Spontaneously Floating The Boise River

Many years ago, I became online friends with, for the sake of this blog post we’ll call him Job. One day, after months of witty banter back and forth online and every day phone calls full of joking, word puns, and talk of adventure, I asked Job, “what are you up to this weekend?”  Job began to tell me that he was traveling from Louisiana, where he lived, to Idaho to visit his parents at their farm in Boise, and planned to float the Boise River and hang with his younger brother Joe.  Sounded like the ideal adventure to me, so I responded with an “I’m jealous, wish I could float the Boise river!”

“What’re you doing this weekend?” he asked.

“No plans.”

“Well you should come float the Boise with us!”

“Uhh, yeah that sounds awesome, but I can’t just up and leave to Idaho.”

“If I get you a plane ticket you can.”

(not believing he was serious) “Yeah sure,” as I laughed, “I’ll come float the Boise River.”

By noon the next day, Job had called me back and then sent me an email with confirmation of my plane ticket to Idaho.  What??!! He seriously just purchased me a plane ticket and I was seriously going to Idaho to meet a person I’d never seen before?!  Of course I was.  At this point, it would be my very first time flying anywhere alone.  So September 3, 2007, I got on a plane headed for Boise.

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I fell in love with the experience of flying as a I trotted through Chicago’s Ohare airport before my transfer flight, and people watched as a I sat waiting to board my next plane. Like a fascinated little child, I sat on the plane, glued to the window the entire flight. I remember thinking, looking down, that flying gives you such a unique perspective on the world. It makes you appreciate the perfect marriage between Divine Architecture and Man’s Architechture, as you pass over untouched mountainous land and then over a large man made city.

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When the plane touched down in Boise, I excitedly exited into the airport and called Job on a pay phone because my cell phone didn’t have free long distance (yes we had cell phones back in the stone ages, just not ones with free long distance). I walked through the airport to where he guided me to meet him and it wasn’t until I got to the top of the escalator down into the baggage claim area, that I began to get nervous.  I was about to meet a complete stranger half way across the country. Here’s hoping he’s not an axe-murderer, I thought out loud.

When I saw him, I was relieved, and even more so when he smiled and gave me a big hug. We started chatting away as he walked me to the parking lot.  He had come to pick me up in his dad’s old white farm truck and I disctintly remember him purposely running over the curb in the drivethrough of the restaurant we ate at (all that flying made me hungry) to make me laugh.  By the time we got back to Job’s parents house it was dark.

We stayed up half the night talking about life and what we’d do while we were there, until we finally dozed off. I woke up in the morning to the sun shining through the open window and when I got out of bed, stretched and looked outside, I was thoroughly impressed with the sprawling view. The farm sat on rolling hills with a barn back behind the house and a few horses, one who’s my cousin Tristan’s namesake (I had to call and tell her) lol.

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We spent the first half of the day driving around Boise, where Job showed me the capital building and treated me to a trip to Lucky Peak Lake to take a dip under the GIANT fountain. We ate lunch in town at a little cafe, and then headed back to the house to pack up the raft and paddles into the station wagon.  We drove around for about a half hour looking for a good place to put into the river. It was hot, well into the 90’s but the water in the Boise river was COLD as ice. We pumped up the float and carried it to the river, got in and spent the remainder of the day floating down the river, talking, laughing and being goofy. When we reached our destination, Job’s brother was supposed to come get us, but we couldn’t get ahold of him so, what did we do? We hitched a ride with a complete stranger back to the place we parked, with Job and a half deflated raft in the back seat.

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Finally ariving back at the car, we loaded up and headed back to the farm, where we cleaned up, then headed into town for some dinner.  He took me to a little Italian restaurant called DaVinci’s. Afterwards we had drinks and played not real darts at Mulligans Pub, where I made two, count them two, bullseyes!! We stayed out on the town until around 2am having fun, dancing and drinking.  When we finally made it back to the farm, we were ready to crash.

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The following day we woke up to 107 degree temperature and decided it’d be a good day to spend at Roaring Springs Water Park. It was the coolest waterpark out in the middle of nowhere. Job’s brother joined us and we spent all day swimming and getting sunburned. My favorite was the giant half pipe they drop you into on a raft followed closely by the slide that is like a giant toilet you get flushed down.  After swimming we grabbed some snacks, played some games in the arcade where Job won me a sheriff sponge bob and then played a round of putt putt golf.  With all my days there being packed to the brim with fun, adventure and excitement, I was pooped.

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Luckily my flight and Job’s the next day wasn’t until later in the day. Job’s whole family came to the airport to see us off, him back home to Louisiana and me back home to Cincinnati.  We had airport lunch and after some bittersweet goodbyes we parted ways and headed to our terminals. I  called my mom to tell her I was headed home and then boarded my plane. When I reached Chicago to catch my transfer flight, it was EXTREMELY delayed so I spent several hours people watching and riding the baggage converyer escalator belt thingies.

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I reached Cincinnati around 1am, and my parents were anxiously awaiting my arrival at the airport. I was so grateful to have someone picking me up, because I was so tired I fell asleep in the car.  All in all my trip to Boise was an amazing experience and meeting a complete stranger turned out not to be so bad (knock on wood). I think if you put positive energy out there into the world, you attract other people who are like minded. I’ll never forget my trip to Idaho, my first time flying alone, or that one time I floated the Boise River in a blow up raft.

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A Visit to Dark Wood Farm & a New Friend

While in Rabbit Hash, KY, as my previous post mentions (I think…) I met some new friends. Amongst those friends were a group of farmers that came down for a beer on the General Store porch. I overheard them (nosey gypsy) talking about their farms and by their appearance, gathered that they’d been working. As I normally do when I find someone or something interesting, I investigated. I introduced myself with a “sorry to interrupt but did I hear you mention farmers markets? I’ve been really thinking of going to local farmers markets for my produce.” I chatted with my new friends, Annie and Barry, and told them I’d love to come out to their farms sometime, ask some questions, learn some stuff and take some pictures. They both gave me a card and later in the week I emailed them both.  Annie responded and I was glad to hear she was as excited as me about sharing her farm and her story. She also offered me the opportunity for fair trade, which is basically where you volunteer your time at a farm in exchange for an agreed upon amount of produce. So I’m pretty pumped about doing that in the upcoming weeks and throughout the summer. Not only will I get some awesome fresh, locally grown produce, but I have the opportunity to learn from someone who I found out is very passionate at what she does.

Annie

Annie

We arranged for me to visit the farm to snap some photos of the baby plants, before they are ready for harvest and to chat with Annie about how she reached this awesome and exciting place in her life. So on Thursday April 24th, after running some errands, I headed down to Burlington Kentucky to Dark Wood Farm. Annie was out in the field working, as she spends most of her days. From a glance the first thing i noticed is this young woman with a hat and ponytail, who’s jeans and hands are covered in earth. She dons a pair of muck boots and sunkissed cheeks. She looks whole and joyful in her fields and touches each task lovingly.

Radish!

Radish!

I joined her and sat in the grass along side the rows of tiny plants that she was caring for. Annie shared with me what each type of plant was, what she was doing and why. She verbally walked me through each step, and I snapped photos as she tenderly saw to each new little growing life. I asked her how she got into farming, and then sat back and listened gratefully as she told me her story. Annie grew up in the Northern Kentucky area and was first exposed to growing food in her father’s garden as a child. She grew up snapping beans and helping with the other produce. In high school she worked at McGlasson’s farmstand on River Rd outside of Hebron KY, furthering her experience with farming and gaining farming community. Annie went on to study biology at the University of Kentucky and upon graduating she worked for The Nature Conservancy. She furthered her education in New York at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry (what a mouthful lol) studying ecology.

Watering in the Greenhouse

Watering in the Greenhouse

When she graduated from the school who shall not be named (Harry Potter reference) she actually worked for the university at a research facility in the Adirondack Mountains. From New York she then received a job opportunity in Trout Lake Washington with Americorps doing trail work. She fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, as did I when I visited Portland in December. She later got a job with the University of Washington at a citizen science organization called COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) teaching citizens how to find and record dead sea birds. I know, I know, you’re thinking the same thing I was thinking, that’s an awesome job! (Or maybe you aren’t lol) but she went on to explain the reason why these citizens were taught to look for dead seabirds along their beaches. It’s to track the population of different seabirds over a period of time so that if something like an oil spill happens they can measure the impact it has on the seabirds they’ve been tracking. They know what seabirds die when, for what reasons (ie. during their mating season, not all baby birds make it so the birds are identified, measured and recorded). It gives the citizens a sense of purpose as well as a hand in protecting their environment. They are directly involved and come to care more about the planet and the animals they study through this process. Which I think is really awesome! Who knew identifying dead sea birds could be so purposeful?

Hard working hands

Hard working hands

By this time Annie had been a lot of places and worked quite a few interesting jobs. But farming was always in the back of her mind. She had tried to have a garden everywhere she lived and now in her 30s, she began to think more about self sustainability and following her dream of farming. Since her job was part time, she volunteered at a student run farm at the University of Washington and began thinking more seriously about when she would take the leap of faith to do what she really felt would give her purpose. She always enjoyed jobs that involved physical labor, but unsure of whether or not she could actually farm for a living, she tested it out by going to live and work on a farm called Local Roots outside of Seattle. During the cold months when there was no work at the farm, she wintered at the year round Green String Farm in California. After finding in her heart that farming was where she belonged she returned back to her hometown and leased acreage and a house. So was born Dark Wood Farm. As she finished up her story, she looked out over her fields, crouched down, crumbling clods of dirt between her fingers.

Inside the Green house

Inside the Green house

I thought to myself, this is what beauty and love is about. A person is most beautiful and radiant when they can passionately put their heart and soul into what they do each day. She loves what she does, she loves the dirt, the plants, the air, the rain, and that love is clearly expressed in her voice and on her smiling face.

A proud plant mom

A proud plant mom

This is Annie’s first year as a full time farmer, and it feels great to be supporting her by sharing her farm and her story with all of you. She will be participating in several local farmers markets in the NKY area so support local farming and my new friend! You can find Dark Wood Farm on Facebook or visit www.darkwoodfarmstead.com. If you are interested in fair trade opportunities, contact Annie through her website, or contact a local farmer near you.

Business Turns Into Play on a Dreary Day in Lexington KY

A couple months ago, a lady contacted me through an ad I had on Craigslist about a camera I was selling. She told me that she lived in Hazard, KY which is about a six hour drive, but that she’d be in Lexington sometime in the upcoming months for work. With all the crazy responses I get on craigslist I was unsure the lady would ever call me back, but sure enough about a week ago she texted me and asked if I still had my Canon 60d. We agreed to meet on Wednesday, March 12th in the morning at a little camera shop in Lexington called Murphy’s. So Wednesday morning I woke up, hopped in the shower, packed my camera gear up and headed for Lexington. Lexington is about an hour and a half from where I live so I spent my drive listening to tunes and enjoying the scenery (even though it was cold and raining. I stopped for gas and as I was pumping my unleaded into the civic I realized, I’ve never been to Lexington before! Here’s a place I’ve never been to that’s only a little over an hour away! It just reminded me that there are so many ways to adventure, even close by your own hometown. Of course, upon that realization, my business trip to sell my camera was quickly evolving into a personal play time. I reached Murphy’s a few minutes early and went in to meet with Rebecca.

Murphy’s

After chatting with her and some of Murphy’s employees we finalized the sale and I was off to adventure. Of course the blast of bitter cold air in my face on the way out the door deterred me slightly, but who am I kidding, nothing ever stopped me from an adventure besides, we’ll errrr, nope, nothing ever stopped me. So where to? First stop, the side of the road to take a picture of the Lexington sign and google some info on what to do in Lexington. Unfortunately a lot of Lexington’s best attractions are best enjoyed in warmer weather. After a bit of research I decided to head to Ashland, the Henry Clay estate, to have a look. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser”, he was a lawyer, a politician and a skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives in the 1800’s. He was, according ton Charlie (my awesome docent) a mason and a ladies man. He ran for presidency three times and lost all three times, the last time due to his supporting stance on slavery. To learn more about Henry Clay and the Ashland Estate visit henryclay.org. I arrived at Ashland, via my helpful GPS and was heavily impressed with its oldness. Lol. Even though it was cold out, the grounds were meticulously kept, and as I walked through the varied buildings on the property I imagined a time long ago. The estate itself is a very large brick home which is a duplicate of the home that once stood during Henry Clay’s life. The house was torn down by his son after Henry’s death and rebuilt as a replica of the original house, as well as updated to the Italianate style of architecture with touches of Greek revival.

Ashland

Ashland

It’s massive 8000sqft spread holds over 18 plus rooms with grand high ceilings and beautiful wood frame work. The house is filled with furniture, and personal belongings of Henry and the Clay family. My favorite thing in the estate is a painting that is, if I had to guess, which I’m not any good at, about 6ftx8ft that adorns the walls of Ashland’s Parlor. It depicts the Washington family, George, Martha, and their adopted children (who were actually Martha’s grandchildren) George and Eleanor as well as enslaved servant who is assumed to be William Lee. This painting has been with the estate for over 100 years except for in the 1950s when it was sold at auction and then donated back to the house museum of Ashland, where it now resides. The best thing about this painting is that it was commissioned of an artist named Henry Inman, by James Johnston (who’s that?) and given to Henry Clay as a gift for his wife Lucretia in 1844. It is a hand painted copy of an original painting, Edward Savage’s iconic Washington’s Family, that hangs in the gallery of art in Washington, D.C.. Apparently copying well known paintings was not considered a second rate thing at that time. Photographs inside the estate are not allowed, which of course nearly made my head burst, but I decided I’d become ok with it and it would just force me to pay attention and live in the moment instead of capturing it and reliving the moment later. After my tour of the house, which I enjoyed very much, I chatted with the nice woman who worked in the gift shop, Libby, and purchased a few small things to take back home. I also introduced myself to the ladies I took the tour with, who were from Utah and told them they should look up my blog! So if they do, hey ladies! Hope you had a safe trip back home. I hopped in my car and headed for downtown Lexington to see what interesting places I could find. As I passed into downtown, on my right on Midland Ave is Thoroughbred Park.

Thoroughbred Park

Thoroughbred Park

It just takes up a small 2.3 acre triangular section where two roads split off from the main road. It was founded by the Triangle Foundation which has created several other parks in downtown Lexington. Along the entry way to the park are 7 bronze statues of thoroughbreds and their jockeys racing, cleaving the wind, portrayed expending every last ounce of energy to reach the finish line first. It’s really a breathtaking sight, and the sound of nearby traffic fades in the distance as you’re taken to another place.

Racing to the finish

Racing to the finish

There are 6 other bronze horse statues throughout the landscape of the park, including two foals frolicking in the grass. As you walk through there are 44 plaques along the walkway that loops through the entire park, that honor the men and women who spent their lives breeding, training, racing and owning these magnificent thoroughbreds. Lexington is famous for its devotion and dominance in the equine world and this park does an does an excellent job of displaying this.

After walking around in the cold with misty rain and wind whipping me in the face, I thought to myself, I could really go for a cup of coffee right now (decaf of course, it’s been 10 months since I kicked my caffeine habit). I reached the civic and Lo and behold I parked myself right across the street from A Cup of Commonwealth, which turned out to be one of the coolest little coffee shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I was warmly welcomed by the owners who currently run the shop themselves. Chris Ortiz and Salvador Sanchez, A Cup of Commonwealth’s founders are two coffee-and-fun-loving guys who are centered around improving their community through a system they use called pay it forward. How do you pay it forward? With the pay it forward board of course, and if you’re still lost there’s instructions written in giant colorful letters behind the counter. Basically you purchase a cup of coffee, of any particular kind for a friend who isn’t with you. You leave them a note on the pay it forward board and when they visit the shop the next time they can check the board and receive their paid forward coffee. The best thing is you don’t just have to pay it forward to someone you know, you could write something like, “for a teacher” or “for someone who loves dogs”. You can even make your own stipulations for receiving the coffee like the person has to sing or dance to receive their yummy beverage.

Pay-It-Forward

Pay-It-Forward

I had a White Chocolate Mocha and it was smooth and delicious to the last drop. I utilized the pay it forward system and left a coffee for my friends at Frameshop Lexington. Chris and Sal graciously allowed me to take their picture.

Chris & Salvador

Chris & Salvador

I said my good byes and I was off. Driving through downtown, I looked on the outskirts for eclectic shops, artisans and whatnot. You know, the kind of stuff Gypsies look for. I drove past a really interesting looking spiritual healing store, which after I parked a block away and walked there, I realized was closed. So I went next door to Liz Douglas designs and met Liz and Doug who specialize in faux finishing anything using chalk paint. Their shop is exemplary of their fine craftsmanship, and we’ll worth stopping in if you’re ever in Lexington.

Liz told me if I like eclectic that I simply must visit Third Street Stuff & Coffee. So I did. Third Street was like being in Portland all over again, which is awesome! The outside of the building is wildly painted with bright colors, designs and sayings. The inside is adorned with neon colors, artwork, design and a really cool collection of stuff for sale. Since I’d just had coffee, I decided to purchase some oddities including but not limited to, buttons for my backpack and a mustache tin full of mints.IMG_0084 copy

I had worked up an appetite, so I pulled out the little paper list of awesome restaurants that Sal and Chris from Commonwealth had created for me. I chose Stella’s because Stella is my cats name. When in doubt I use my excellent reasoning skills. Stella’s is at the corner of Jefferson and Ballard streets. I really enjoyed sitting by the large old windows and watching the snow fall outside. I had a side salad with their amazing house vinaigrette. When I say delicious I mean really yummy! This homemade dressing tastes killer on a salad. I enjoyed a nice glass of Pinot Grigio and mowwed down on some truffle Mac and cheese, followed by a piece of Melt-in-your-mouth Mary Porter Pie.IMG_0153 copy

By this point it was nearly 6 pm as I sat, food coma’d in Stella’s dining room. I let my food settle a bit and then headed for my last stop of the day before heading home. My Lexington friend, Corey, said I must visit the Ward Hall Greek Revival Mansion for its creepy appeal. As I pulled up the long winding driveway of Ward Hall, I thought out loud, this place is most likely haunted, but eh, who cares. This large creepy mansion stands on 40 acres of rolling hills. It’s three stories tall and the three floors are connected by an elliptical staircase.IMG_0160 copy

Although there is a rope blocking off the front porch, since obviously no one lives there, I crossed the rope and creeped up to the front porch hoping I wasn’t about to become another episode of Unsolved Mysteries. I peeked through the windows at the furnishings and was thoroughly in awe of the interior architecture as well as pretty creeped out by the emptiness and just overall energy of the house. I walked all the way around the house and suddenly nature was calling and I needed to find a restroom. Rather than drop trough right there, I decided to GPS the closest bathroom. After a stop at subway, I got on the road home. Reflecting on my day as I watched a beautiful sunset over the rolling Kentucky hills,IMG_0191 copy

I came to the conclusion that I needed to seek out the Lexingtons (nearby places I can travel to in a day) surrounding my little part of the world, to encourage you, my readers, to begin your adventures and to show you that it doesn’t require a lot of money and sometimes doesn’t require any money to do so. I challenge you to pick a place, within an hour or so of your home that you’ve not been, and write me about your adventure! I look forward to hearing all your stories!

A Wiener Dogs Birthday Party in Portland (Day 1)

Have you ever been to a wiener dog’s birthday party? No, I’m not kidding. No, this isn’t a joke. On December 1st I flew to Portland Oregon to help capture the memories at Kramer’s 1st birthday party to benefit the Oregon Dachshund Rescue Inc..

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Kramer, the spunky little doxie, was born with genetic deformities. Had it not been for ODR, he would have been euthanized at 5 weeks.  I got to meet Kramer, who is quite the famous pooch in social media circles (3500+ followers on fb!) a couple weeks before the trip when I went to his adoptive home for a family photo session.  Kim Granneman, Kramer’s adoptive mom, who organized the party and my trip to Portland, is a Cincinnati native (she was actually my childhood neighbor) who travels for work.  She is passionate about animal rights and advocates for furry creatures who don’t have a voice of their own.  Kim flew out to Portland to bring Kramer for a home visit to meet his new brother and sister, Toby and Sadie.  On the day I arrived at Kims for photos, chaos and barking ensued and I spent the next hour with the cutest, but most wiggly and uncooperative subjects.

Kim, Kramer, Toby & Sadie (I work miracles)

Kramer, what a handsome fella.

Over the next couple weeks, Kim and I ironed out the details of my trip.  Saturday, November 30th I spent my day shooting the Leistler wedding.  I wrapped up around 11pm and headed to Wally World to buy a suitcase (since I needed one and still hadn’t packed yet).  After just a few hours of sleep, at around 5:30am my parents drove me to the airport to send me off.  Going through TSA, the excitement bubbled. It could have been my empty stomach, but I’m pretty sure it was excitement.  Who the hell gets excited going through airport security? This girl!  Boarding the plane, I thought I was gonna explode with anticipation as I shuffled down the isle to my window seat.  Like a 5 year old, I’m fascinated by flying (every time) and appreciate a window seat and the view more than most people.

Airplane face.

Airplane face.

My face remained glued to the window through most of the flight, although I did play a little donkey kong on my Nintendo 3DS XL. After a layover in Minneapolis, which might I add has an awesome airport,my flight, as planned, arrived in Portland in enough time for me to RUN through the airport to the rental car terminal, hop in my baby blue Hyundai and haul my arse to the Spring Hill Suites Marriott to change my clothes.  Once I changed into something that wasn’t sweat pants and a tshirt, and got my gear ready, I made my way to the Columbia Conference Center for the Paw-ty.

I spent 3 hours with 60+ dachshunds and their owners.  I had the pleasure of meeting the people who run the rescue as well as many other people who are passionate for these pooches. Instead of gifts people brought donations of blankets, food and treats for the rescue, as well as monetary donations.  The Paw-ty even made the news in Portland, so all in all I’d say, a great success.

Paw-ty Favors!

Although I was having a lot of fun, the time came for me to bid everyone adieu. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and hop in a hot shower. I wanted to spend all the time I could exploring Portland, and although it was raining a misty rain, that was not going to stop me.

From my hotel it took me about 15 minutes to get into downtown and find a parking spot.  With camera in tow (inside my coat), I meandered through the drizzle of nighttime Portland,

Cell Phone Selfie

snapping pictures of trees adorned with glowing white holiday lights and luminous sodden streets, raindrops hanging from ledges, and droplets pooling in low places in the sidewalk, forming puddles that show the city its reflection.  Something about the way city lights look when its raining… is simply beautiful.  I stopped a woman passing by.  “Top of your head, whats the best place to eat around here, within walking distance?”  Her response was quick and definite, “Brasserie Montmatre.”  She gave me walking directions and I thanked her for the suggestion.  Soon after I found myself drying off in a Parisian-cafe-inspired restaurant foyer.

Brasserie Montmatre

With high ceilings and Baroque style architecture, the rich history of the building is apparent.  The building, I learned, originally the Calument hotel, was built in 1907, but did not become the Brasserie Montmatre until 1978 when it began its life as a dinner house.  After spending at least 30 minutes trying to translate the menu, I decided on the Croque Monsieur. This dish consists of Ham and Gruyere (cheese) on Brioche (a French pastry bread) drizzled with Mornay (french cheese sauce). Basically French grilled cheese and ham. Ha! I also ordered the famous mac & cheese (white cheddar, gruyere and shells sprinkled with panko bread crumbs) and was served a complimentary Amuse Bouche, which is a thick, creamy, rich and flavorful bisque.  I washed it all down with a frothy and hoppy local brewed, winter Jubilale.  Talk about a food coma. The French really know how to indulge.

Croque Monsieur

The food and service were both excellent. It took me about 30 minutes to move from my table after stuffing my face.  As I finally made my way out the the streets again, I ran across Jeff of Rockstar Singing Telegrams singing and playing the guitar for a couple who was celebrating their 2nd anniversary. Let me tell you, if you’re ever in Portland and need a singing telegram for some odd reason, lol, make sure you look this guy up.  I spent a few minutes listening to him jam out in the moist Portland air and then began my walk back to the car.

As I made my way back to the hotel that evening, my mind was swirling with ideas for adventures over the days ahead. I entered the hotel lobby, picked up a personal size bottle of wine, and traversed to my room on the 3rd floor.  As I lay my head down on the pillow to sleep, I thanked the universe for aligning this opportunity, and for Kramer. The next couple days would see some awesome sights, meet some awesome people and take some amazing pictures. Keep an eye out for parts 2 & 3 of my Portland trip and don’t forget to check out the rest of the photos below!

An overdue trip to le’ Zoo!

So not only am I an adventuring gypsy, I’m also a nanny a few days a week for two little girls ages 1 and 5.  Since I like to share my passion for adventure, we created field trip Fridays, as an awesome way to close out the week with some fun and exploration.  Alaina (5) has been asking me to take her to the zoo pretty much since the day I started watching her (7 months ago),  and just so happened that this Friday arose the perfect opportunity to take a trip there.  Sami (1) was spending the day with grandma so I figured, perfect, I wont have to haul a stroller, diaper bag and little one who just wants to crawl everywhere around the zoo!  God forbid she crawl into the gorilla exhibit and we have a repeat of the Brookfield Zoo Incident! We packed our snacks, my camera, and our gloves and hats and headed for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  For those of you who’ve never been to the zoo in Cincinnati, its worth a visit, especially if you have children, and don’t mind seeing bored animals locked in cages.  The zoo is bittersweet to me, lol, if you couldn’t tell.  I love that I have the opportunity to see and learn about animals I’d ordinarily never encounter, but I’d much rather see them in the wild, not pacing with anxiety in front of a glass window in an enclosed space they can’t get out of. I’m totally not trying to be a Debby downer here, I promise, it just makes me a little sad.  I appreciate the conservation and educational value the zoo presents to our city and especially our youth so there!  With that said, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a really nice, and well kept zoo, the staff are friendly and informative. The animals’ spaces are pretty spacious for the most part with plenty of natural foliage.  There’s a vast array of animals from Asian Elephants   to Red Pandas, Flamingos and Eagles all the way down to insects.  Surprisingly to me, the zoo has added several eateries which offer real Healthy choices for eating while you’re visiting.  I had an amazing Harvest Salad that was pretty mouthwatering.  We shared some of our lunch with a friendly squirrel and a not so friendly peacock.  We made the entire loop around the zoo visiting each exhibit that was open (some animals are off display for the season due to cold weather).  We even rode the train which I haven’t done since I was a little girl! Let me tell you, that train isn’t made for people over 4 feet tall, ha, it was quite a squeeze for the old knees.  We even got to visit and photograph Gladys, the new baby gorilla, and watch her play as all the adult gorillas watched her attentively.  It was so interesting to see them interact, and to see how protective they were over her when too many people gathered around.  All in all we had a great time exploring the zoo and learning about each animal we visited.  For anyone interested in pricing or hours, or just general information you can visit http://cincinnatizoo.org/! Hope you enjoy the gallery. 🙂