Christmas!

My house has been busy! Not only have we been making our Christmas shopping lists, purchasing holiday cards, and paying off debt...but we've also been participating in a 30-day yoga challenge!

We signed up for (free) daily yoga videos by email. You can just click and go whenever you have time!

We've been stretching, bending, and groaning for most of November!  It's day 21 and we've only missed two exercises so far - though we plan to make them up! (When we missed the first day, after 15 consecutive workouts, I nearly quit altogether. I've since calmed down and decided the challenge didn't have to be all or nothing...I think!)

In addition to the yoga, I'm still going strong in my Movember participation!

My mustache is getting long (and surprisingly full)!

This is definitely the longest I've gone without shaving my upper lip.

Every time I look in the mirror, I see my father in the 1980s! What a hipster he was!

Have you been participating in holiday challenges? Any suggestions?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Over $70,000 of Debt - GONE!

We're debt free!!!!!

I'm shouting this as if I'm on Dave Ramsey's radio show - as loud as possible!

It's true though. After two years of focus, my wife and I are debt free!

This has been a long road (we started with over $70,000 of debt). A road that, just six months ago, we thought would lead us into 2014.

But with a new job, a renewed focus, and a shared goal, we made it!

We no longer have monthly payments for items purchased in the past!

The car loan? Paid off!
Credit card debt? Paid off!
School loans? Paid off!

We can now look toward the future!

If this doesn't fit my definition of exploiting life, what does?!

What's next?

I'm not sure yet...but I see travel on the horizon...

Do you have debt? How do you feel about it? Is it a priority to pay it off?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Yes, We Found Plenty To Do In Astoria

A couple weekends ago, my wife and I went with friends to Astoria, Or. for the weekend. Once again, heading off to exploit life!

There were too many items on our to-do list for the trip, but here's what we were able to squeeze in...in two days!

Lunch at Fort George Brewery
Godfather's Books - New and used bookstore
Downtown Antique Shops
Astoria Column - amazing views of the river, ocean, and bay from the top!
Astoria KOA - stayed the night is a great (clean, huge) cabin
Dinner at BridgeWater Bistro
Walked along the coast, viewing an old ship wreck at Fort Stevens State Park
Amazing coffee with amazing prices at Rusty Cup - you have to try the Shot-N-Dark!!
More Antique Shops - I'm lucky we made it out of these without a purchase or two!
Lunch and sea lion gazing at Rogue Brewery
Up close and personal Sea Lion Gazing on the dock

So much! Plus the great drive along the Columbia River, to and from Astoria.

Here's an additional source to build your own trip to Astoria.

Enjoy! We did!

Have you been anywhere fun lately? Have you ever been to Astoria?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movember - Time to Grow the Stache for Cash!

Movember is here!

I watched Movember pass me by last year.

I followed several Movember participants on Facebook and online - watching as they post their hairy results throughout the month.

Well this year, I'm going to join them!

If you don't know what Movember is, then there is always Wikipedia...but I'll also give you a quick summary of what it is and why I'm participating.

Movember is a movement that started several years ago in Australia to raise awareness (and money) for prostate, testicular, and other male cancers, as well as depression.

It has since grown to include participants from around the world!

Participants grow a mustache the entire month of November - mustache/November = Movember.

The largest organization to run Movember events is the Movember Foundation. They have a participant registration website and competition, that I signed up for!!

This will be pretty big for me, as I've never had a mustache. The longest I've ever gone without shaving is a week and a half - and this was on vacation, where I didn't have to come into the office every Monday!

A month is a long time...

Moustache vs. Mustache - well, since I'm American, and we've changed our language to be different in almost all ways (because, yes, we're that self-absorbed), I'll use 'mustache'...but I do know that it's Moustache everywhere else! (It's funny, my spell check doesn't like Moustache.  Guess it doesn't read Wikipedia as much as I do.)

I did go back and forth on whether to participate.

I really liked the idea. I jumped on the bandwagon. Then stopped.

I had forgotten about some important upcoming professional meetings. Did I want to have a (potentially creepy) mustache while in these meetings? Would they think differently of me?

Luckily I had some time to think (and a wonderful wife who understands where I'm coming from, and going...).

Reasons to not worry about what others will think about my mustache -

  1. Per my wife, once you explain why you have the mustache, they should understand. Who wouldn't understand someone performing certain actions to raise awareness and donations for a good cause?
  2. Per me, why do I care what others think about me? I don't - for the most part...at least, I shouldn't care. I've been actively building the life I want to live, regardless of what others think of it. Why should it change when I grow a mustache? Or participate in causes that I support? The answer...it shouldn't change!

So here we go. On my way to 30 days!

I shared my cause and Mo Space page to my Facebook friends. I've written this post. I'm growing the mustache.

I plan to post pictures at Day 6, Day 12, Day 18, Day 24, and Day 30 on Facebook - let my friends follow along!

I'm pretty curious what it will look like - nothing like capturing a moment in time.

Are you doing what you want? Are you actively building the life you want?

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weekly Update - It's Already November!!

A few exploitation notes from this week -

More fun this past weekend - as well as plenty to come!

Last Sunday we met friends at Broder for brunch.  This is a small Swedish influenced restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch. We tried several dishes and drinks...and most were delicious! I would say the atmosphere was the main draw - get there early though, as there is always a wait for the few tables available!

Afterwards we drove out to the Sandy River Delta Park - this is a gigantic off-leash dog park, amazing! It was pouring rain but that didn't stop us from exploiting the fresh air, good times, and great company! (If we let the rain stop us, then we'd have nothing to do all winter long in Portland! Bring it on!)

November is also kicking off Yovember! This is a month of practicing yoga every day! This should be...bendy... We plan to do 20-30 minutes a day, which should be just enough to get a great workout, but not take up all of our free time - though this probably means less Hulu time! Yay for us!

We continue taking advantage of our weekends, and this weekend is no different. We're heading over to Astoria, OR for a fun filled weekend - there's so much exploiting to be done!

As a follow-up to our water intake challenge - we did pretty well. We drank our intended ounces until the final couple of days - that is a lot of water!! I've since tried to drink at least 80 oz., but I'm pretty consistent at 64 oz.  If nothing else, the challenge week definitely made me more aware of how little water I drank before.  That's what it's all about, awareness!!

Hope you've been exploiting your time and life! Been anywhere fun and exciting? Any new challenges?

Yours in exploiting life!