#9 – Go to Bharma in Barcelona. Check.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the television series, LOST. (The only person I know who might be a bigger fan is my friend, Kylene, who named her son Sawyer. That’s right. She did that.) Beyond binge watching the show over and over, I’ve integrated pretty legit lessons into my own classroom (my former 6th graders could analyze and deconstruct literary themes in key LOST episodes as if they were college grads).

You can whine all you want about the last episode not being the epic masterpiece you had hoped for, but realistically I feel like the show gave me years of enjoyment and it really changed the culture of how we watch TV. It was the first show to really cultivate Reddit fan theories and did a lot to incorporate teasers outside of just a typical commercial. LOST even pulled a few stunts to give fans their own twists by sending out fake casting calls and leaking fake episode synopses. You can blame LOST for the reason that no one was surprised William was the Man in Black last year in Westworld. We watch TV differently now. It made us more attuned to plot lines, and pay more attention to foreshadowing and character building.

It’s been seven whole years since LOST ended, and you’ve probably forgotten how great it was. Let me take you down memory lane:

Remember Jack crying in virtually every episode?

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Or Sawyer’s sarcastic quips?

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How about Kate’s inner turmoil?

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And who could forget Hurley and Charlie’s bromance?

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Remember how Sayid could snap a man’s neck with his hands tied behind his back?

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Or how blown your mind was when they found the hatch?

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How about when Sun traveled through space and time to get back to Jin?

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I bet you also forgot that Michael played alongside DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet.

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So blah blah blah you didn’t like the way LOST ended? Get over yourself already. It was (and still is) a great show.

Now that I’ve gotten that part out of the way, let’s talk about the LOST-themed bar in Barcelona, Bharma, which I have put on my bucket list this year.

First off, I didn’t do a lot of research, for fear of getting my hopes too high. Instead, I knew a LOST-themed bar existed and that I would be traveling to Barcelona, so put two and two together.

Bharma is located somewhat away from the touristy parts of the city (though we still took a meandering walk to find it so it wasn’t terribly out of the way). Straight off, it looks cool.

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And that’s mostly where the fun ended. The hours on Yelp showed that Bharma is open typically from 8:30am – 5pm, and then again from 11pm-3am. As we showed up at 12:30, you would think it was a safe bet. Instead, the place was empty and the waitress seemed annoyed with our entry. She also let us know that the kitchen was closed until 1:00.

Okkkk…we sat to have a drink and wait it out. When I asked for a menu, she said they didn’t have one. Riiiight. The guy behind the bar seemed equally unenthused with our presence. It is literally the only place in Barcelona where we have experienced crappy service.

I spent some time checking out the decor and memorabilia, which was fun but also not mind blowing.

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40 minutes later it was clear that the kitchen was not going to be opening for us and we decided to pay our check and peace out for a lunch elsewhere. Hey Bharma, we traveled 5,500 miles and you are going to roll your eyes at us? No thanks!

Bharma wasn’t a total bust because we still had an adventure and can say we went, but frankly I wouldn’t recommend it – even for someone who is super into LOST. Instead, just come over to my house and let’s marathon a season together; I’ll order some official Dharma logo’d snacks and show you some show memorabilia that I own.

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Caviar part deux

Earlier this year, I spent something like $50 for one single bite of fancy caviar in Vegas – a mega splurge that didn’t give me much of a result. Whereas trying an expensive wine a year ago did teach me a thing or two about tasting wine, tasting fancy caviar only taught me that I’m a sucker. I’ve continued wondering, What am I missing? 

ANYWAY, have you ever watched 24 Hours of Gluttony? I recently discovered these dudes and was intrigued/disgusted with their Portland adventure (I mean, seriously, how do they eat so much food?!).

While watching this episode, I made a few notes, and last night we visited Kachka. In true gluttony-form, we opted to start with their “Ruskie Zakuski Experience”:
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They weren’t kidding; they really did cover every inch of the table with plates of food, and wouldn’t you know it – one of the many bites was caviar:

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And guess what? I still don’t get it. Every single other menu item was absolutely delicious, and yet the caviar was the one thing where I was like, “Okkkkk…….” What exactly should I be noticing? It feels like salty, wet bubble tea pearls.

Regardless, the experience at Kachka was overwhelmingly good and I can’t wait to return. At my former school, the Russian families would host an enormous feast once a year on teacher appreciation week, and I’ve developed an insatiable hunger for Russian food since. Sadly, there really have been no lasting restaurants dedicated to Russian cuisine (last year I literally hosted my own Russian food day with a few friends).

Finally I have an answer!

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This wasn’t even half of the Ruskie Zakuski experience.

On top of that, I was totally re-inspired to enter the table decorating competition at next year’s state fair. Think rustic Russian picnic.

#6 – Visit a cat cafe. Check.

Did you know Portland opened a Cat Cafe just a couple weeks ago? It’s true. Purrington’s Cat Lounge is located on MLK Blvd & NE Fremont, and for $8 and hour, you can have a drink and play with some cats that are looking to be adopted.

So last night, three friends and I visited Purrington’s for the first (of probably many) times. IMG_3750

Here’s how it works: the cafe is separated into two rooms. The first is the “cafe” part, where you check in and can purchase your snacks. Then once you’ve received clearance, they let you go into the “lounge”, where there are cafe tables and the cats are milling around.

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The cat room

Groups of people are arranged in hourly shifts, so we had the 6-7 hour block on a Saturday night (and were totally surprised how many grown men were also there). There were a slew of rules (i.e. don’t pick up the cats, don’t be loud, don’t feed them, etc) and pretty much you just hang out.

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Wine and deviled eggs – what more could you ask for?

For us, it was pretty cool, but I must admit the cats weren’t as snuggly as we’d all hoped. Mostly, they did their own thing (and half of them were sleeping in hidden areas). Let’s be real – they’re cats.

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If you’re planning to visit, here are a few important notes:

1. Dress in layers – It may be cold outside, but they have the heat cranked to something like 92 degrees in there.

2. Don’t expect a full meal – They serve a few finger foods, but we ended up going out to dinner afterwards since 19 deviled eggs does not a meal make.

3. There’s no parking – And it’s not very obvious just driving by; park around the corner on the street and then you’ll find Purrington’s across the street from Subway.

4. Make a reservation online – They have a 20 person maximum so you can schedule your slot ahead of time.

5. Get there on time – Your hour doesn’t start when you get there – it starts when your reservation starts and it goes by fast.

6. Don’t bring the kids – They are banned under 10 (due to some incidents).

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A view from the outside.

#12 – Drink an Expensive Wine. Check.

All year people have been telling me where I could taste a fine wine, or suggesting a great wine for me to taste. However, I secretly had a plan in place for this particular goal. The first was that I would ONLY drink an expensive wine on a day where everything seemed just right in my life (translation: I would not drown my sorrows in fine wine). Another particular was that it might be in celebration of something. And finally, I didn’t want to just TASTE a fine wine. I wanted to drop some dollars on a bottle of wine.

You see, I have a broad palette for wine. I like it red; I like it white. I like it from a bottle; I like it from a box. Part of me has wondered if I could taste the difference between a $8.99 bottle of wine from Rite Aid, and a $100 bottle of wine ordered at a restaurant. 

And what constitutes an expensive wine? To some, $30 might be a lot, and to others $150 might seem paltry. I decided that $100 seemed like a nice round number. One crisp bill. I would have to work about three hours to pay for that bottle….

As it happened, today felt right. It’s a holiday, and I’m recovering from my wild weekend in Austin. My friend, Courtney, and I went on a  hike in Forest Park since the weather was nice, and decided to drop into Hall Street Grill (our regular spot where everyone knows our name). On Sundays and Mondays, Hall Street does 1/2 price bottles of wine over $50. Service is great and the food is pretty exceptional for Beaverton, Oregon.

We parked ourselves at a table in the bar, and randomly selected a $91 bottle of pinot noir from Willakenzie Estates. The bartender gave us a little song and dance about what made the wine a “good” wine, and we swirled and we smelled and we tasted. I’m not going to lie: I thought it tasted like every other red wine I’ve had before. I was like, “Huh, I really can’t tell the difference.”

That’s ok, though, becuase the wine itself was a symbol. In my head, I toasted a few things to myself:

I am financially comfortable enough to buy a hundred dollar bottle of wine (50% off, that is!).

I completed my Initial Administrator’s Licensing Program, which took two and a half grueling years.

I have worked tirelessly over the last 10 years and am finally feeling my work pay off.

I am healthy and happy.

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But while sharing our bottle of Willakenzie Estate’s Pinot Noir, we both wondered, Is this wine really different?! Thus I couldn’t help but follow up the bottle with a glass of the $5 house red.

OH MY GOD IT WAS NOT GOOD. It looked watery. It smelled like vinegar. It tasted like swill. I suddenly realized that the expensive bottle of wine was way better! How satisfying it was! Just after discussing how our Citizen’s Police Academy Class had changed our perspective on law enforcement, suddenly our wine perspective was also broadened.

It’s not like I’m suddenly going to be some giant wine snob. All I’m saying is that sometimes you just need to throw caution to the wind, and celebrate the simple things, with slightly extravagant things…

#16: Travel to a major city that I’ve never been to before. Check!

For the last five summers, I’ve headed to Lawrence, Kansas for a conference or workshop through Kansas University and last year I blogged about spending an extra night exploring Kansas City with a girl I met at my workshop. That got me thinking about how I could possibly extend my next Kansas trip for more midwestern fun, so this year I packed a hell of a lot of stuff into one week.

First off, last week my friend, Kerrie, and I made it into Lawrence where we met up with another friend, Angela, who literally road tripped from Portland to meet us. The plan was that the three of us would attend the 2013 International SIM Conference and then all go our separate ways at the end. We did a number of great things, including presenting our podcast, eating rabbit, and seeing fireflies for the first time.

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You can’t see the fireflies, but just know that it was happening.

By the time Friday rolled around, I was exhausted, but my friend Kelly flew in from Vegas so we could start a whole new adventure.  Kelly is also in education who isn’t satisfied with her job and is working on becoming an administrator. We spent the first four hours talking nonstop. Saturday morning, we woke up early, got our workouts in, tasted some fancy oil and vinegars, and then headed to Omaha – a city neither of us had ever traveled to.

I don’t know much about Nebraska, other than I heard there is a lot of corn, but frankly our three hour drive from Lawrence to Omaha felt exactly the same as going down I-5 in Oregon. It looked exactly the same. Image

Once in Omaha, we realized it was much smaller than we had anticipated. The valet at the hotel asked us what we were in town for, and we looked at each and replied, “For fun? We’ve never been here before.” The valet looked at us like we were nuts, and then every single other person we talked to in Omaha gave us the exact same expression.

On our first day, we did a little sight seeing (which lasted about 24 minutes) and even drove over the bridge to Iowa (just to say we did it).

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Back across the bridge in Omaha, the downtown area was small, but definitely full of life. People were totally out shopping and eating and the whole place was cool old brick buildings. Frankly, it looked a lot like the Pearl District in Portland, but with a ton of horse drawn carriages (because walking four blocks is too hard?).

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I was a little too excited about the old time candy shops (many of you know I have a thing for old people candy), so I managed to snag myself and Egg Cream while also checking out a couple “antique” places that really just had tons of crazy crap all over.

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Saturday had a serious night life and people just couldn’t stop talking to us. In an effort to avoid hoards of drunken tools, we went back to our hotel bar and got in some good people watching. If you’re ever in Omaha, I would totally recommend our hotel (The Magnolia) because not only did it have a huge free breakfast, they did free milk & cookies at night, and free wine during happy hour (all of which we took advantage of).

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Lucky for us, we met an extremely friendly police officer, Bob, who seemed to be on every corner for our entire trip. Not only did Bob give us helpful Omaha tips all weekend, he introduced us to everyone in town and joined us for a drink.

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On Sunday, we also at a restaurant everyone raved about called Plank. Yes, a seafood restaurant in Nebraska. We were also wary. But the place looked pretty hip and their oyster menu looked hella snobby (all this stuff about salinity & nutty flavors) so for the first time in my life, I tried oysters.

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OMG! DELICIOUS!

Later on, we spent a wealth of our time messing with the jukebox at a dive bar called JD Tucker’s. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), we were shooing drunk guys away from us left and right, but managed to find some upstanding young boys who offered to show us the town, while promising not to be pervy about it. We ended up at a drag show (apparently the gay bar is the most popular bar in town). Lots of fun to be had. Ooooooh to be young again.

The VIP VISA Debit Club

This morning, we tooled around just a little more (I was amused by a local music shop called Drastic Plastic) and headed off to Kansas City. We ate Jack Stack BBQ in our hotel beds while watching trashy tv. It was pretty magical.

#18: Travel to a Major City I’ve Never Been To Before. Check!

A little background: A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be sent to Lawrence, Kansas by the school district for an Instructional Coaching Institute and I was instantly hooked (as many of you know). Unfortunately, the school district has not paid for any of my future trips, but they are so worthwhile that I have returned every summer, so tonight I am back from another coaching workshop (by Jim Knight). I got to spend a lot of time with friends, old and new, eating some seriously great food and hearing some pretty interesting stories (Frank – your secret is safe with us).

For those who don’t know anything about Lawrence, you have to fly into Kansas City, Missouri and then drive about an hour. I’ve always wanted to stay an extra night or two in KC, but because I typically travel alone (or am paying for everything out of my own pocket), it just didn’t seem practical. This last week, I was planning on having my normal four days in Lawrence and heading home – but on the first day I met my new friend, Helen, who is from a city called Iqualit, located in a very northernmost part of Canada called Nunavut (is that right, Helen?).

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Leaving Lawrence in style.

Anyway, so Helen said that she had never been to Lawrence OR Kansas City so she had booked a hotel for two extra nights in KC…and then suggested I change my flight and crash with her for a night. While many of you know that I do dabble in finding new friends via Craigslist, you also probably know that sleeping in a hotel room in a strange city with someone I just met isn’t my bag. In fact, I would be lecturing others for doing just that – but Helen appeared totally harmless (she’s Canadian!) and we were already having a great time. Plus, she still talked to me after learning that I was really into the history of cannibalism (that’s when red flags should have been going off for her). So yesterday morning, I changed my flight, finished out our workshop and then we hopped in a town car that took us to Kansas City.

Checking in!

We had a room at a boutique hotel called Q Hotel in an area called Westport. I think it was kind of new the the neighborhood, and had a sort of hip retro vibe. We immediately explored an area called Westport Plaza which was a big outdoor mall that was crawling with locals. We had a late dinner at a place just a few blocks from our hotel called Bluestem. It totally reminded me of Mint 820 for those of you around here, except with a regional flavor. The pulled pork and a drink called Boulevard Sunset blew my mind (and my waistline).

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The pulled pork and beer was a hit…the fried corn not so much.

Sidenote: From the moment I got into Lawrence, I was hounding the locals as to where I could sing karaoke – and no one had an answer. It was really disappointing. So while Helen and I were finishing dinner, I randomly googled “Karaoke Kansas City” and Helen said my eyes “light up” when I saw on the map that we were LITERALLY across the street from a karaoke joint.

ImageHelen claims to not sing karaoke (although I can tell it’s in her blood!) but she still was enthusiastic about checking it out. While our restaurant was chic and obviously a local hot spot, karaoke was a different kind of hotspot – located in the WestPort Flea Market Bar and Grill (and yes, it looked like a flea market). At first there weren’t a whole lot of people, but I threw in a Lady Gaga song and pretty soon there was a decent crowd of hicks, college girls, recovering meth heads, and us. They were a great bunch and we hung around for awhile.

Fake IDs, sidewalk vomit, and mini glitter dresses.

Bro-ing and Ho-ing in Westport

When we headed up the road to a bunch of other bars, it was very clear that Westport is college student central. The sidewalks and bar patios were PACKED, people were stumbling by and getting their fourth meal on at a bunch of food carts. We hung out on the patio of a bar for a little while, but the smell of sewage (which honestly seem to permeate the whole city) and the fact that we looked like cougars made it seem like a night.

KC likes metal.

In the morning, we ate at the hotel’s “Omelet Bar” and attempted to wander in a new direction. Granted, it was late Sunday morning so nothing was really open, but frankly we were surprised with how run-down and seemingly abandoned a lot of the city was. There were some interesting buildings and shops, but with pawn shops or title loan shops or just empty retail spaces in between…it was not a booming, lively place I thought it would be but we checked out as much as we could before my plane left. Many people had said to check out the Power and Light District but then others gave mixed feedback about it. On my ride to the airport, the driver took me through and it looked like a nicer area that was worth exploring, but at the same time it still looked on the verge of sad because I could see old, abandoned buildings in the distance.

All in all, the best part was meeting a someone new and just hanging out. Helen was a great travel companion (and very resourceful), and I know that she’ll be belting out some Celine Dione next time we are at a karaoke bar.Image

привет Russia! My cookbook has arrived!

Every year on Teacher Appreciation Week, the families of our students get together to cook us these HUGE meals for lunch. Since our school is so awesomely diverse, every day is different. One day Asian, one day Mexican, etc. My absolute favorite is the Russian  luncheon. I don’t know that I have ever really had Russian food but from what I have experienced at school, it is pretty much the best damned food I’ve ever had.

For those of us in Portland, you either have to know someone Russian or be familiar with how to cook Russian food in order to eat any; we don’t have a single Russian restaurant. And considering how much we take pride in our “foodie” culture, you’d think we’d have at least ONE place, but alas, no. So after gorging myself to excess last month, I decided that I want to learn how to cook some Russian dishes myself (especially since I can say I know how some should look/taste).

So why is Russian cuisine so amazing to me? First off, the presentation of everything is amazing. There are so many colors and textures, from different kinds of breads to salads to tiny little cakes and cookies of all shapes. I have a natural love of potatoes and beets (which I think many associate with Russian food) but I remember a lot of light dishes with shrimp, salmon, salad greens, and vinaigrettes.

Anyway, so my Russian cookbook FINALLY arrived in the mail this week, so I’m going to attempt to make a few things…perhaps a “Taste Lindsay’s Russian Food” party should occur sometime this summer…?