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Saturday, September 29, 2018

My Portland Coffee Tour - Part 17

Like all places, Portland seems to be filled with places that make excellent coffee, places that only serve coffee because it's a breakfast staple, places in between and then places like my local Einstein that said I couldn't order vanilla lattes anymore, because it's no longer on the menu. What the? 

Luckily, this month found me at some of the better coffee joints in the city. 

Stomping Grounds

I've been going to the same hairdresser for longer than I've been with my husband (12 years married, 4+ years dating). She moved a few times, but I've still been going to her salon in the same area for at least a decade. I've seen this coffee shop over the years and have never stopped there, because either I was on time for my appointment or off to have lunch/bruch with my mother. We arrived super early for our last appointment and decided to go in, and I'm so glad we did.

Stomping Grounds is cozy and welcoming with a lot of places to sit. It was really busy and you could tell it was a usual haunt for a lot of people. They have a nice drink menu and lots of food options, but we were in (sort of) a hurry, so we ordered a couple bagels with cream cheese ($2.75 each) and some coffees to sip  a little faster than normal.

My mom got a regular latte and I asked for their most popular drink and was told that was the Spanish mocha ($4.75), also cinnamon in anything is pretty top notch in my book.

The coffee had some lovely depth to it and my cheddar bagel was toasted perfectly with the exact right amount of cream cheese. I'd definitely come here again and try their other food options. I can see why this is a hoppin' place on the weekend and why so many people choose this as a place to meet up with friends.

40 LBS.Coffee Bar

I was meeting a friend one afternoon and decided to go early so I could hit up a few coffee shops I hadn't seen in the downtown area. 40 LBS. looked intriguing and the inside is really clean and industrial looking. 

I went in asking for a recommendation, but the barista was like "I dunno. I just drink cold brew all day." Not a great start in my book, but I settled on a vanilla cardamom latte ($4.50) and a tasty-looking cheese and butter baguette ($4.95) that reminded me of walking the streets in Paris. I love the coffee cups, but the coffee itself was perfectly balanced and aromatic. I loved the baguette, even without it being toasted. I suppose that's just how they serve them, unlike the stalls in Paris, since I wasn't asked if I wanted it warmed up. It wasn't disappointing though.

As you can see from the decor, if you think about what a Portland coffee shop would look like, this is pretty much it. Despite the barista's attitude about their non-cold brew coffee drinks, I'd return.

Café Ponté

Just around the corner from 40 LBS is Café
 Ponté. It's a cute little European shop with warm woods and friendly baristas. You feel really welcome there.

They had a small board of specials and, with fall almost here, I couldn't resist the maple chai latte ($4.75), which had the perfect hint of maple flavor under the chai spices. It's perfect for a cold weather pick-me-up. Even though I'd already indulged in a baguette, I decided to get all my carbs and order a croissant ($3.50). I was less impressed with it, as it felt a bit more dense than your typical flaky croissant. They do have other offerings though, so don't be put off by their sad croissants. Go for just the coffee or opt for a different pastry or food choice. The coffee's worth the visit.

The shop is smallish and narrow, but it has this whole front  full of windows that faces the morning sun, so even if you're inside, you can feel like you're outside too. It's in a great location and if you sit in the window, it's great for people watching.

There you have it. My September edition of my Portland coffee tour. Follow me on Instagram if you want to see my visits as they happen, or if you want to view photos of my travels, things I do around Portland and sometimes cute pics of my dog.

Do you have a favorite coffee shop from your travels or at home? Tell me about it in the comments!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How To Be An Airport Security Pro

The holidays are coming and it's time to start planning and packing. Soon you'll join the millions of people traveling to visit friends and family or, if you're lucky, going on a winter getaway. I definitely approve of those, because the holidays can be stressful and getting away from everything is always nice and relaxing.

The airport during the holidays is a madhouse and security lines can be longer than usual, so let's talk about how to get through them with as little annoyance as possible (at least when it comes to yourself).

Eric, awkwardly, trying to pose for a pic while navigating this tiny Precheck hallway.

Sign up for TSA Precheck

You have time to do this and get approved before the holidays. For $85, you get 5 years of bypassing the main security lines and going through a much shorter line with less strict rules. You can keep your jacket, hat, belt and shoes on and your laptop and toiletries can stay in your bag. We're on our fourth year of using it and I'll never look back. Next year, when we renew, we'll be getting Global Entry, which works internationally and also includes domestic Precheck for just $100.

Get There Early

Longer lines mean longer wait times and the holidays means more traffic. Don't cut it too close to get to the airport. Give yourself at least two hours before your flight if it's domestic and three if its international at the airport. Accidents happen, extra long lines happen, computer glitches happen. Just be prepared. Bring a book or magazine to keep you occupied if you end up having a long wait at the gate...or go check out your airport's art or do some gift shopping.

Fly With Just a Carry-On

I've been flying with just a carry-on for a decade now. I've gotten my packing down to almost just the bare essentials, since I now know what will get worn and what won't. The trick to packing small in the winter is layering and not caring if all your pictures are you wearing the same coat and scarf (maybe two). Here's a post I did on packing light in the winter.

Don't Wrap Any Gifts

If you are visiting friends and family and haven't shipped your presents ahead (which I highly recommend), don't wrap them and stash them in your carry-on. TSA may very well want to inspect them and will not be sorry for you if they have to unwrap them. So, I suggest packing small gifts and saving the wrapping when you arrive. This takes up much less room too.

Go Left

Most people get to the security lines and head right to go through the x-ray machines. This makes these lines longer. Instead, go left if given a choice. These lines are shorter, making them a bit faster. Try skipping any lines with small kids, because they usually take longer.

Keep a Zip-Top Bag On Hand

Always have a bunch of things in your pockets? If you don't have an empty accessible pocket on your bag, have a plastic bag with you and then empty your pockets into it, so it doesn't get lost in the bottom of your bag or you don't have to stand at the end of the conveyor picking everything out of one of those little round bins to load your pockets back up.

Have Your Liquids Bag and Laptop Easily Accessible 

This is super annoying. All your liquids need to fit in a one quart see through bag in 3.4oz or less containers. Have this out and ready to toss in the security bin along with your shoes and laptop. When you're holding of the line rummaging for things that you knew you needed to have out, everyone gets that much more irritated and grumpy. You saw the signs. Don't pretend you didn't.

Wear Slip-On Shoes

Having to tie and untie your shoes to get through security is just another hassle you don't need. Pack those in your bag and wear some easy on easy off shoes. You will thank me. Anything that's hassle-free is nice, and can get you on your trip faster.

Don't Wear Any Accessories 

If you can get away with it, skip the jewelry and watch and belt. Those are just more things you'll need to take off to put through the scanners and nobody wants to wait behind you while you're spending an extra five minutes de- and re-accessorizing.

Download Your Airline's App

Carry one less thing. You're already walking around with your phone, so download your airline's app so you can easily check in, get updates and have your boarding pass on hand instead of stuffing it into your pocket or a book and then having a small panic attack when you can't find it. You can have everyone's boarding pass in your party on your app. Another brilliant tip: screenshot your boarding passes in case your app logs you out or the airport has shoddy WiFi right before you need to show it to someone. This has totally happened to me more than once. Never again!

Keep Your Chill

Don't be that person who gets all irritated when things don't go your way. Everyone's trying their best, the airline employees are already dealing with dozens of jerky people everyday. Don't make their life harder. Just close your eyes and breathe before you start yelling. Find your chill. Ask if it's really that important. Everyone's having a hard time, but they're dealing with it. Lots of things can't be helped, so you being grouchy and mean isn't going to change anything.

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. Smile, even when you don't want to, think of the awesome trip you're about to go one, play games with your travel buddies and think of this as just another part of your adventure.

Happy travels!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

My Best Fall Travel Packing Tips

Okay, so most places it's starting to get cooler, or it will be when you are on your fall or holiday travel. Even when you have to pack larger pieces than for your summer trips, you can still pack light. I'm a big proponent of layering when I travel, since you never know if the weather will be unseasonably warm or colder than you expect. Don't fret though, because you can still pack light and bring everything you need for any kind of weather.

When we traveled to London and Paris in late October, the weather ranged from cool, crisp fall air to freezing temps with rain. It could have been miserable, but learning from my previous trip there, when all we had packed were winter clothes. The first 3-4 days were so warm out that I didn't need a coat and seriously wondered if I'd have to buy some short sleeve tops in order to not get heat stroke. Needless to say, nobody wanted a repeat of that. So, taking all my knowledge into account when packing, I chose several lightweight sweaters that I could layer other things with and went from there.

So, if the weather tends toward cold, cold, cold, your pictures are basically all going to be you bundled up in your coat and you aren't going to see anything you've got on underneath anyway (see title photo). With this in mind, it makes even more sense to bring as little as possible. You'll just need enough to keep you from getting bored and to go between laundry - think of it an excuse to take a break and relax a few times on your trip. Watch a movie, catch up on email or play a game. I bring the same thing for one week as I do for two. Three lightweight sweaters, a cardigan, two tanks and two tees that match your sweaters. Throw a dress, two pair of stretchy jeans or other comfortable pants and two pair of shoes. 

Keep in mind your travel outfit. I usually wear my favorite pair of jeans (with stretch), a tee and a cardigan, one pair of the shoes I'm planning to wear throughout my trip and keep my jacket and a scarf in easy reach. This way if it's cold, I can put more layers on, and if it's hot, I can remove my cardigan.

jeans | dress | cardigan | l/s shirt | t-shirts | tights

A pair of black jeans can double as nice pants for a night out, but a breathable dress can also work. Make sure to pack a pair of heavy tights in case it's really cold and you need some extra protection. Tights are multitaskers. When the weather is colder than expected, like a freak snowstorm, you can throw them on under your pants. I tend toward thinner skinny jeans, because the stretchy ones are comfortable, but may not be as warm as traditional jeans. For this reason, that extra layer might be necessary.

Make sure your tops all mix and match, so you don't have items that only go with some things in your bag. I like neutrals, like black and gray that I can add a pop of color to. You may end up like me and have to wear three layers at once, so if you bring three different color sweaters and three different color/patterns of tanks and tees, you're going to look like a bag lady. I like to go with solids for one layer and some patterns for the other. Above you have 3 long sleeve options and two patterned t-shirts. If you have to layer, these will all work together. The dress is also reversible (from Columbia), so you can make at total of 22 outfits with these pieces. You also have the added warmth of your cardigan and/or jacket.

yup, lots of photos of us just wearing coats and hats or scarves.

Look for shoes that will go with everything. I went to Europe with a pair of flats and tall packable boots, but I love the look of a short boot and a loafer. Make sure you have enough room for your foot to breathe in your boot and that both pair are comfortable to walk in all day long. I loved the boots I took, but they were a smudge too tight, or I overdid myself on the 478965322 stairs in Paris, because I left with a stress fracture in one of my feet. Boo. But at least I didn't notice the pain until the night before we were going back home. Maybe suck it up and wear your flats when hiking up 40 jillion steps, just in case.

Look at the weather before you leave, to be sure you're dressed for your destination. A pair of gloves and a hat are always good companions, because you'll be thrilled if you have them and need them, or miserable if you leave them at home and have to shell out money for them. We actually had to purchase another hat and scarf for Eric, who didn't think he would need them. Unless you're hoping for a lame souvenir, throw some in for everyone traveling. It'll make your life easier.

What is your best winter packing advice?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Theme Park Halloween Trips

Halloween is coming and if you're traveling anywhere, you're probably going to be hitting up a party of some kind. I'm off to do some Harry Potter-ing in Philadelphia before I come home for actual Halloween and our annual party with friends. If I could, I'd be at Disney though.

There's nothing like a Disney party, because everyone's a kid, whether you're 2 or 102. As you know, barely a year goes by without us making some pilgrimage to some Disney park, and this year I hit up Disneyland with my friend. 

Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party

If you've never visited Disney on a holiday, drop everything you're doing and start planning, because it is everything. I prefer Halloween, because school is in, it's less crowded, you get to dress up, the weather normally doesn't suck and everyone gets to trick or treat. Yup, everyone! Here are some other reasons:

Characters Dress Up

Mickey and the gang get in on the Halloween fun, too. Your normal characters come out in full costume (more so than usual) for pictures, making then highly sought after opportunities

Villians and Other Rare Character Sightings
Ever wonder why you never see Jafar or the Evil Queen or those nasty stepsisters? They're reserved for precisely these events. You'll also see characters like Tarzan, the cast of The Country Bear, Brer Fox and Captain Jack Sparrow.

Lines to meet and greet these characters can be loooooong, so be prepared to wait and possibly pick and choose. This year, I saw much less than normal, but it was also the very start if the partying for the season. Sometimes you get lucky and you can swoop in, get some photos and be on to the next thing before the crowds start up again. That's happened to me with the Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet group.

Did I Mention Candy?
Everyone with a MNSSHP ticket gets a candy bag upon entry. There are treat stations set up all around the park. Your map will tell you where and cast members have special Mickey light-up signs to guide you. We don't necessarily even want to eat all the candy, but it's included and it's fun and then we don't have to buy candy for trick-or-treaters.

Awesome Seasonal Shows
I'll admit it. Sometimes just the shows are worth the price of admission. They always center around the villains and this year WDW had a Hocus Pocus theme. The Sanderson sisters were back and calling on their "friends" to help throw the biggest, baddest bash ever. From where I was standing, I would have sworn the real Winifred, Sarah and Mary were there. That's how good the costumes were.

Aside from the castle show (strategize ways to get around that don't involve the castle, because you aren't getting in there), there is a fantastic parade. The Boo To You Parade always starts off with the Headless Horseman. I see they've gotten him to slow down his horse, so people can actually see him and get pictures. Alas, I was still to slow. Everyone gets a spot in the parade: the villains, your face characters and even obscure ones like the traveling ghosts. It's not to be missed. Wait out the night and do the second parade later in the evening and stake out a spot near the start. You won't have to jostle as much for s place to stand or wait to get across the road. Plus, when others are just seeing the beginning, you can be riding rides, getting pics or collecting candy.

Shorter Lines
Because everyone's there for candy, dance parties and Rare Character photo opps, the lines for the rides that are open are usually super short. Sometimes they add a Halloween twist to rides, like Space Mountain.

Special Magic Photos
You can always get some pretty special photos throughout the year, including the ones where they magic in a Disney thing into your photo. During Halloween, these magic pics take on a fun and sinister feel.

The Decorations

I love Halloween and harvest season. Disney overhauls their park every night the party is on by putting out an obscene amount of jack-o-lanterns, Disney-fied scarecrows, orange bunting and so much more. There are quite a few funky Halloween projections throughout the park as well. The more you look, the more you see. Plus there's a fantastic score of Halloween music in the background.

The Halloween Fireworks Are (Ooh) AHHmazing
Okay, yes. The fireworks are always amazing, but the Halloween ones are particularly awesome. They revolve around those sinister villains you rarely see, giving them a ghoulish vibe. The castle is used as a backdrop, so you'll want to get front and center for them, because the castle projections are half the fun.

If you decide that Halloween at Disney is for you, and I think you should, find a costume that isn't super involved, but still creative (you'll have to pack it) and plan to spend the morning and afternoon doing something else, because staying there for 16 hours is super tiring. You can get in a few hours before the party starts with your ticket, so you can enjoy the park before some of the rides close and get in a quick dinner before the fun starts.

What's your favorite time of year to visit Disney?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Get 300 bonus SB when you sign up for Swagbucks in September

All throughout September you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash. 

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here's how: 

2. Earn 300 SB total before October 1st, 2018. You'll get a 300 SB bonus for it! 

3. That's it. It's super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I've earned hundreds of dollars worth of SB that I use mostly for Amazon so I can purchase party supplies for my annual Harry Potter party.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links and I will receive compensation in the form of SB when you sign up through that link.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Halloween Travel Planning

So, we've talked about a great Halloween trip I planned, which I'm only going to get to do part of, and awesome packable costumes, but maybe you want to travel to places where Halloween is really celebrated. If that's you and you don't want me telling you what to see and do, this infographic has some fun facts and places where Halloween is big around the world.

Will you stay home or travel for Halloween? I'm doing both! I'll be doing Halloween festivities in Philly and then coming home to do them in Portland on actual Halloween, with our annual adults-only party to follow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Your Next Halloween Vacation

A few years ago, I found out that Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philly) had a Harry Potter Weekend in October and I planned an entire trip around this activity. I've had to change up my plans and the weekend has been changed to Witches and Wizards Weekend, due to Warner Bros cracking down on anything with the name Harry Potter in it and my own one-week limitation of a vacation. Either way, I still think all these activities sound awesome and can make a fantastic Halloween trip, or even just some fun stops as part of a different trip.

Salem, Massachusetts  

Where better to celebrate Halloween than witch-central? All October long you’ll find themed festivities and attractions including a carnival, haunted house, spooky tours and more. Every day of the month you’ll find something going on. This is my kind of town.  Where else can you hit the farmers’ market during the day and then see the Crucible at night and get your palm read and go to a witchcraft shop in between? There might be some places, but I doubt many. And there are even fewer places where you can visit the actual places where witch trials took place. This is definitely on my list of must-see places. 
  • 4D Haunted Adventure at Salem Time Machine - It's a "haunted" attraction for the whole family. You get 3D glasses, walk around in a blacklight environment that takes you through a narrated Olde Salem. It sounds really dumb, but also really fun. If you want to be scared, do the 4D Haunted House instead, with live scare actors.
  • Derby Stree Carnival
  • Museum Place Mall - They show two 3D short films that tell you about Salem and the history of Halloween. There's also live music on the weekends.
  • Salem Haunted Magic Show - 'Nuff said.
  • Visit Lady Irene - A Greek psychic who reads coffee...? I dunno what that entails, but I want to see!
  • Haunted Dinner Theater at the Hawthorne Hotel - The show changes every year, but it always sounds fun.
  • More things to see and do can be found here.
photo credit

Laconia, New Hampshire

For 25 years, the pumpkin festival has been held in Keene, but it has now moved north to Laconia to eliminate the many drunken college students who congregated in the small town square. The community comes together to carve pumpkins to add to the pyramid for one of the nation's biggest collection of jack-o-lanterns. for one day, the town lights up with pumpkins, a beer garden, parade and other fun stuff, like magic, vendor booths and face painting.

photo credit


So, I would go to Boston for anything specifically Halloween-related, but that doesn't mean they don't have anything. We have family there to visit, plus seafood! Save money on sightseeing with the Boston CityPASS. Valid for 9 days from first use and covers the top Boston attractions for just $54 per person (adult). See the best of Boston with your pass and have plenty of time to do it in. There’s something for everyone and you save almost half off admission prices! Here are just a few I think would be fun.
  • New England Aquarium        
  • Museum of Science 
  • Skywalk Observatory 
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History OR The Old State House
If you're looking for other things in Boston that are Halloween-themed, there are several corn mazes (haunted and traditional) around the area with pumpkin patches and haunted houses. Factory of Terror has a one of the best haunted attractions in the area. Boston College Club runs a wine tasting with craft beer, hors d’oeuvres, live music, and a charity silent auction. The Haunted Castle Bash has a cocktail reception, dancing and hors d'oeuvres. Find more ideas here.

photo credit

Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania

Because of the cease and desist from Warner Bros, the town has had to rethink how to run this festival and even the name has changed to Witches and Wizards Weekend (and was called Wands and Wizards Fest just a few weeks ago). It looks like it's going to be more about Halloween than Harry Potter, which is okay, but disappointing. There will still be a pub crawl and Quidditch tournament, so we will still go and report back.
 Watch this video:

Okay, so the pièce de résistance of this trip, and the reason I want to go is the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Weekend. For two days, the town turns into Hogsmeade and the college is turned into Hogwarts. Visitors are strongly encouraged to dress up (uh, yes please!) and participate in awesome activities, like dueling classes, make new friends, ride the "Knight Bus", go on a Butterbeer crawl and watch a Quidditch tournament.

photo credit


Since Philadelphia is just a short drive from Chestnut Hill, why not check out what it has to offer. In October, you can look forward to the Chrysanthemum Festival, the Schuylkill Regatta and South Street's Pumpkin Festival. The Mutter Museum, a museum of weird and interesting medical stuff, has always been on my list, so I'm totally going to hit that up. Aside from that, there's tons of history. You can purchase the Philadelphia CityPASS for $59 and check out 4 of these 5 things:
  • The Franklin Institue
  • The Big Bus & Philadelphia Trolley Works
  • One Liberty Observation Deck
  • Adventure Aquarium OR Philadelphia Zoo.
photo credit

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Who doesn't love chocolate? Well, I do, so this seems like a no-brainer. Candy for days, a theme park and walking chocolate bars! I'm totally in! Plus it's right next door to:

photo credit

Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Another thing that's been on my wish list for a long time. I'd love to buy some sweet homemade quilts and other goodies, while learning more about the Amish community and way of life. Maybe I'll get a chance to ride in one of those horse and buggies where cars aren't a problem like they are in the city. Believe it or not, there are a lot of things to do here, from museums and tours to driving over (through?) covered bridges and wine tasting. 

If you've been to any of these places, what were your favorite things to see or do? 

Monday, September 10, 2018

The September Swago Board is Here!

The digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during on their September Swago Board, which runs from September 10th through September 17th at 9am PT! Swago is just like bingo, but in this case you're filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online.

If you're thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it, meaning you can get more gift cards faster. Here are a few tips: 

  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, completing a survey, or just visiting one of our popular stores! 
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete. 
  • You have until 12pm PT/3pm ET on Monday, September 17th to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely. 
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value. Once you’ve achieved a pattern, the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely. 

  • Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel. PLUS, when you submit your board for a bonus you'll get additional spins. The number of spins will depend on the pattern you complete. The wheel has all sorts of great prizes that you can win, and each spin is a winner!

The Spin & Win Wheel will be available all throughout Swago and you have until 11:59pm PT on Monday, September 17th to use all your spins. 

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points - if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus, which is enough for a $5 gift card from the retailer of your choice.  

Click here right now and click "Join" to get started! If you don't already have a Swagbucks account, you'll be able to quickly sign up; PLUS, if you earn 300 SB before the first of October, you'll get a bonus 300 SB!

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links and I will receive compensation in the form of SB when you sign up through that link.
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