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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

My Portland Coffee Tour Part 6

It's the time again. It may be super warm outside, but it's never stopped me from drinking coffee. I just switch mainly to iced. We have had a few cooler mornings that called for a hot cup of Joe, and I definitely took advantage of those, because iced coffee may be good, but it's not always as good as hot.


This month I took a few different turns around the city, including Beaverton (we're about 8 miles from actual downtown). 


Lionheart Coffee

This adorable coffee house in Beaverton was one I couldn't pass up. I mean, it's called Lionheart after all. It sounds awesome. I ordered the special - a cardamom latte - and an apple pastry. I wasn't disappointed. Cardamom is great for digestive issues and helps out your kidneys. It had a nice spicy flavor that you don't particularly get with cinnamon. 


Look how beautiful that latte is! Also, that rustic tart. OMG was this a lovely breakfast. 



I love the minimalist look of the shop. There's a little gallery wall featuring artwork from local artists, and the space itself has a sort of apothecary/chemist feel, which is interesting. The coffee is affordable (I don't have my receipt, but my two items ran me less than $7) and the employees were very nice. I've actually been meaning to go back.

Edit: I returned and tried their pumpkin pie latte, because it's Fall y'all! I was never so excited to be drinking something pumpkin-y. Not only did it not have that gross pumpkin spice flavor everyone uses and overpowers the coffee and coats your tongue with a weird film, it was very mellow and lovely and I could have had another one after. 

Kiosko Coffee

I found out about Kiosko Coffee on Instagram and immediately put it on my list of shops to visit. It's down by the waterfront and close to Portland's new beach that the city made, so it encouraged me to go check that out as well. 


Kiosko started as just a coffee roaster, which finally opened their own coffee kiosk (hence the name). They specialize in Spanish-style coffee with lovely spices and colors. They Instagrammed a pic of their new 9 spice honey chai, which looked phenomenal, and their summer affogato. If you've never had an affogato, you need to try it. Traditionally it's a gelato with espresso poured over it. I went in thinking I would try both and whatever food they had available. 


This set-up is gorgeous, as was their outdoor seating was fantastic. You find yourself on the edge of a little park with flowers. All the outdoor tables have umbrellas and are perfect for one or two people. Your affogato is do-it-yourself and comes with your choice of ice cream. It was almost a shame to ruin it by pouring the espresso over it, but look at it!


I was pretty proud of that Boomerang pour. The ladies next to me were pretty interested in my order. I saved my affogato for after my coffee and croissant, all of which were excellent. I'd happily grab some items to go and take them down to the beach with me. All of my choices had tremendous flavor and the affogato was delightedly spicy. These three items cost me $12.25 ($5 for the affogato, $2.50 for my croissant, and $4.75 for my 9 spice chai). I found that to be pretty budget-friendly, and would suggest splitting the affogato with a friend, giving you a chance to enjoy the lovely weather, the excellent service and one of the best cups I've had in Portland. 


Jim & Patty's Coffee

There are several locations for Jim & Patty's, the previous owners of Coffee People, but I hit up the Beaverton one, because it's closer to me. The menu and vibe are the same though. I actually went two different times, because coffee. They serve a ton of their own baked goods and even have breakfast sandwiches. They also have a variety of sizes to choose from, all with fun names: Bean, Wally, June, Ward and Eldridge. 


My first visit there, Eric went with me. We ordered some cold beverages: He had a peanut butter mocha and I opted for the salted caramel latte. I love how it looks like my coffee has a name. Scar! (or, if you're a Walking Dead fan, read in Rick's voice: "Scarl!" LOL!) I also had to try their coconut cake, which was really light and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness. My coffee was perfectly balanced between caramel and salt. I loved it. 




On my next visit, I went alone for breakfast and ordered both a peppermint mocha and one of their breakfast sandwiches. The sandwich is made to order on homemade biscuits and my coffee was a dark chocolate with just enough peppermint to not be overpowering. I wouldn't say no to another one. The shop has a great family-friendly atmosphere, with handpainted murals on the walls, and an enormous amount of seating, which is hard to find. Eric paid the first time we visited, and I think it came to around $14 in total. On my own, it came to $10.45 (sandwich was $5.40 and my drink was $5.05). I'm not sure how the charging system works, but there you have it. $10 for a scratch-made sandwich and coffee seems to be a rather good deal for breakfast, and my drink was miles better than Starbucks.

Salt & Straw's Wiz Bang Bar

I was going to write a review of Barista, since I visited them after Wiz Bang at the Pine Street Market (Portland's fancy food hall), but I made the mistake of ordering a cold brew and have now decided that I officially hate the taste of cold brew and won't make that mistake again. For some reason, it tastes like spoiled milk to me, so instead, I'll give you a review of the giant eclipse cone I had at Wiz Bang. The concoction was a limited edition ice cream creation in honor of this month's solar eclipse that everyone was freaking out about.



So, I should have known that I would need a second person to help me eat this thing. It was a charcoal waffle cone, with a golden rim, turmeric, sassflower and ginger ice cream, dipped in a charcoal black sesame magic shell and topped with "moon rocks" (Pop Rocks). It was huge and it cost $8.50, which I was not surprised by. My favorite part was the topping with the popping candy. The ice cream (soft serve) tasted a lot like green tea to me and it had a slightly yellow color to look like the sun. It was good, but I wouldn't go out of my way to have it again if it were a normal menu item. I appreciated the creativity though and I ate at least 80% of it before I gave up on myself and my ability to eat a gigantic waffle cone.

So, that's my round-up for the month. I hope you enjoyed it and you take the time to seek out some local coffee and food establishments where you live and when you travel. Where's your favorite coffee shop?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Are Postcards Extinct?

I get travel inspiration from a ton of different places: social media, travel deal emails, the Travel Channel, friends, travel magazines, the World's Strongest Man competition (hello, Malta...someday). I have a travel list a mile long. I also like to buy postcards, even if I don't send them. We have a friend that sends a postcard to us every time he takes a trip, but it seems like most people don't bother sending postcards anymore. Do you?


I use social media when I travel, mostly for work, but I also take pics and post them to my Facebook and Instagram, and check in on Swarm (Foursquare). I don't particularly use Swarm for others. I like to have a record of where I've been and when I was there. It helps me remember things. How about you? Do you send postcards still or do you just use social media to flaunt where you are and where you've been?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Free and Cheap Activities in Las Vegas

Okay, it's been a bit since I've been back from Vegas and I bet you thought I forgot about giving you all the dirty details of the free and cheap things we did there. I did not, but this month has been a crazy one, what with my annual Harry Potter party and other stuff going on. You'll notice that I somehow missed a few newsletters as well, and I apologize for that. Now I'm back to my normal schedule, so let's talk about Vegas.



Freebies can be found around ever corner in Sin City if one knows where to look. Luckily, I do, so I can pass it on to you.


here were are in front of the bus, and on the right there you can see one of the murals you'll see downtown

Downtown artwork

Downtown used to be a place you went to save a bunch of money, but not to do fun stuff or be safe, but the City of Vegas is changing all that, especially by beautifying the area. Now downtown is the cool place to be, and it's much quieter than The Strip. The city has commissioned local artists to beautify the area, and they are doing an amazing job.

While we were there, we stopped by the Container Park (see below) and was able to catch a ride on the Dragon Art Bus that was sponsored by Zappos and Lyft for a free art tour. It lit up, the ride was around 20 minutes and it was pretty awesome to see a different side of downtown without walking.


Wynn fountain and waterfall

I like the Bellagio Fountains, but it's always crowded and hard to see and you have to wait for certain showtimes. The Wynn has a fountain show (albeit much smaller) that runs 24-hours a day and there are no large crowds you need to compete with for pictures/videos. You can stop at any time of the day or night and watch the fountain waters dance...and if you head around the corner, you can see the awesome waterfall. It's a great place to grab a selfie for your Instagram.

Encore indoor garden

Okay, you all know that I will hit up the Bellagio Conservatory each and every trip to Vegas, but it's not the only indoor garden around. The Mirage has a rainforest, the Palazzo has a floral lobby, and the Encore has a totally unexpected walkway lined with trees and floral sculptures. 

If you want to see a fantastic water show, you'll have get a seat at their bar or outdoor restaurant. After dark, they have a water wall that comes alive with fountains and projected images. It's not free, but it is if you plan to take there anyway. We'll definitely be doing that on a future trip.

video

Downtown Container Park

I've talked about the container park before. It's basically an outdoor shopping center with tiny shops made from old shipping containers. There are restaurants, an arcade, a salon, a wedding "chapel", a large playground, and a fake grassy area where you can stake a spot on to watch a free movie on certain days.

After 9pm, the Container Park is 21+. You don't have to go in to enjoy the large metal mantis out front that spews fire. Every 15 minutes or so, music will start and the mantis rocks in time with it and also fire shoots out of its antennae. It's a fantastic light show and totally free. You'll also find the Dome here, which also used to be a Burning Man installation, but is now a mini theater, which you will see below.

Silverton Aquarium

Voted #1 free attraction in Las Vegas, the Silverton Aquarium has a ton of different marine animals and even seating for sitting and watching them swim about. You can walk all the way around it (it's not HUGE), and there's even a cute little mermaid gallery with artwork on display around the backside. 

Every day you can watch the rays getting fed and you can have breakfast while watching mermaids swim about and interact with the crowd. There's even a bar right there, so you can grab a drink and enjoy the aquarium. I was very glad that I went out of my way to check it all out, plus the machines there were paying out for me and I went home with much more than I started with.


Affordable Las Vegas

Cheap things can also be found in Vegas, despite there being a ton of luxury shops, spas and haute cuisine everywhere you look. 

The Dome LV

This year they have added a brand new attraction to downtown. The dome that was already a staple at the Container Park has been turned into a mini theater. Of course we had to try it out. They do light shows throughout the day with different themes. We sat in on the U2 show and were the only ones in there. 

While you can get an hour show for around $12 a person, if you book your shows online, you pay less. They even have a meal and show option that's only $15 per person, which is a fantastic deal in my opinion.

Two things I'll tell you: 
  1. If it's really hot outside, the temperature inside won't be much better. I would wait until it's dark to hit a show. It felt like we were in an oven, despite the fact that they have "air conditioning" in there. The air doesn't move at all, so it doesn't make a noticeable difference, except that the sun isn't beating down on you.
  2. If you get motion sickness, maybe skip this, as it can be very disorienting and make you feel like you're spinning through space at times.

Pinball Hall of Fame

This can be as cheap or as expensive as you like. The PHoF is full of vintage and retro pinball machines, with a few other games mixed in for fun. I think the most recent machine I saw in there was Terminator. I love this place, because machines are either one or two quarters (there are a LOT of 25 cent ones). You can stay for an hour or more on just $5, so it's a fun way to spend time and appreciate some games you either never saw or miss from the past. 

Each machine has a sign on it that tells you when it hit the market, which company designed it and a bit of history behind the concept. It's really interesting and easy to lose yourself here for hours at a time. It's a bit off The Strip and looks pretty shady from the outside, but don't let the building fool you. Inside is huge entertainment.

These are just a few of the things I love that are free and cheap in Sin City. If you look, you can find plenty of things you'll enjoy that don't cost much. Here's another post I did on it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Taking An Amazing Italy Trip

Few travelers want to make brief jaunts through Italy when visiting this fascinating country. Instead, most want to see it all, and experience as much of the culture, cuisine, shopping, and art as they possibly can. Unfortunately, however, all vacations are limited in their duration and this means it won't be possible to fit absolutely everything in. Following are a few tips that will show you how to make the most of this life-changing excursion.

Schedule Your Itinerary According To Your Level Of Experience

Italy trips tend to fall into three distinct categories: regional trips, thematic visits, and trips to explore major cities. If you've never visited Italy before, you'll definitely want to check out all of the top destinations like Florence and Venice. This will provide the perfect overview of the most historically and culturally significant locations. You should pencil the Duomos of Milan, the Colloseum, and Saint Mark's Basilica into your itinerary. If you've never seen these things before, you'll be remiss to skip over them during your introductory stay by missing out on the top cities.

Take A Regional Trip To Experience Specific Locations Like A Local

After you've had the opportunity to experience all of the major cities and landmarks in Italy, think about scheduling a regional trip. This will give you the chance to fully immerse yourself in specific locations, much like a local would. Tuscany, Florence and Pisa are among some of the most popular, regional destinations. Tuscany is highly preferred among those who want to bask in the natural beauty of the landscape, discover a diverse mix of culture and history, and indulge in the best of local cuisine. Regional trips make it possible for travelers to lose themselves in the Italian culture, and without having to contend with crowded tourist areas and all of the related hassles. 

Plan A Thematic Excursion To Suit Your Tastes

Trips through major cities and regional visits are not the only way to experience Italy. A lot of travelers and travel groups are opting to plan thematic adventures instead. These give consumers the chance to experience and see things that are specific to their own tastes and interests. This is arguably the absolute best strategy for optimizing your time abroad in any location. Thematic excursions are also good for stumbling across towns that you might not have visited otherwise. With these trips, you can place your focus solely on finding the best wine and cuisine, or on viewing all of the best basilicas or artworks on show. 

Think About Flying Into One City And Departing From Another

Don't let logistics slow you down when it comes to maximizing the amount of things that you can do and explore. This is especially true in terms of planning your arrival and departure flights. Although you definitely can't see all of Italy during a single visit, you may be able to take in a whole lot more with some strategic planning. If your itinerary takes you far away from your city of arrival, don't waste time trying to navigate your way back to your starting point in order to depart from the exact same location. Instead, have your travel planner look for flights that are relatively near the last point on your itinerary. This will give you more time to relax in and enjoy your current surroundings, before getting on your departure flight.

Enhance Your Trip By Learning A Little Italian Before Heading Out

If this trip is important to you, do your best to pick up a bit of the language before arriving. There are countless travel guides and mobile phone apps that will quickly teach you the 50 to 100 words you'll need for engaging in basic conversation, dealing with merchants, and dealing with unexpected situations. Although you'll definitely run into quite a few people who speak English fluently, having this skill will likely prove helpful at some point in time. 

Just as there are countless things to see in do when visiting Italy, there are also countless tips for optimizing your Italy vacation. Choosing the right type of visit and planning accordingly will definitely help. You should also pick up a touch of the local language, and deal with flight logistics in a way that gives you a strategic advantage over the inevitable and incredibly rapid passage of time.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How To Travel With Your Dog

If I could, I'd take my dog  everywhere. Unfortunately, she isn't welcome everywhere even though she's small and better behaved than most children.



When we travel, we usually leave her at home with my mom, but if we road trip it, chances are pretty good that she's going along for the ride. (See what I did there?) If your furry best friend likes to jump in the car and take a vacation (even a short one), here are some great tips to make it friendly and fun for them as well.

Look at this spoiled doggo


Keep cool - So, its pretty hot in the car and in the summer. Our car doesn't have that fancy dual a/c switch to control the front and the back separately (I have a Kia Rio, it's not THAT big), so to keep the dog cool while driving, we basically have on Max AC and point the vents all at the ceiling so the air gets to her and we freeze our faces off. Another great idea is a Kool Collar. We just bought a new one and it simulates evaporation sweat - because dogs can't do that and wear fur coats all the time - by using ice or their fancy ice packs. We use it at home, we use it at the beach, we use it at the park. No panting. My dog loves it.


Hydrate! - Just like you, dogs need to keep hydrated. If you don't have one of those non-spill bowls that are all the rage for travel times, stop for water breaks for everyone, but mostly for your pup, because they don't have thumbs for opening a water bottle.


Yes, my dog has a bag to ride in, because she's not a good hiker.

Make pit stops - Your dog also can't let you know they are dying for the potty. All that extra water has to go somewhere. Check out the rest areas along your way and plan to stop every few hours to let them do their business and stretch their legs. If you also have kids, you're probably doing this anyway. Then you won't be driving 19 hours straight and swear off road trips forever like that last time.

Rikka is nothing if she's not a great car snorer when she's been a passenger for most of a day.


Comfy up the car - Make sure your dog feels comfy and safe in the car, especially if they get nervous like mine. We bring her bed so we can also bring it inside wherever we stay for the night. She also has her own car seat that allows her to see out the window, be contained and also take a nap.


She likes the bed, but can't jump up or down, so we made her own little version on the floor when we left.

Make their crate awesome - I'm not a crate person, but only because my dog spent much of her life in one her first three years and I was sad for her, so I gave her the choice. She spent less and less time in there, so we put it in the garage. If your dog loves their crate, or it's the best way to travel with them not climbing all over everyone and getting in the way, make sure it's comfortable enough to spend hours at a time in. Get them a cushion or blanket so it's soft and inviting.



My dog likes to sightsee too...and duck under railings meant to keep people out.


Bring home with you - Just like I like to have a little bit of home with me, dogs feel comforted by something familiar. Bring along a gave blanket/pillow/bed and some toys and they'll be happier.


Jerky's the best...even when you're away from home.

Stay on schedule - If you feed and walk your pup on a schedule, try to keep as close to that timetable as possible (even if you're giving extra walks and treats -because exercise makes you hungry). It'll keep them from getting confused and feel more normal even in a different place.

Look at me...in a mining cart.

Do some research - Make sure you know where you can take your dog and where you can't. Find the number of a vet near where you'll be staying. Just in case. Look for dog parks and pet-friendly dining establishments. Many people bring their dogs to the Oregon beaches, so a lot of stores don't mind you shopping with a well-behaved pooch.


Plan ahead -- Make sure you're prepared for all the things you're going to do or. Might happen while you're away from home. Here's a list of what to plan for:
  • bring an extra collar/leash, because you never know when one will get broken or lost.
  • their fave food is obvs to some. Don't take this as an opportunity to have them sample new cuisines. It'll just make them sick.
  • Invest in Doggles. We have a pair of Doggles sunglasses for Rikka to enjoy sitting out in the sun. If your pup likes to stick their head out the window, a pair of dog goggles are good for protecting their eyes from flying debris and might save you a trip to an unknown vet.
  • Going hiking or somewhere hot? Get your pup some shoes. Their paws are pretty sensitive, so you gotta protect them, just like your own feet.
  • Pack a carrier. My little one gets tired fairly easily, so when she starts to lag behind we scoop her up and carry her in a doggie sling (see above pic). She can rest and still be part of things. It's also good for when we head into some shops.
  • Download some phone apps to find dog parks, rest stops & dog-friendly restaurants. I like iexit and dogfriendly.
  • Things happen. Look up your route along the way and find emergency vet addresses and numbers to have on hand just in case.
  • Don't forget meds/supplements if your dog normally takes them. You can always keep them in the cooler with your snacks and beverages.

How do you like to travel with your dog?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Happy Blogaversary! STC Turns 7

I can't believe the day is here (well, a few days ago)! This blog has been running for seven whole years now. It's been fun, it's been hard, but I've also learned a lot and I hope you have too. 


Each year I try to share something interesting and fun on my birthday/anniversary post. For this, my 7th year, I want to talk about my next 7 (hopeful) vacations. We won't count Vegas, because you all know I am there several times a year. I post a lot of cheap eats and awesome activities, since it's ever-changing. You'll see those posts and, in fact, a few are coming up soon. For now, let's go beyond :

1. St. Thomas USVI

We just bought our plane tickets for this exciting destination. It's time to kick back and relax, but also go shopping, snorkel, eat conch fritters and drive on the wrong side of the road. The U.S. Virgin Islands are celebrating 100 years and I'm all over that. I didn't plan my trip to coincide with their centennial, but it just happened to work out that way. We'll be visiting during their "rainy" season (surprise, surprise), but I anticipate that will just add to our adventure. I'm looking forward to the sky gondola overlooking the island, encountering marine life in the wild and at Ocean Park and appreciating butterflies at the Butterfly Farm. I may or may not be working on a St. Thomas wish list post as we speak.

2. Philadelphia

Well, we thought about doing that whole down the East Coast deal where we hit Boston, Salem and other cities, but now we've put that on hold and settled on spending the week in Philadelphia during Harry Potter weekend, getting in on all the history the rest of the week and also a quick visit to Hershey and Hershey World. I'm working on my costumes already, because I'm going to do all the Harry Potter things dressed up and hit the town (probably) in street clothes later on. Accio CityPASS! I'll be posting a Philly wish list at some point.

3. Idaho

I know this doesn't sound exciting, and it may not be, but I'm excited for it anyway. We have tentatively planned a short 4-day road trip to Idaho next May which will include a stop in Wallace, a spin around Coeur d'alene, and a visit to Silverwood Theme Park during their anniversary weekend. Why then? Because kids are still in school and admission is under $20 a person. 

Anyway, Wallace is the Center of the Universe (per their mayor, so please don't tell me I'm making that up. He made it up, but there's a plaque and everything.), has huckleberry yummies and is the seat of silver mining in the Coeur d'alene area. I'm guessing it'll be a lot more fun when things are open. Not like when my mom and I stopped in to let the dog potty at the park and then learned all sorts of mining stuff there, but then couldn't do anything else, because it was late Sunday afternoon.

4. Edinburgh, Scotland

Eric's cousin is getting married! In 2019. That's cool though, because it gives us the chance to save our pennies and make that celebration into an awesome vacation. We've never been, but I think this is going to be a fantastic way to get in some sightseeing with family that we rarely see. I've already got a Pinterest wish list running for this too. I mean, castles! Also, Guinness...and haggis. I tried it once. I liked it. I wish to try it in the homeland. From there we are going to take the overnight Megabus (to save money on a hotel room) to our next destination:

5. London

OMG, I can't even tell you how excited I am to be going back to London. It calls to me. It's probably only going to be a week, because I have to (sorry, get to) split it with Scotland, but I'm already planning a return trip to the Warner Bros Studios. I also have a lot of cafes I want to try and I want to go to all the markets. Plus, I'm going to go on a different Harry Potter walk and also frolic in Hyde Park and take tea at the Orangerie at Kensington Palace. We might even find ourselves on a day trip to Manchester. Maybe....probably. It's happening, people!

6. Orlando

My BFF's daughter is going to graduate in 2020 and her pick for her graduation present trip was Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. They asked if we would come along. Heck yeah! There's not much that can keep me from Diagon Alley...plus there'll be a new ride (or rides and/or food) and I need a new wand and a reason to run around in a quidditch costume. I mean, really, who doesn't need that with a side of Butterbeer?

photo credit

7. Toronto

I'm not sure if this is going to happen, but #7 is pretty much a wild card. I have been dying to go to Toronto. Is that weird? That's okay. I'm okay with being weird. I don't know that much about it, but they have something like a Space Needle and different foods and they have a Harry Potter-ish themed bar called The Lockhart. That's not Mt main draw, because I rarely drink, but I wouldn't be opposed to checking it out. Anyone been to Toronto? I need tips. We also want to go to Iceland, so that may happen first.


So, that's what we have on our plate for the next 3 or 4 years. I'm really excited about it. If you have any suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them. Let's end with a few of my achievements since last August:

  • I was published in a magazine. It's true. I have been waiting for quite a long time for this to happen and I even have hardcopies of said magazine to prove that my name is in actual print. It's a business to consumer magazine, so you can't actually get it on newsstands, but that's okay with me.
  • I made 10Best's list of Budget Travel Blogs. Yes! You all helped me make that #6 spot for 2017 and I'm so grateful! You can see the full list here.
  • Feedspot added me to their list of 100 Budget Travel Blogs and I was very honored to be among some really large company blogs, as well as travel blogs I follow myself. You can see the list of the other 99 here.
  • I contributed to a Forbes travel article which gained me a lot of eyes on the blog. If you want to read it, you can find it here.
Now I want to hear from you. What future vacations are you most looking forward to, or have you added to your travel wish list?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Actually Get Some Sleep On the Plane

If you're not like me, who can sleep anywhere, including a plane where a baby is screaming for 5 hours straight, you probably need some help catching your Zs when you really need to on the airplane. The following infographic can give you ideas on how to get comfortable and actually be refreshed when you arrive at your destination. If you are a light sleeper, you'll probably want to try a combination of these things. 



I always bring a neck pillow when I travel long distance. I have several and have tried a lot of them. Some are better than others, obviously, and I would invest in a good one instead of grabbing one last minute from the airport. My suggestions are the hoodie pillow, which combines a soft hood (that you can wear over pulled down over your eyes), the FaceCradle (especially if you're tall and need to lean forward to get comfortable) or another pillow that will support your head and neck, like this one that will also work in the car, train, or anywhere else you want to nap. 

I bring an eye mask and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, because sometimes you just need to block everything out. Usually, I only use my eye mask when I'm in my hotel. I'm not a morning person and being woken up by sunlight directly in my eye is not the way to start a day. It also keeps my allergies under control, which sounds weird, but it works, especially when we have to sleep with the air conditioner on.

Keeping hydrated is important and I pack a water bottle that keeps my drinks hot and cold. Once I'm through security, I get a big bottle of cold water and fill it up. If you don't want to spend $4-6 on a bottle of water, you can just head to a water fountain. This is the brand I have. I also have a strap for it so Eric can carry it when we're out and about. This is not the one I have, but it's pretty cool.

I don't particularly suggest sleeping less to be tired when you fly. What I do suggest is getting onto your new schedule as soon as possible to avoid jet lag. That means if you're flying during sleeping hours wherever you're going, try to sleep, or vice versa. Then when you get there, go to bed at bedtime and it's more likely you'll not slow down in the middle of a day. 

How do you stay comfortable on the plane so you can actually sleep in public?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Harry Potter

So, it's time again for my mini celebration of Harry Potter. It's a bit late this year, because I've been planning my annual party, working on some costumes for Yule Ball and Rose City Comic Con and volunteering at a Harry Potter event for the Harry Potter Alliance. 



Now that I'm a bit more caught up with life, let's talk about my Potter-related activities this past year. 


Another (several) visits to my favorite Potter-themed coffee shop was on the docket. I've gone to Vegas three times this year, two with a car, so of course I headed straight to Bad Owl Coffee in Henderson. Not only is the decor perfect, the coffee (themed and otherwise) and food are so delicious, I'd go there again and again even if it was just a regular coffee shop. 



I made my mom go with me on our short trip, drug my friends along while they were in Vegas with us, and Eric and I went again on our own before hitting up the Salt Room (which I highly recommend). My mom and I split the Tonks Italian Turkey. Last July Eric and I split the Siriusly Prosciutto (a toasted sandwich with prosciutto, arugula, fig and goat cheese). I got it again when I visited the next time (that's how good it is), and then we had to try the banana and strawberry waffles and the breakfast sandwich. 


For coffee, you have to at least try the ButterBrew Latte once. It's Siriusly delicious (see what I did there?). You can get all your favorites as well and I'm a little sad I forgot that I wanted to try the Earl Grey Latte, so I'll definitely be getting it next time. Instead, I tried their Chai Tea Latte and their Spanish Latte. Both were awesome over ice. While the prices may not be the cheapest, it's still fresher and tastier than a lot of Vegas options, so it's worth the drive.



We just finished a whirlwind Harry Potter weekend, where we threw our annual party - this year's theme was Quidditch World Cup - and volunteered at a fundraiser event for the Harry Potter Alliance. Our party was a hit and everyone had a blast dressing up as wizards trying to dress muggle, eating a bunch of foods that are featured in the books, and trying to one up each other in (my super hard) trivia to win the House Cup. 



I ran a raffle for some sweet Harry Potter goodies this year (in the past we've done a book drive) and it was very successful. My guests got a chance to win some cool swag and we raised money for the HPA that we donated the following day.



Sadly, we don't have that many pics of the awesome HPA fundraiser, because we were busy handing out programs and signing people up for the costume contest and pointing them toward the donation boxes, but that's great, right? Once I was done with my duties, I hit up the bar for an adult Butterbeer (I missed out on the topping, but I was cool with that, so sorry it just looks like whiskey in a glass) and some popcorn and was ready to play some trivia and watch Sorcerer's Stone with all the other Potterheads. 


In December, we went to SoCal and visited the new Hogsmeade area of Universal Studios. You all know that my visit to Universal Orlando was AH-mazing...like to the point that I broke up my Wizarding World visit into three posts. I was really hoping to get that feeling there, but was disappointed that the shops were super small and the world was just all around tiny. I mean, it didn't stop me from getting excited from entering the WWoHP, getting my pics taken on the train and meeting the conductor of the Hogwarts Express. 


We had a blast despite the crummy weather and the packed park. We walked the halls of Hogwarts, we rode Flight of the Hippogriff and admired Hagrid's hut, we had Butterbeer in all its forms and ate at the Three Broomsticks. We also enjoyed the frog choir which put on a special show, and we shopped a bit in the cramped shops. 




Our trip included a visit to the Warner Bros Studios, which you may have read about here on the blog. I highly recommend it. They were having a Harry Potter & Fantastic Beasts exhibit, which was small, but really awesome. I was surprised by how much they packed into the space, and sad I only had 15 minutes to look at it all before continuing on the tour. 


I made the most of it though, running upstairs, taking pics and interacting with the employees there. I even got sorted...you know, into Ravenclaw! The Sorting Hat talked to me though, which was really fun. 

In December we'll be attending the HPA's Yule Ball event. I'm making my outfit for maximum awesomeness. You can get a sense of what I'm going for with this DIY video. Next month is Rose City Comic Con and I'm hoping to go two of the three days, which means I'll get a chance to wear two different cosplays. One of them will probably be Harry Potter themed. So, here's to another great year full of Harry Potter, travel and celebrations.

If you're interested in other HP travel we've done, check out this post.

Did you celebrate the Boy Who Lived in some way this year?
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