International WorkBoat Show – New Orleans, Louisiana

Last November I took a rather ‘unconventional’ trip to New Orleans. I didn’t go for a bachelorette, graduation, retirement party or what ever else people visit the French Quarter for. I went to a boat show, and not to buy a yacht or a speed boat but to look at all things to do with working boats.

Random? Yes probably to some, but not for our family. When my step-dad asked my step-sister and myself if we wanted to go I am pretty sure our reply speed broke the sound barrier. And believe it or not, it was so much fun!

The show is a free convention (for attendees, if you sign up early enough) geared toward anything you could possibly need to run a boat based business from commercial fishing to oil transportation. You name it, they have it.

We spent two days milling about the booths and chatting people up, though it is a three day show.  And despite the fact that all three of us currently work in totally different industries we all found products that we were interested in. There are hundreds of booths with an inordinate number of products and services. I wager anyone could find something they would be interested in.

We all said on more than one occasion “we are coming back again next year right?”.

Information:

  • International WorkBoast Show website.
  • Morial Convention Center – New Orleans Louisiana
  • Generally the last weekend in November or first of December.
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MD HANEY & Co. – McMinnville, Oregon

If you happen to find your self strolling around McMinville make sure to stroll off the main street and up to NE 7th street. It is easy to miss, MD HANEY & Co. as you drive by on the main highway into or out of town. It just looks like a cute house. Which it is, an exceptionally cute house turned into a truly stunning home goods store.

The house itself was beautifully remolded by the owners of the store, and each room is set up as if it were a house. I want to live in this house! But scattered about are small collections of store stock in a way that you don’t really notice at first and everything is for sale.

The offer a variety of carefully home decor items, luxury small batch kitchen goods and will help you with any specialty painting you may need done. I stop in every time I go into town just to experience the beauty of the store and usually walk out with a perfect gift for someone I love.

Additional Information:

  • 4925, 636 NE Baker St, McMinnville, OR 97128
  • (503) 857-8176
  • Closed Sunday through Tuesday.
  • Open Wednesday through Saturday 10 to 5.

Ireland Hiking – Quarter Four

I honestly cannot believe that in in a month and a half I will be in Ireland. Every time I go somewhere new it feels so surreal that in no time I will be standing in a new place, looking at a part of the world that I have never seen before.  All the planning and research culminating in standing in the place I had been dreaming of.

But this time will be different, this time I will be standing in the place I have been training very hard for entire year. Without further adieu, the last of my Ireland training plan!

The weather turned again, but instead of turning my exercises from outdoors to indoors I just doubled down. I have been steadily walking my dog at least 6 miles a day since last summer. And on top of it I added an indoor exercise routine that you can do anywhere as long as you have the internet.

I decided to do a three month high intensity workout plan focusing on cardio and strength which will be ending here in a couple weeks. Then to get me through the last month and a half before the trip I am switching things up again to focus more on balance and flexibility.

All exercises are done once a week for a month, prepare to be very very sore.

Month 1:

  1. This Hit and Abs workout is only 15 min, but I was doing it twice through.
  2. Jessica Smith has some killer workouts, for a low impact leg workout I chose this workout which I did three times through each week.
  3. Then to loosen things up a bit I did a dance heavy workout also from Jessica Smith.
  4. I followed that up with a pilates workout focusing on hip strength and joint rotation.
  5. Then did a killer leg day, again with Jessica Smith…I clearly really like her workouts.
  6. After that leg day another dance heavy cardio was needed to stretch out the muscles.
  7. Day 7 was stretching, relaxing and resting.

Month 2:

  1. Low impact leg strength.
  2. A full body cardio weights routine with PopSugar.
  3. Abs with Fitness Blender again.
  4. I kept the leg day workout from last month, it is a killer but so good.
  5. Pilates for strength and flexibility.
  6. Switching traditional cardio up for a good old fashioned core power yoga.
  7. Day 7 stretch, relax and rest.

Month 3:

  1. For AAA (*ss, Abs, Arms) I picked a PopSugar workout.
  2. For Cardio Flow day I am keeping the trend of Core Power Yoga, so I chose this 45 minute Power Yoga.
  3. LEG DAY! I got a little tired of the one I had been doing for two months so switch it up with a Fitness Blender lower body workout.
  4. A new core workout for the month, once again with Fitness Blender.
  5. Pilates for cardio core day!
  6. And for booty day I am adding another Pilates routine but with workout bands.
  7. Day 7 stretch, relax and rest.

 

Last few weeks leading up to the actual trip I am cutting back on traditional workouts and went strictly with Pilates and Yoga. So while I am getting a great workout, I am also trying to focus on flexibility and stability. All without risking knee injury which would put a bit of a damper on a hiking trip. So below is the series of workouts I plan to employ up until the day I leave!

 

 

Book Soup – Los Angeles, California 

Book Soup is an independent book store and mainstay on the Sunset Blvd since the 1970s. Popular with tourist and celebrities alike the store specializes in hard to find and high end art books but also has a very comprehensive fiction section as well.

The store will suck you in from the street with a beautiful New York style newsstand display at the front door. Where you can then see the curved and towering bookshelves that are begging to be explored. Once in a person could spend hours (and I did) browsing the displays and finding all sorts of new books you want to read.

I found no less that 10 books immediately that I had not heard of and wanted to read. And that doesn’t include the pile of glossy art books that I would have snatched up had I not been on foot and several miles away from where I was staying. I went in more than once, spending at least an hour on my own. But I also wet in once with my family. Every time we were ready to leave we would be missing a member of our party, and in going to try to find them we would find more books that caught our attention and then again someone would be missing and the cycle would continue. Like I said it sucks you in, in the best possible way.

I sadly did not have the pleasure of being there on days with any special events or while one of the many famous locals made their way into the shop. But it is known to be a popular location for celebrity sightings and hosts a large number of events including talks on art and literate as well as book signings.

If you are a fan of books this is a Los Angeles sight not to be missed, but come with dollars because you will windup spending a lot. Even if not on their perfectly curated collection of books, their gifts and souvenirs are impossible to pass up and I wound up spending way too much money on greeting cards which I in no way regret doing.

Sunset Blvd – Los Angeles, California

Back in June of last year as I have mentioned in the previous few posts we were in LA for a part work part play trip. We were also lucky enough to stay with extended family rather than the hotel my husbands office wanted to put us up in.

So while we was off working for half the week (with our rental car) I was on foot. Luckily the house we were fortunate enough to stay in was in a nice part of town and near some pretty  fabulous areas to walk, the Sunset strip being one of them.

The strip, long famous for its night clubs such as the Viper Room, is still packed with venues of all sorts. But the streets are clean, the sidewalks wide and it is dotted with shops, countless restaurants, and plenty of watering holes if you fancy yourself a drink.

I spent a couple days walking around the area, one day I walked east and found myself down at the Farifax Farmers Market. And another day I walked west and found myself on palm lined streets of Beverly Hills.

My favorite spot to stop was of course the book store called Book Soup which famously takes its name from the Groucho Marx movie Duck Soup. I went to the store more than once, wandering around the winding stacks. I never did quite figure out their system. There was certainly a fiction section in the center of the store. Off to the right seemed to be books on California and celebrity biographies. Where as the left offered up art books of all kinds. I didn’t buy any books as I was already toting three library books with me, but I bought some fabulous cards to send to some friends in the upcoming months.

Needless to say, whether you are a person who likes urban hiking like myself or if you would rather tour via a tour bus. Or anything in between, I think the Sunset Strip is well worth exploration while in Los Angeles. There is a lot of see, a lot to eat and plenty of opportunities to see filming locations or possible celebrity sightings.

Fairifax Farmers Market – Los Angeles, California

On yet another ridiculously sunny solo day in LA, I had my husband drop me off at the Farifax Farmers Market on his way to the office. The problem with this plan was that it was sunny.  While I cut my walk in half by getting dropped off, a plan that involves a place to walk around as entertainment and requires a six miles walk back was not my best. But nerveless I did it, and loved it. I returned to our lodging only sightly sun burnt and mildly dehydrated.  I don’t know if you know this, but there is NO shade in LA. And the sun shines ALL the time.

The Fairifax Farmers Market, also known at The Original Farmers Market was established in 1934 as a village area for local farmers to sell their goods. I could regurgitate all the info here or just let you go to the market website and learn all about it. It has a fascinating history and has historically be a place where many stars have been spotted picking up local products. The market is enormous and provides an endless maze of fascinating and delicious ingredients as well as hot take away foods.  I am a terrible judge of distances, but it seemed around the same size at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

The market is also adjacent to The Grove a popular retain destination in the area, which also hosts a number of celebrity regulars. I did not see any while I was there. I did however spend way too much time wandering around the shady produce stalls trying to decide what to buy. Due to my lack of planning the entire endeavor I forgot that I would be carry by hand back anything I purchased so I had to be a bit more discerning that I would have liked. For example buying everyone I knew a bottle of hot sauce from this incredibly vendor would not be my favorite choice after mile two.

 

I landed on small but mighty choices from Monsieur Marcel. Cheese, crackers and cherry paste. I shoved them in my bag and started the long trek back. Making stops, of course because why would I remember I had to carry everything back, at the Grove, various second hand shops and a Frozen Yogurt shop about halfway through. When I returned, finally I took a shower, and set myself up in the shade to devour my goodies. Have you ever had these crackers from The Fine Cheese Company? They are incredible and I cannot find them anywhere locally.

Museum of Death – Los Angeles, California 

I am going to start out my Los Angeles series on a bit of a downer, well at least a downer if you aren’t at all interested in the macabre. Last year my husband had a work trip in Los Angeles so I tagged a long and we co-opted the week as a partial vacation. The first day we were there was one that he was working and I was on my own. But as you probably know Los Angeles is huge, I couldn’t figure out the bus system, and I don’t use hired cars unless I have to.

My ride (my husband) was going to be around Hollywood Blvd for the day, so I looked up interesting things to do, made my choices and off we went. I should preface my choice by saying I have been the LA a lot and seen just about everything there is to see there. So while I thoroughly enjoyed the Museum of Death and think it is one of the most notable and important things in the area, it is okay if that isn’t your cup of tea. There is plenty of other things to do there. I am just not going to write about them here, just yet at any rate.

The Museum of Death in Los Angeles is one of two museums owned by JD Healy and Cathee Shultz. The second is located, appropriately in New Orleans.The mission of the founders was not to scared the be-jebus out of people, but to help people better explore and understand the mechanisms of death, the history of funerary practices, grief, taxidermy and all kinds of other random things that go along with death. It is educational, with a good intent behind it and if I am being quite honest, at times a little hard to swallow.

I love all things true crime and was really excited to explore their exhibits on the Manson Family, the Black Daliah and other  incidents of infamous murder. They also have a vast collection of art work done by serial killers during their incarceration. I loved all of this, but then there was a hall way of nothing but photos of gruesome car crashes and that was it for me. I quickly walked through the hall and moved on to other exhibits continuing to enjoy the remainder of the museum.

Museum Visiting Info:

  • 6031 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood California
  • Opens at 10am 7 days a week, closes at 8 (Sunday – Thursday), 9 (Friday) and 10 (Saturday)
  • Admission is 15 dollars.
  • There are no pictures inside the museum, hence the lack of pictures on the post.

Jurassic Park and The Mummy – Hollywood, California

My all time favorite movie as a kid was Jurassic Park. I saw it in the theater more times than any other movie, probably combined. When I went to Universal Studios for the first time 15 years ago I rode the Jurassic Park ride on repeat all day, even though it was pouring down rain and you get quite wet on the ride anyway. We would go Jurassic Park, then over to the Backdraft ride to dry off and then back to Jurassic Park. All day. Now, 15 years later Backdraft has been replaced with the Transformers so luckily when we went it was a beautiful sunny weekend. And we still got soaked.

I don’t know what it is about the ride, other than the intense nostalgia it brings up since I watched the movie so often as a kid. It is a river raft ride, not unlike Splash Mountain at Disneyland. The ride takes you through a mellow water cruise observing some very cute animatronic dinos, some of which spray water on you. Then there is a faux raptor breakout, and more dinos startle and soak you.

And then at the end you drop forever and land in a giant splash which actually doesn’t get you terribly wet but since you have already been soaked several times it wouldn’t really matter. This time around we got stuck on our first ride of the day, for several minutes in a not very comfortable part of the ride and managed to get some free passes. So we had the opportunity to ride on repeat without waiting in line, which we took full advantage of.

Since the release of Jurassic World they have updated the ride, it is quite a bit different than I remember. They also added a character attraction, where you can meet a raptor. I chose not to participate since the line was quite long. So instead I watched from a ways back trying to figure out if it was a very clever robot or a very good and possibly suffocating actor. I never did figure it out, either way people loved it and it was fun to watch.

Across the way is the Mummy Ride which is new to me. But given how old the movie was I assume has been a part of the park for quite a while. It has been added to my list of favorites  because it is an actual roller coaster in the dark that goes 45mph and then stops suddenly and reverses you back to the start.

The line did get pretty long at one point but it was never too terrible and with a single rider line we managed to not have to wait more than 10 min for any of our rides.

I couldn’t help but get my picture taken with one of the decorative mummies. Good lookin’ guy isn’t he.

All in all the lower lot of Universal Studios Hollywood houses the best rides, in my opinion. But with less to do in total you can’t really spend your whole day down there. We took a couple trips to do some back to back rides and then hopped back up to the main park where we spent most of our time there.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hollywood, California

I feel like it isn’t much of a confession to say that as an adult I am totally obsessed with all thing Harry Potter. It is certainly not a rare affliction these days. I had been wanting to visit the Orlando park since the second the build was announced, but living all the way out on west coast paired with a deep seeded need to see literally everything in the world caused it to be bumped down on the list more than once.

But then Universal Studios Hollywood made an addition to their park (yes addition, see the Universal Studios post for information) and then I waited a year. I waited a year on purpose because while I love all things Harry Potter, I love pushy frantic people a lot less. I very purposefully waited until the park addition wasn’t the hottest thing on the West Coast and then I slipped in for the weekend to FINALLY experience it for myself. It did not disappoint.

 

One of the things that has always made me more loyal to Disney than other amusement parks is their ability to transform a dusty strip of land into a whole new place full of charm, and character. It is quite frankly magical. I know it is all fake, façades, false front, forced scale building to appear taller, miniatures and faux landscaping. But I love it all the same. Universal Studios in my opinion anyway, for the first time, managed to capture this in the creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

It was flawless, from the cobble stone streets, the crooked buildings to the music and smells pumped into the air. However the most magical thing I think was the wands.  For a not so low price you can pick your wand and then walk around to all the windows in the village and perform “magic”. Done I am assuming through some remote connection between specific wands and window displays (it doesn’t work with a pen or lip balm tube I tried). A brilliant business move while also being one of the sweetest things to watch as delighted kiddos all dressed up as witches and wizards zoomed around the park feeling like they too are magical.

There quite frankly isn’t a lot to do in this section of the park, though I think we spent most of our time there all the same. It felt calmer, they had better food vendors, the shops were less intrusive (lower lights, calmer music, more continuity in the trinkets being sold) plus this being a dead ended portion of the park there wasn’t as much through traffic so there were more places to sit and catch a break from all the crowds.

In The Wizarding World of Harry Potter there are two rides, one interactive show, several performances, two staged photo opportunities and of course the wands. As well as a restaurant, several outdoor vendors, two souvenir shops, a candy store and a joke shop. We made a point to do everything in the park and while I loved it all I stand by my earlier statement that the best thing to do is just wander around and take it all in.

The two rides were on the opposite end of the spectrum one being the small kiddie-coaster “The Flight of the Hippogriff” which is a lot of fun but really mellow and quick. We only rode it when there was no line since it goes by so quickly. The other “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” is quite the ride. It was the first thing we did on our first day, and it was a blast. But then we turned back through the line and road it a second time and that was all I could take. For some reason the motion simulated rides (those with small motion made more intense by projecting rapid motion on a screen or a 3D screen) make me a tad ill. I can drop several floors on the Tower of Terror or scream through a huge coaster but get me on one of those simulators and I nearly puke.

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I loved the ride and I wanted to go again but since almost all the rides at universal are the simulator type I was feeling a tad green by the end of the trip and just couldn’t stomach it. But it is clearly incredibly popular the line time was an hour plus the whole trip.

The other major draw to the park is the Butterbeer, going in I was convinced I wouldn’t like it and nearly skipped out on trying it. Try it, you will love it. I did a little research after finally giving in and it turns out it is the number one customer satisfier at the parks. That’s not to say the parks aren’t impressive, it IS to say the Butterbeer is that good. It tastes a bit like butterscotch and I don’t quite know what else. It is vegan, gluten free and is also free of corn syrup. All requirements allegedly from J.K Rolling herself to ensure that the maximum number of guests could enjoy it. It is pretty expensive and the serving at the street vendors are HUGE. Which is super if you know you like it, but if you are like me and slightly hesitant I would suggest getting it with your breakfast at The Three Broomsticks. We ate there both days as they offered hearty options and a drink of your choice with your meal, which includes Butterbeer (either frozen or non frozen). We chose frozen, it appeared to be a more manageable serving. Which even in the smaller size I couldn’t finish. It was amazing but oh so sweet, again the smaller size is key unless you know what you are getting yourself into.

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For more information check out my post on Universal Studios Hollywood.  And please  let me know in the comments below if you have been, what your favorite thing was and if you plan on going to the park in Orlando as well. I can’t decide if I should still make the trek out to the original park or if Hollywood was good enough.

Universal Studios – Hollywood, California

My mom and I do a girls weekend every year and this year I managed to convince her that we needed to visit Universal Studios and in particular Harry Potter world. We are die hard Disney fans, so despite making a nearly annual trip to Los Angeles we have only been to Universal Studios once before nearly 15 years ago. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was added to the park about a year ago so we decided it was finally time to get down there and experience it for ourselves.

I decided to go the easiest route possible and booked a package through the Universal Studios website. There were several hotels on the site offering packages, but I picked the Sheraton which is about a five minute walk to the front gate of the park. Once the transaction was processed they sent me an email with my hotel confirmation and the park tickets to print out and off we went.

Well, actually then we waited a couple months and flew from Portland to Burbank, caught a seven minute cab ride from the Burbank airport to the hotel and THEN off we went. We got in really early on a Thursday and our tickets were for Friday and Saturday. We had every intention of just having the hotel keep our bags until 4pm at the normal check out time but they actually let us check in at 10am which was really nice. We got changed, walked up to the Universal City walk, grabbed lunch and then made our way back to the hotel pool. After several months of rain back home it was really nice to just sit in the sun and relax. We both got a tad burnt (remember to pack sunscreen always). The hotel had a very nice pools with cabanas, outdoor seating, a lovely gym and restaurant. They even delivered drinks and snacks poolside. It was pretty much perfect.

The first morning in we were allowed to enter the park an hour before opening hours, we hit the ground running and rode everything in Harry Potter twice (which turns out was only two rides) and then had a giant breakfast at the Three Broomsticks. I wrote all about my love of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in another post so you can check out the details there. The one thing that I wish would have been more obvious in planning though was that the Harry Potter attraction is in fact a part of the Universal Studios Hollywood park. The one in Orlando is a separate park, with a separate ticket cost and I could find no where that explicitly said that for Hollywood it is the SAME park with no extra ticket cost. It turned out fine but I went in not feeling 100% confident that this was the case.

Universal Studios Hollywood boasts a lot more “big rides” than Disneyland but said big rides are almost all motion simulator rides which are not my favorite. I would rather ride a baby roller coaster and physically move the same amount my brain thinks I am moving. For this reason my least favorite ride at Disneyland is Star Tours even though I love Star Wars. But we were here so I sucked it up and rode all the rides but two. I could not ride Transformers with all its 3D action and Shrek which claims to be 4D (do I even want to know what that includes?).  It also has a lot of shows which are a hoot. My favorite the Waterworld show, it is a ridiculously melodramatic 20 min show  in the theme of the 1995 Kevin Costner movie.  You get very very wet, you will laugh, and you will get to see a plane crash on the water. It is fun.

We also went to the Behind the Scene’s Special effects show, the studio tour and my personal favorite the Animal Actors show. This pup was  much better behaved than my own golden. I need to hire these guys to train Seti.

Part of the park is Simpsons themed which is also a lot of fun. The chicken and waffle sandwich at Cletus’ Chicken Shack is great, as are the tacos at the Bumblebee Man’s Taco Cart. I wanted to get a giant doughnut but it was hot so we settled on the soft serve ice cream instead. It was the better choice but I had to at least pretend I got to take a bite of the classic Lardo Doughnut. The Simpsons was after all created by an Oregonian.

The Simpsons ride was quite fun, despite being yet another motion simulator but I did enjoy it quite a bit more than the Despicable me ride that is across the park closer to the entrance.

As I mentioned in the Harry Potter post I really enjoy faux buildings. I don’t know what it is, something about the love of miniatures or maybe just the appreciation of how much work goes into making something look and feel real when it has been fabricated. Which is the say the “downtown” area was delightful, there is a small New York section and a Paris section which was a lot of fun to goof around in.

And then of course there was the lower lot which houses the Transformers ride (which my mom bravely rode without me), the Jurassic Park ride (my all time favorite) and the Mummy (a new favorite)  which I talk about in my favorite rides post.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the park, and I will most certainly being going back someday.

Things to note when planning our trip Universal Studios Hollywood:

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a part of the park (no extra ticket required).
  • Go early, take a mid day break and come back after dinner. The crowds are notably worse mid day.
  • The studio tour is a great way to see something and sit in the shade, so don’t skip out.
  • The lower lot is always way less crowded but there is also less to do, so jam in a bunch of repeat rides while you are down there as the trip in quite a haul (down four HUGE escalators).
  • Don’t forget sunscreen and to hydrate, it is pretty windy in the park since it is up on a hill so it doesn’t feel as hot which makes it easier to forget those things.