Autumn at the Coast

Upon moving to Portland, I soon learned that the Pacific Ocean in Oregon is not “the beach” but rather, “the coast”. Herein lies the difference. The “beach” evokes thoughts of sunshine and swimming in the water.  The “coast” provides natural wonders like tide pools and hiking trails that overlook the ocean. It also provides water so cold it requires a wetsuit for prolonged exposure in any season.

At first, I was disappointed by the coast.  Being an hour from the beach was a big selling point for me moving to Portland.  I’m a girl who loves to make a day of laying in warm sand in a swimsuit, alternating paddle boarding and reading a good book.  I was surprised the first time we went to the coast in the heat of summer to find the air cool and the water cold.

Over the last few years I’ve reset my expectations and learned to love the coast.  I still largely thought of it as somewhere to go in the summer but a Veteran’s Day trip changed all of that.

Autumn at the coast is beautiful.  The moody coloring of the Pacific Ocean served as a backdrop for a weekend cooking with friends and playing board games.  Simple pleasures that my self-induced hustle and bustle hadn’t allowed in a long time.

How to enjoy Autumn at the Oregon Coast:

Trading in my flip flops

Trade in your flip-flops for rain boots- The kids let the tide chase them & it felt good to put my feet in the water even though I didn’t want to get wet.

Bring a good raincoat, hat, and gloves- It seems to mist even when it’s not raining.  Being warm and dry made it so much more enjoyable.

Grab a cup of hot cocoa or coffee – For me, there is nothing better than a hot drink to warm me from the inside while taking in the vastness of the ocean.  We were in Oceanside which is a pretty sleepy town but managed to find a hot cup at the Blue Agate Cafe just above the entry to the beach.

Nature’s sand toys

Take a walk down the beach & stop to play – The Fall brings a different kind of beach play.  The kids used washed up sticks and seaweed to build a structure on the beach.  No sand toys required.  We even broke open a few rocks to find Agates.

Reflect-there is nothing like the ocean to remind me that life ebbs and flows.  This served as a wonderful message right before the busy holiday season.

The weather seems to break even on rainy days.  If the rain stops, stop what you are doing and run to the beach!

For the Love of Portland

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and some recent sunshine I thought I’d highlight some of the things I love about Portland.


The coffee:  Oh, the coffee.  It’s roasted fresh all over our fair city and it makes me long for Portland when I’m away drinking not so freshly roasted coffee.  If your valentine loves coffee a bag of Heart coffee would make a great gift or you could try your hand at being a barista and give your lover a hot cup in bed with a heart of top.


Spring comes early:  Unlike the winters that can last well through March in the Midwest, Spring comes early.  My spring bulbs are coming up and there are crocuses popping out of Portland lawns all over.  I had to ask a neighbor about this last year.  Portlanders pride themselves on being weird in all seasons and it seems it’s a tradition for people to throw in some crocus bulbs in their lawns so they will pop up as one of the first signs of Spring.


The Portland Nursery Help Desk:  I’ve popped in with a few questions since moving here and they are always a wealth of knowledge.  The other day I stopped by to do some garden recon and discovered it was a ghost town.  This could be in part that it’s early in season or that they don’t have the coffee cart open yet (thank goodness Tabor Space is nearby).  I am determined to get my old apple trees bearing edible fruit this year so I stopped at the help desk with some questions.  As usual they had several solutions for me.  Unlike the summer months there was nobody in line behind me so I got an extended tree consultation and walked away, once again, in love with this free service.  If you can’t make it in they have a lot of information on their website too.


The sense of community:  I’m not the only one feeling the love for Portland.  According to the latest report Oregon is the most popular state to move to for the 3rd year running.  Although there in no doubt the natural beauty and mild climate are a draw, once you get here there is an almost old fashioned sense of community.  Neighbors know each other and stop to say hello.  Even with busy lives they stay connected with sites like Nextdoor and neighborhood Facebook pages.  The multitude of little free libraries always make me feel the love the way those honor system farm stand boxes did when I was growing up in Michigan.


There are so many things to love about Portland.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Shop local in Portland (with a coupon)

There is so much good food in Portland not to mention awesome bike shops, museums, etc.  I’m the type of person who likes to dive right in and see everything but that can be a drain on the wallet.

Whether you are moving to Portland or just visit often you should get the Chinook Book.  We were given the Chinook book as a housewarming gift by one of my husband’s co-workers.  I’m now obsessed and have both the app and the paper book. Unlike the big coupon books I’m used to with gross fast food chains and box stores the Chinook Book is so Portland. It’s largely local businesses and all businesses have to meet their sustainability criteria.  I’ve become a huge fan of the app because I’m still getting to know Portland and you can search what’s “near me”.  Sometimes I do it just to see what local businesses are around for a quick snapshot of a neighborhood I’m less familiar with.  Sometimes it shows a 2-for-1 coffee coupon and I have to debate whether to save it for when I’m with a friend or slam two right then.  This is Portland after all.




Back to School

Portland Public Schools are back in session.  Fortunately my kids got the teachers they wanted and they are off and running.  Now it’s my turn to get through the mountain of papers and get a system down for the year.  To ease in, l’ll start with when I can plan a vacation based on the PPS calendar.

We were a cold lunch family last year and this year this year my first grader has decided he’s a hot lunch kid (annual menu).  PPS participates in an online payment system so you can load up those lunch accounts.  I registered then discovered that there is a $1.95 fee every time I add money via the system.  I’m still glad I registered just to see the account balance but I’m going to drop off my cash with the lunch lady instead.

At the start of school each school sends home a Family and Student handbook.  If you want to read about the acceptable skirt length or that they will not be telling you when lice are rampant in your classroom that’s the place to do it.

If you are new to PPS you will need a background check on file before you can volunteer.

Happy back to school!

In Search of a School

After going through some serious ups and downs with Chicago Public Schools and being a believer in participating in the public system, schools were a huge factor in our move.


We started looking in Lake Oswego because the schools are exceptionally good.


Alas, it was just too suburban for these city kiddies. So I needed to find a quality school in the city of Portland. We had navigated schools in Chicago so I had a bit of experience with school spreadsheets.   I used scores from the following sources to start to get a picture of where the “good” schools were: Great Schools, Oregon Live, US News and World Report


What I had really learned though was that all data aside schools just have a feeling about them and sometimes the ones on the way up have more energy than the ones who have made it to the top. One of the schools that my children attended in Chicago had a principal who made himself very accessible to the parents and staff. He was an exceptional communicator and I saw the difference that made within the school community.


Sadly, Principals need to be politians and I was looking for one I could believe in. Whether through luck or research we ended up in a happy place. When I asked my daughter what the best part of the move was she said “my school.” Full disclosure the day is almost an hour shorter here and there is an additional recess but I’m going to put one up in the win column.

House Hunting

Searching for a house in the “right” neighborhood in a city you don’t know can be daunting.   Schools were a huge factor for us but I’ll get into the schools in a future post. Commute time was an area we had identified to improve our quality of life so I didn’t want to be anywhere farther than a 20 minute commute. Fortunately, I learned that 20 minutes is the quoted commute time for pretty much anything in Portland.

So, we drove the 4 quadrants of Portland in search of what neighborhood and home felt like a good fit.

Once the cat was out of the bag about the move, it turned out many of my friends had friends who lived in Portland. So, I asked to be put in touch with anyone who was either still here or had lived here in the last few years.   Urban neighborhoods change fast and I needed current intel. I also discovered I had two former co-workers living here and both have children-thank you Linked In!

This has become one of my favorite maps and has some good neighborhood data.

I also used the descriptions in Newcomers Handbook for Portland to help me get a feel for neighborhoods ahead of getting here to drive them and look at houses.

When it came to looking at houses here is what surprised this Midwestern girl:

  •  They count the basement square footage. I’m not talking finished, walk out basement. We looked at multiple houses with unfinished basements, no egress windows that had included the square footage in their listing. This made the rest of the house much smaller than I expected.
  •  Many houses don’t have a basement at all.
  •  Many houses do not have a garage
  •  It is not uncommon for Portlanders to use their garage for the kayak, paddle board, bikes, etc. Garages are not necessarily a car thing.
  •  The shared driveway-in some of the SE/NE neighborhoods there is one driveway that leads to both your garage and your next-door neighbor’s.
  •  Some of the “backyards,” especially on the SW side, were the side of a mountain. This provides beautiful dinner party views of the city. It also scared the hell out of this mother of young children.

Blow it all up!

 I came to Chicago post-college seeking everything a big city has to offer and man did it deliver.

Fast forward 10 years a husband and 2 kids and I found myself in a life where we were doing more keeping up than living. My husband and I knew that the pace we were moving was not ideal but we were happy, had great friends and loved our urban life.

We often talked about what we would retrofit in order to make life more manageable. Then we started talking about what we would look for if we made a bigger change. What if we blew it all up and started over. What would we look for in a place, in jobs, in life.   What life would we build if we started with a blank slate?

What started as casual pillow talk turned into a list that would help us evaluate opportunities.

Equal or lower cost of living

Quality schools

Urban environment or at least a walkable downtown

Shorter commutes

Warmer weather

Charming houses

Just as casually as our list started a conversation started with a company in Portland, OR. Neither of us had ever been to Portland at the time. In the end we blew it all up. We’ve Portlanded and now we are putting the pieces of life back in place in one of the quirkiest cities in America.