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.


Universial 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.

Trappist Abbey – Carlton, Oregon

Oddly since I have moved out of the city and closer to the mountains I am now further away from hiking trails. A situation I did not see coming when my husband and I were looking to leave the city. Turns out for hiking we moved in the wrong direction, again oddly since we are situated up against the Costal Mountain Range now.

Between prepping for my hiking trip in Ireland, getting a puppy and just generally wanting to be outdoors more and more I have been on a desperate search for trails. The one I have found so far is a trail on the property of the Trappist Abbey just outside Carlton, Oregon.

The abbey sits among some of the more beautiful bits of the Yamhill Valley wine growers region. The trail itself winds up past the monastery into the hills, leaving the lower trees which makes way for a section of oak dotted farm land and then back up into the heavily wooded areas of the end of the trail.

The hike is free, but they do ask you to be as quiet as possible when walking past the buildings as most of the monks that live on property have taken a vow of silence.

My main mistake on this hike was thinking that it would be dry. It hadn’t been raining for a couple weeks but I should have known with the amount of water we got this year the ground water wasn’t drying up anytime soon.

It was muddy, really really muddy. It was also mid poison oak bloom. So the entire hike was mostly me trying to keep a very excited 40lbs puppy from taking off into the giant fields of poison oak while having a poor footing on a three inch deep mud trial.

Poor planning.

We traversed the mud as far as possible but when the choice was ankle deep mud or shrubs I chose to turn around. From what I can tell though the trail goes quite a bit further than we managed and I plan to go back as soon as my new boots are properly broken in.

I would highly suggest the trail for anyone but in particular someone looking for some stillness. It is dead quiet on the trail partly because of the location and party because of the rules they ask you to follow when on the trail.

When visiting the abbey please be respectful of their rules. They are kind enough to offer the trail up the public but don’t have to do so as it does inevitably cause disruption to their monastic life. You will likely pass a monk or two on the trail, but as many have take a vow of silence remember to be respectful and don’t be offended if they don’t engage in conversation with you. Dogs are allowed but should be leashed the whole time, and as always pick up after them! They also ask you to not bring any electronics with you, which I didn’t realize until after I left. This includes cameras, clearly I managed to break that rule. Whoops! Now I know, next time I will comply.

Kelsey Anna Ruth

You know when you meet someone randomly and you just know instantly deep down in your soul that this person is one of those grand, kind, friendly, life loving, wonderful people. That is Kelsey.

I informally met Kelsey on the rainiest Mother’s Day that Oregon has ever seen. Ducking between drenched booth tents at a local craft fair with my mom. Both of us running around looking at the crafty wares, on sugar highs from our five pounds of cinnamon roll French toast from the Block House Café in Dayton.
I instantly noticed Kelsey’s beautifully hand lettered greeting cards and desperately wanted to touch them (I am the shopper that gets kicked out of stores for touching everything) but given the soggy weather I thought better of it. Instead I took a picture of her social media information and got a hold of her later.

I have no idea what she was thinking when I contacted her to meet up for tea. Likely, “who is this crazy person and will she wind up trying to murder me”. No, that is what I would think because I watch too many murder mysteries, she is lovely and kind so she probably just thought nice things.Either way, after a ridiculous amount of time we finally managed to find a mutual place and time to meet and so one very sunny Friday afternoon we met up.

We talked about all manner of things. Between our equal love of Oregon, deep seeded needs to travel and our passions of the simpler things in life. Kelsey hails from Oregon, the daughter of a musical family, who grew up knowing, loving and creating art. She left Oregon to attend college and not surprisingly wound up majoring in art.  When finished she came back, to be in the lush greenery of her home state and amongst her family. She currently works several jobs but is hoping to make her hand lettered cards a larger part of her life and income. Which I have no doubt will happen.

We talked a lot of about the importance of art in the world at large. She feels strongly and I am inclined to believe her that while technology has forged many new forms of art, there are still important lessons learned when putting actual pen to physical paper. In her words there is an intimacy to the hard work of written words. Which has drawn her to create her beautiful hand lettered creations. The act of creating physical art can be humbling, as you cannot just press undo. These lessons in learning to slow down and appreciate this often arduous but loving act are important ones that people could stand to take part in now and again in our current fast paced world.

Currently Kelsey only sells at Viv’s Vintage Market, a local market put on several times a year by the Vivian Lee Foundation to fund cystic fibrosis research. This market is the one I visited the day I met Kelsey and first noticed her artwork. At a recent event (not the one I was last at) Kelsey created a beautiful piece that was donated and auctioned off to aid the efforts of the foundation. This idea of creating art to not only serve as a personal outlet but to communicate and better the world was an idea that was born in part from her travels abroad.

Her most memorable trip, she recounts, took her to the Red Cross Museum in Geneva  which had on display countless pieces of art that were gifted from countries and groups that had been given aid by the organization. This and the community values that she learned from her travel abroad has kept her inspired to cultivating the values she wants to see in the world. To give back where ever she can.

Not only is Kelsey terribly kind hearted, well traveled and totally smitten with Oregon  (she suggest spending time in the gorge if you haven’t yet). She is also into vintage and fashion. A girl after my own heart! She suggested if you haven’t yet to check out Sweet Jayne on NE Broadway, it is her favorite local boutique which specialized in all things she supports, small batch, local artisan goods and hopefully, maybe someday soon you can find her cards there too.

But until then, you can find her at all the upcoming events for Viv’s Vintage Market. The next confirmed market is Saturday and Sunday, December 9th and 10th at the Red Berry Barn in Sherwood, Oregon. You can also keep up with Kelsey personally on her blog and instagram which I would highly recommend. All pictures in this post are her property and used here with her express permission. Thank you Kelsey for creating such beauty in the world, and allowing me to help share it.



Quarter 2 – Hiking Ireland

In my last training post I mentioned that back in April I was hoping to get outside more as spring progressed. Right on schedule (or incredibly delayed from normal years) spring decided to make an appearance at the end of May. And by spring I mean summer. We didn’t get any of our 65 and sunny weather this year. We went straight from torrential rain to 80s.

I did try to get out in the hills once in mid May, but I hadn’t yet gotten my boots so I was hiking in mud in my walking shoes (not waterproof). It also seemed to be the peak blooming season for poison oak so the pup and I spent most of the time in a cartoon like schlep up the hill ankle deep in mud trying to not slide into the giant patches of itchy oak. But of course because she is 6 months old, and a dog, there was no trying avoid it only trying to dive right into to. It was an adventure to say the least. Since then we have taken to walking around town while the mountains dry out a bit. I’ll try again soon, once my boots are a little more worn in.


Gym Days: I am temporarily on a gym hiatus and out enjoying the sun as much as possible. To see what I was doing while the weather was crummy check out last quarters workout.

Non Gym Days: 5-6 Days a week

  • Walk Dog: 4-8 miles a day
  • Mountain Climbers: 10 L/R (20 total) X 3
  • Crunches: 50 reps X 3
  • Left/Right Crunches: 10 (20 total) X 3
  • Standing Side Leg Lifts: 20 (40 total) X 3
  • Plié Squats (heels together and wide): 10 (20 total) X 3
  • Front and Side Bicep Curls: 10 (20 total) X 3
  • Shoulder Press: 10 reps X 3
  • Tricep Kickbacks: 12 reps X 3
  • Push ups: 10 reps X 5
  • V ups: 10 reps X 3
  • Left/Right Squats: 10 reps (20 total) X 3
  • Plank: 1 min or 2min alternating days.
  • 30 min Yoga routine concentrating on stretching and balance.

I have been separating out legs and arm days recently. Mostly just due to time. Life gets in the way and it is easier to do a little less. Rather than feel overwhelmed and skip the whole thing.

I have no major training hikes planned yet, still trying to get the dog used to walking long periods of time. But stay tuned on Instagram (@wheresashawent) for any spontaneous outings.

Jerome Monastery – Lisbon Portugal

The Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery is a former monastery in the Belem area of Lisbon. Today it stands as a national monument, museum and UNESCO world heritage site.  It like the tower of Belem is one of the main tourist draws to the city and is most certainly worth the trek if you are staying closer to the Alfama or Baixa areas of the city. Board Tram 15 at the Praça do Comércio and exit at the Belem stop.

Tickets for the monastery, Belem Tower, architectural museum and art museum can be bought at the main counter at the monastery in either single ticket or bundled in various ways depending on what you want to see.


The monastery itself is a quick see, it consists of a gorgeous court yard, a small exhibit downstairs, a small but comprehensive over view of Lisbon, Portuguese and world history on the second floor and then of course the upstairs viewing of the gothic Church of Santa Maria.

To walk around the main level of the church, you must go back downstairs, exit the monastery where you came in, and then re-enter the lower area of the church at the main door which is across the walk way from where you would have bought your tickets.


Location Hours and More Information:

  • Praça do Império, Belem
  • 10AM-5PM (Oct.-April), 10AM-6PM (May-Sept.) (Closed Mondays)
  • To get there from Baixa (Praça do Comércio) take Tram 15 and exit at the Belem stop.
  • Museum Site
  • Other things in the area include; Maritime Museum, Archeology Museum, Tropical Gardens, Belem Palace, Coach Museum, Electricity Muse am, Princess Fountain and more.




A Brief History of Where I Have Been – United States Edition

Sometimes I forget all the places I have been. Not because I am soooooooo cool and I have been to so many places but honestly because I work full-time, go to yoga  and barre a few times every week, cook dinner every night for my husband, paint, knit, go out with my friends, keep our house clean, do laundry, go on long walks to listen to podcasts, take care of and train our new puppy, and volunteer our the local humane society. And that is just a normal week.

I am busy, like most of us. And I am actually quite bad at journaling. I have 200 journals (give or take) that I have been gifted over the years, written in once and then forgot all about. Which is part of the reason I wanted to start this blog, a way to keep up on everything that we do, on the go, with a little more accountability. And a lot fewer dead trees.

I am going to do a little word association exercise on the places that I have been to help jog some memories. Many of these will likely later become full-fledged blog posts and I will make sure to link them through as they get written up in more detail.

Alaska: favorite state, best mountains, best wildlife, lots of driving, very expensive.

Arizona: hot, really hot, baseball, malls, great tex mex food.

Arkansas: ….

California: wine, Disneyland, art museums, family, movie locations, hiking, great food.

Colorado: dry, weird weather, hard to breath, friends, work, outdoors, Denver city walk.

Delaware: strange little state, highways.

Florida: Disney World, road trips, old military sites.

Georgia: Family, fried food for days, grits, humid, karate classes, cleaning fossils, movie locations.

Hawaii: hula, friends, best beaches, great food, hiking, tropics, horrible traffic, amazing fish.

Idaho: boring

Illinois: works, museums, pizza, weird weather, stomach aches, friends, parties, indoor gardens.

Kansas: art museum,  bbq, architecture, great antiques.

Louisiana: food, the best food, the nicest people, history, walking tours, bayou tour, movie locations.

Minnesota: terrible weather, work, music, the greatest bar ever, skyway.

Montana: family, friends, big mountains, the cutest little down town ever.

Nevada: hot, dry

New Jersey: freeways

New Mexico: hot, dry

New York: so many people, so many buildings, broadway, ellis island, empire state building.

North Carolina: my favorite beaches, great food, old towns.

North Dakota: flat, cold, big ass stuff.

Oregon: home state, hiking, food, wine, beaches, small towns, big towns, music, I love this place.

Pennsylvania: history, battlefields, school

South Carolina: beaches, great food.

Tennessee: music, elvis, museum, the Peabody hotel, work.

Texas: airports, horrible layovers and more airports.

Utah: airports.

Vermont: farms, ice cream, lakes, work, antiques.

Virginia: school, history, hotel with indoor pool, amusements parks.

Washington: family, friends, outdoors, hiking.

West Virginia: …

Wisconsin: cheese, outdoor water parks, the last of the trees.

Wyoming: buffalo, old faithful, snowmobiles, cold.

Please don’t be upset or offended by any of my comments, I actually rather liked everywhere I have been. Most I visited for work, for two or three days at a conference and didn’t have a lot of time to explore. But I would love to go back to all of them and would love some ideas of what to do in each state.


What is your favorite state and what do you love to do there?