Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Trip - part 2: Oregon

- Day 1
After four fun days in L.A., Beth and I flew out the morning of July 20th (Monday) to Portland, where we were met by our former neighbor in Guatemala, Amy, and her new baby boy, Royce. The last time Beth and I saw Amy, she was still pregnant, so it was really fun to see the baby (especially since he looks so much like his papá, Matt).

Amy took us straight from the airport over to Multnomah Falls for a hike. The highway we took ran parallel to the Columbia River (which divides Oregon and Washington; pictured at top) and was one of the prettiest stretches of road I've been on; the dense forests of pine trees and steep cliffs were really beautiful. The Falls were spectacular and extremely tall, though the hike up to the top was paved and switch-backed, making it fairly leisurely, plus the morning was still nice and cool.

Multnomah Falls

We followed up the hike with an early lunch at the McMenamins' Edgefiled location brew pub. (Check out the link HERE to learn more about these interesting chains.) Following lunch, Amy drove us to Gresham, a suburb of Portland where Beth's aunt and uncle live, and dropped us off. Matt and Sue Kenny, and their daughter, Christina, were so welcoming to us and immediately made us feel at home.

Timberline Lodge

They took us on a scenic drive up to the base of Mt. Hood to visit the famed Timberline Lodge (also famous for providing the exterior shots as the Overlook Hotel in the movie, The Shining). The five of us toured the lodge, marvelling at the massive timber used in the construction (and apparently no nails were used in the building), and then stopped for a drink upstairs in the restaurant where we sate next to a windown with direct view of Mt. Hood.

Us with the Kennys

Our view from the restaurant

Next we drove back down to Portland and had a late but delicious dinner at the Hopworks Urban Brewery. Matt and Sue departed after dinner, but Christina stayed up with us and showed us around the city. While driving around, Beth and I were both surprised and impressed by how many bicyclists and bike-friendly (i.e. bike lanes) the city is.

Portland - Days 2 & 3
Our second day in Portland was primarily spent with Amy and Matt. In the morning, Amy took us to the Hawthorn district, where we had fun exploring the unique shops and buying some ridiculous souvenirs. We stopped off at the BridgePort brew pub for a snack and a flight of beers (sampler) before then heading over to another neat area, Knob Hill. This area was more upscale and expensive compared to the funky and esoteric Hawthorn. Beth and I enjoyed meandering around on our own while Amy went home to drop off baby Royce with Matt's dad and then to pick up Matt. The four of us met back up later in the afternoon at the Deschutes brew pub (my favorite of all) for more snacks and beer-sampling. After that we did some more walking and sight-seeing before heading back to the Kennys' place.

BridgePort's Flight

Our third day in the city started off with a delicious breakfast of blueberry waffles prepared by Aunt Sue. After breakfast, Christina took us to the artsy Pearl District where we enjoyed exploring high end furniture shops, art galleries, and the famed Powell's Books--a gigantic, city block wide, multi-level used book store (they even provide you with a map to navigate the sprawling store). We had planned to visit the city's rose garden, but got delayed due to a temporary car trouble. We did make it in time to get a good seat for the Portland City Grill's happy hour special. This 30th floor restaurant has panoramic views of the entire city, including its 12 bridges, and of course a great look at Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen. They have lots of tasty food for about $3 a plate between 4:30 and 6, but it fills up fast with hungry tourists pining for a snack and a good look at the city.

Views from the Portland City Grill.

For dinner that night, Uncle Matt and Aunt Sue treated us to a fabulous meal of grilled salmon and halibut (all very fresh of course!) that was cooked on pine planks, homemade relish and coleslaw, plus a zesty salad (not sure what went into it...but it was good!). And for dessert we had key lime pie. Yummy! We really enjoyed spending our last night in Portland with them. They couldn't have been nicer and more welcoming to us.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Trip - part 1: California

Hi All,

Beth and I recently got back from a trip that took us to California, Oregon, and Washington. This post will just be about our first 1/3 of the trip, California. Hopefully we'll get the other two states blogged about soon, but no promises as we move to Lawrence next week and we may be pretty occupied with all of that.

Let me preface this blog with an explanation as to why we took this trip. Last December, a college friend of ours, Brad Osborn, announced to us that he was getting married in Seattle over the summer and would like me (James) to be in the wedding. Not only were we excited to be a part of his wedding, but now we had a great excuse to visit the Northwest! It was a trip we had been planning to take within the next three years, so it was nice knowing we were going to visit it sooner than we originally thought.

Skip ahead to this past spring... After spending a fun week with our friends, Mandi and Aaron, in Guatemala, we decided to add in some days to see them in Los Angeles on this trip. We are so happy we were able to see them, as we always have a great time together, and they made our time in California very fun and memorable. Here are the highlights!

Hiking up to the Hollywood sign.

A stroll down the Walk of Fame.

All being fans of The Office, we had to check out Dunder Mifflin, which happened to be in a completely random, semi-ghettoy neighborhood.

Getty Art Museum - the buildings and grounds were amazing--the best we've ever seen. ---

The Disney Conert Hall (designed by Frank Gehry)

L.A. Observatory

A day at the beach in Malibu, followed by delicious fresh seafood.

Numerous delicious meals cooked at home by Mandi and Aaron. Here we are making our favorite, BBQ pizza!
"See how good that looks!"

Seeing the new Harry Potter movie in a nice theater that even had costumes from the film on display.

Afternoon at the pool.

This doesn't cover everything we did. Somehow we managed to pack in a lot of activities without seeming too rushed or busy. We can't thank the Forehands enough for showing us such a good time and being such thoughtful, kind, and fun hosts! And thanks to Twink for being such a sweet dog.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friendly Friends

While we have only been back in the States for roughly two weeks, we have thus far managed to pack in some great time with great friends! We saw James' parents and attended our friend Emily's wedding our first day back (a hearty congrats to Emily and Scott Smith!) but we'll post pics of that later when they're available.

We've been enjoying catching up with people we have missed dearly, friends and family alike.

Our friend Cara came to Neosho from Lawrence to visit.

We went to visit our friends in Lawrence for a fun evening. We played Bocci ball and had a BBQ. Thanks for hosting, Kim and Chad!

Our friends Jake and Amber ('The Jamber') visited from D.C.

If only they were moving back, too!

More from the BBQ...

We were actually here in person for Dad's birthday!

We celebrated by playing pool and playing music

Mom with her dog, Mitzi

We hosted a Pyper Party in West Plains, MO

Stan, Genevieve, and Will Pyper came to visit us.

Thanks to all for the warm welcome back to the States!

Prius People

Well, it had to happen. Upon returning to America, we had to buy at least one car to get around in! We know that I will be commuting to and from Overland Park from Lawrence daily, so we knew we'd need a car with great gas mileage.

While we were test driving a Civic at a car lot, nearby we spotted a 2006 Toyota Prius which is a hybrid car. Well, to make a short story long, we test drove it and loved it, and since it's gets roughly 45 miles per gallon and was very reasonably priced (not to mention good for the environment of course), we decided to bite the bullet and buy it!

There are lots of great features on it that impress us. Some favorites include: GPS mapping system, a video camera for when you are reversing, a digital dashboard, steering wheel buttons for volume, map, bluetooth phone capabilities, and temperature guages, and being able to watch your gas/energy consumption by the second!

Because it runs on battery when it's at low speeds or at a stop, it is eerie to both of us because we're so used to hearing an engine idle! It's also a weird mentality to drive at high speeds or blast the AC without feeling guilty about what you're doing to your gas mileage. Oh, and a fun feature is the fact that you don't use a key to enter or drive the car. You just push the On button on the dashboard and it turns on, etc.

Even though we do love the car, neither of us can get the Southpark Smug Alert! episode out of our head. Here's a brief synopsis of the plot:

Kyle's father Gerald buys a new hybrid car, a Pious (based on the Toyota Prius:), and drives around showing it off to everyone. He begins an unwelcomed campaign to convert the other townspeople to environmentally friendly vehicles. This behavior annoys his friend Randy, who complains that Gerald now preachy, talks with his eyes closed. Deciding that they cannot live among such backward, unsophisticated folk, Gerald decides to move his family to San Francisco.

After the Broflovskis leave, Stan writes a repetitive song about the importance of hybrid cars, which finds its way onto the radio and, incredibly, causes everyone to drive hybrids — and act as smugly as Gerald. Stan is criticized for what he has done: although smog rates are down, people who drive hybrids create a toxic gas in the air called "smug", and South Park now has the second-highest levels in the country, after San Francisco.

The cloud of smug forms over South Park and begins to combine with that of San Francisco, which creates "the perfect storm of self-satisfaction", which will heavily damage South Park and completely destroy San Francisco.

Kyle points out that hybrids really are a good thing; the people who drive them should just not be smug about it, or act as if they are above everybody else. The people, however, are not ready to drive them without being smug — "it's simply asking too much" — so they return to SUVs and other high-fuel-consumption vehicles.

Anyways, we both thought that was a hilarious episode, and while we are very happy to have a car with so many cool features and high gas mileage for my commute, we promise not to get pious about our Prius. Our good friend Chad had a great idea to make a bumper sticker for the car that says "My other car is a Hummer" just for laughs. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An afternoon at the Little Yeoman Brewery

Beth and I spent the afternoon today visiting the micro micro brewery, Little Yeoman, in Cabool, Mo. I used to buy a six-pack now and again from this brewery back in college, but hadn't seen it on shelves for a few years now, assuming it was defunct. Apparently the brewery was sold from the original owner in Mountain Grove, Mo., to a family friend in Cabool. The new owner no longer distributes the beer (because apparently the distributor makes more money on the beer than he does), so you can only get it by visiting the small brewery located on his family farm.

Chad, the owner, was extremely friendly and immediately sat down with us to chat and enjoy one of his beers (a dry-hopped American pale ale...very good!). After chatting for a while outside under a tent, Beth and I brought our chairs inside the small building housing the brewing equipment to watch him and his two assistants transfer a cream ale from the fermenter into bottles. Afterwards, we bought a few of his bottled beers to enjoy. His prices were extremely reasonable and definitley worth the money.

It was a fun outing, and we'd love to go back with anyone interested.