dog mountain sunset hike.

*With Oregon now having a stay-at-home order, what better time than to be a little nostalgic for one of the more rewarding hikes we’ve done.

Dog Mountain trail. 7 miles. 2824 feet elevation gain. Kicked our butts.

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In spring of 2017, Michael and I were visiting Portland because he was visiting his new workplace and I was interviewing at OHSU. We talked to a stranger about local recommendations and they suggested this hike.

We didn’t read about.
We didn’t look it up.
We just… went and did it.

It ended up being one of the hardest hikes we’ve both ever been on. The elevation gain was so difficult. I’m almost thankful we didn’t know what to expect, because we wouln’t have done it otherwise. We even got cheers once we got to the top by the people that passed us because we told them we were struggling haha 😅.

In May last summer, we decided to do it again to see the sunset at the top and to hike down at night. We can definitely report that the hike is still very difficult! However, the sunset made it so. worth. it. It was like we were seeing a live painting because the color changes were unreal. And we finally saw all of the wildflowers!! 💛

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When we made it to the first clearing and saw this view!
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Michael waiting for me.
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It’s impossible to not stop a million times and take in this view… or to take a breather. 😅

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The last two at the top!! The two guys we met took this picture before they hiked back down. We got to enjoy this place with just us… and some double stuffed Oreos.

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Those bird sounds and wildflowers. 😍

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We can officially say that we were so freaking exhausted after this hike.

As much as I would love and wish to go outdoors on my days off, it’s not a time to be selfish. What better time than to work on house projects and do some spring cleaning!

Take care, everyone. 💛

Also, Feel

under the stars.

On nights like this when the air is so clear, you end up saying things you ordinarily wouldn’t. Without even noticing what you’re doing, you open up your heart and just start talking to the person next to you—you talk as if you have no audience but the glittering stars, far overhead.
Banana Yoshimoto

With what’s going on these days, Michael and I are definitely distancing ourselves from everyone outside of work. He’s works for the government to monitor infectious disease, bioterrorism agents, and when needed, even COVID-19. I am treating immunocompromised cancer patients with radiation at a few different hospitals. Neither of us want to risk the chance of not doing what we love, and I definitely do not want to put my patients in any more risk than they already are.

With everything going on, I’ve been reflecting a lot about us and our lives and some of the things I really really appreciate.

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  1. You all. We just reached over 100 followers on this blog, and I feel so grateful. Every single one of you who have chosen to click that follow button to join us in our adventures through our love and our life in the Pacific Northwest means a lot. Thank you for sticking along with us and sharing your stories as well.
  2. Photography. All through my teenage years, I was always painting. I loved art so much, but it became really hard to keep it up when college started. Just a couple of years ago, I picked up the camera to just capture a few moments. Since then, my love for outdoor and food photography has grown into a creative passion that I truly can’t imagine life without anymore. After working so much since graduating, I finally bought us a brand new camera and upgraded our old one this week. Goodbye T3i, helloooo EOS-R!
  3. Us goofing around. Michael and I are almost always messing around, wrestling with each other, having tickle fights, or even… grabbing each other’s butts. My personal favorite… his kiss attacks when I’m in a funky mood because it always somehow gets me out of it. 💙So grateful for him for always finding a way to make me smile, even when it’s really hard to.
  4.  Family. My parent’s always reaching out with concern for my health and safety and… sending me all the congress updates on how I can get student loan debt relief during this time hahah. They’re the best. Also- big s/o to my in-laws and my (basically) aunts for sewing masks for me and my coworkers in case we run out. Ya’ll are incredible!
  5. The selfless frontline or essential workers out there who are sacrificing their health and safety right now in order to help others, and I do not mean just in the hospital. For one small example, I know a few teachers who are using this time to make sure their students are getting fed each day and given resources for education beyond the school’s means. There are soooo many stories like this. I can’t say enough words to say how absolutely incredible and heroic they are. Sending so much healing love to people like this every single day.

I know it’s tough these days. When you can, take a few moments to just reflect on the good things, even if it’s small. If what you are thinking about brings a smile to your face or makes your heart happy, do that thing a little more every day. 💙

portland cherry blossoms.

Michael & I could sit on a park bench and stare up at these beautiful trees and flowers for hours.

The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years. In their country, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short. Homaro Cantu

These days, the sun is staying up a little more in the evenings, the flowers are beginning to bloom, and there’s less rain in the forecast. Just those little things make us pretty darn happy as the season is changing. The end of winter is sort of near and we are ready for it.

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When cherry blossoms bloom here, you can find me and my nifty fifty running around.

naturally painted hills, or.

The painted hills are truly a natural wonder. All of the layers of yellow, gold, reds, and blacks reveal millions of years of history. It’s incredible. Eastern Oregon is the other side of the state that gets a little bit overlooked sometimes. Yes, it’s a lot less green and a lot more desert-y, but it is still breathtaking in its own way.

Life has been pretty darn crazy since the year started! How is it already March!? Even though it’s been busy, it’s been an amazing start so far. When things get like this, it’s hard not to get nostalgic for some past trips we’ve had. Here’s a few photos from when we visited this place with our friends, Seanne and Scott Holmes. 💛

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Exploring life together is the best thing ever.
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Look at that cutie recording some videos with his drone.
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Seanne & I. 💜
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Seanne made these beanies and they’re so amazinggg.
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The Holmes & The Bitzers!

We are hoping to plan a few more camping / road trips with these two! These are the friends that have become a part of our family here and I’m so thankful to have them in our lives.

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“Painted Hills is named after the colorful layers of its hills corresponding to various geological eras, formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain.”

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Hahahah some candids because Michael has the remote and always takes shots when no one is ready. Gosh, we love these people!

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We are coming up on our one year wedding anniversary next month. I still can’t believe how fast time is flying! There is so much planned for this coming year, and we are definitely looking forward to all of the opportunities and adventures to come.

You can pack for every occasion, but a good friend will always be the best thing you could bring.

We couldn’t agree more. 💙

glass gardens by chihuly.

As much as we love disconnecting from everyday life to find ourselves adventuring in the outdoors, we also really enjoy simple dates within the city.

Through all of high school and early college, I was either painting or playing the piano. I love the arts and any chance we get to visit a museum, we gotta do it! In Seattle, there’s the Chihuly glass and garden exhibit that is… mind-blowing. All of the unique blown glass pieces are illuminated to show off the most vibrant colors. Your jaw will drop from how incredibly beautiful it is.

Take a peek below!

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This little room with the ceiling of glass pieces and the light coming through them was my favorite!!! There are benches in here so you can sit back and just get lost in the view.

Also, the Native American blanket wall (first photo) you get to see when you enter the exhibit is incredible.

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They almost look like enormous clam shells.
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He got close, but he didn’t touch!!

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Michael takes so many candid photos hahah
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Hello, space needle!

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Also, this is just us enjoying ourselves on a rooftop after our date. 💙

Whether the glass is half empty or half full, you have the power to fill it up. Matshona Dhliwayo

mesmerized by mountains.

Sometimes words aren’t enough.

Sometimes it’s just the two of us in a mutual awestruck silence taking in how extraordinary Mount Hood really is.

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I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’ Sylvia Plath

 

Tamanawas Falls, Mount Hood

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Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. Rachel Carson

chance encounters.

How do you meet new people, and by chance, they will end up becoming meaningful relationships for the rest of your life? Especially when you aren’t relying on meeting others through school or work?

Well… we got so incredibly lucky with the people we have met here in Portland so far. Every time we think about the strangers that became more than that, it always blows our mind. We moved here without knowing a single soul in Oregon and we just feel grateful.

Michael and I met by a chance encounter when I stood behind him at a coffee shop. From that moment on, we’ve embraced keeping an open mind when it comes to meeting people.

Here are a few of our favorite stories that now have a special place in our hearts. 💙

 

Our Landlord

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Homemade by our landlords.

In 2017, we were visiting Portland for the first time together. Michael already had a job lined up, so he was doing a site visit. I was interviewing to go back to school. We were looking all over downtown for a studio apartment and geez, it was expensive. We decided to stop looking one night and go to a dessert bar. There was such a huge wait, so we initially decided to get a dessert to-go. As we were being handed our to-go box, two seats opened up at the small bar. I immediately asked if we could snag those two bar seats! The restaurant got our dessert plated so we could enjoy it there.

As I was laughing and talking with Michael, my shoulder bumped the older man beside me. I turned to apologize and the man ended up laughing at me and asked what dessert we were having! We ended up talking to this couple for the next hour or so. We found out that they were both in the healthcare field and had a connection to the school I was applying for. They asked about our situation and story. It was so easy talking to them. At one point, I noticed them kind of give each other a silent look, the kind of look that showed they were communicating, but we had no idea what it was…

Turns out, the couple had two homes and they were wanting to rent out one of them, but they did not want to put it on the public market! They said they could sense that we were genuine people, so they offered us to come over right after my interview to see their place!!! We were FREAKING OUT. Of course we said yes.

We brought over two bottles of wine. And when we arrived, they had so many little appetizers. After chatting for awhile, we enjoyed homemade baked salmon, sautéed greens beans, and a side salad. It was soooo delicious and thoughtful of them. We got lost in so many conversations over 4-5 hours of being there.

A few days later, they negotiated a deal with us and umm.. it was a no brainer.

These wonderful humans have become a second family to us. Without their generosity and guidance, we wouldn’t be where we needed to be. We are forever grateful for this family for what they have given us.

 

Our Friends

This one is a strange one, too. We met all of these folks through Instagram via our mutual love for hiking, adventuring, and photography. I won’t make this too long, so here’s a few photos of our adventures together. 😊

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Spent a weekend camping at Mount Hood.
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Waterfall chasin’.
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These ladies are so wonderful.
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Couple’s trip to the painted hills!
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A bunch of us celebrating Christmas. Truly a family away from home.

 

My Mom’s Childhood Friend

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My mom is on the right.

This is my mom’s childhood friend from the 70s-80s.

Let this sink in… they hadn’t seen each other in over forty years. By the miracle of social media, my uncle found her profile and forwarded it to my mom a few months ago. My mom discovered that her friend immigrated from Vietnam to Portland!!! I was living so close to her this whole time. Our family flew her out to Dallas for our wedding which was so amazing. Michael and I also ended up spending an afternoon with her a few weeks ago, and she showed us this picture of her and my mom.

Unbelievable, huh?

That is life, isn’t it? Fate. Luck. Chance.

A long series of what-if’s that lead from one moment to the next, time never pausing for you to catch your breath, to make sense of the cards that have been handed to you. And all you can do is play your cards and hope for the best, because in the end, it all comes back to those three basics.

Fate. Luck. Chance.
Kelseyleigh Reber

lunar new year.

Happy Tết!

Growing up, my mom was always someone who celebrated certain holidays with so much enthusiasm and love, especially around Vietnamese new year! She would spruce up the home with bright red and gold decorations and there would always be so much  delicious food.

I don’t do nearly as much celebrating as my family would do, but I definitely had to make some of my favorite dishes for us. My mom is incredibly (and hilariously) superstitious. Without fail, my mom always messages me to eat my black eyed peas for the new year. Well, I’ve never missed a year without eating them, so I’m not going to start now!

Black-eyed peas swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity. The mustard greens symbolize money. The pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion. The eggs symbolize fertility and a big healthy family.

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Thịt kho trứng | Vietnamese braised short ribs with eggs.

This traditional Vietnamese dish is simply cozy and comforting.

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With a side of rice and some pickled mustard greens.
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Chè đậu trắng | Sweet rice pudding with black-eyed peas and a coconut sauce.

 

Behind the Scenes

This is a little side project I’ve been working on with Michael. We’ve both always loved taking photos of our adventures, but lately I’ve been more interested in shooting … food! I love to cook, so I figured why not combine the two things?

We got some walnut wood and Michael cut them up for me in two feet long pieces. I sanded them down. We stained them. He created a base. And I found some fabric to create a few backdrops! It was so much fun, and I am so excited to see what happens!

 

May the new year bring in your life joys that never fade, hopes that never die, and strength that never weakens.

exploring outside portland.

Psst! We are going to let you in on a little secret of ours…

 

When we have friends or family visit us from out of town, we have probably taken almost all of them (if the weather behaved) to these easy-to-visit-but-absolutely-stunning sights along the Columbia River Gorge. I mean.. how could we not?! The drive is less than an hour away from Portland. Even after visiting several times, we still aren’t tired of these views.

Michael and I both grew up in Texas, so we used to joke around about how when we would see a small stream on a hike back then, we would be so excited. Nowadays, we are constantly blown away by the mountains, the waterfalls, the rivers, the trees and everything else we get to see in the pacific northwest.

Here’s our little tour. 😊

 

Latourell Falls

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We loveeeee how moody the pnw can be. Look at all of the beautiful fog hugging the trees.
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This waterfall is gorgeous with the columnar basalt rock formations behind. It is amazing.
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It’s a big plus when you get to stand behind the falls!
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Latourell from afar.

 

Columbia River Gorge

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The drive along the gorge that separates Washington state and Oregon is breathtaking.

 

Bridal Veil Falls

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Michael climbed that big ol’ rock to get a close up view of these falls!

 

Multnomah Falls

If you visit Portland and don’t visit these falls, did you even come visit?!

Yes – it gets crowded. Probably the busiest tourist spot in Oregon, but worth a visit. She’s just so picturesque.

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Rowena Crest Viewpoint

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Driving further east along the gorge, you can stop aside to see this winding road!

 

Hood River, Oregon

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You have to stop in Hood River, Oregon for mountain views, local beer or wine, and delicious food. It’s a must! Also… if you see salmon on the menu, order it. 

 

I’ve posted this quote before, but it’s a personal favorite. 💙

Here in the corner attic of America, two hours’ drive from a rain forest, a desert, a foreign country, an empty island, a hidden fjord, a raging river, a glacier, and a volcano is a place where the inhabitants sense they can do no better, nor do they want to. Timothy Egan

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