Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Follow Your Donut

I realized that this past Saturday marked the 1 year anniversary of my moving back to my hometown of Aberdeen, Washington... though technically, when I arrived, I didn't necessarily plan on staying for long.

My college friend and bestie, Lisa, and I embarked on an adventure last year beginning in September. For six weeks, we cruised around the country, visiting 33 states, hearing a lot of "you've gotta try the donuts here, they're the best" and diving deep into the old CD collection for such hit makers as NSYNC and the Coyote Ugly soundtrack for entertainment while driving through some dark and empty parts of the country. I figure, today I will present you with some previously un-published iPhone photos from this trip.

On Day 1, we loaded up and headed out. Driving away from our homeland of the Pacific Ocean - not to be seen for months to come.

Montana - This about sums it up. (JK JK MT, I heart you.)

Colorful Colorado! How lucky were we to get to stay a few days up in the mountains near Aspen! I was awestruck by the rocky cliffs and rushing rivers, but I spent most of my time there with my eyes peeled for b-list celebrities and wildly ravenous bears looking for a soggy northwesterner to eat.

I got my first taste of mid-west chocolate milk, straight from the farm. And it only took us an hour of driving up and down the SAME ROAD in Missouri to find the place. Then an hour of us standing awkwardly in their shop area while they gave samples out to a parade of girl scouts - meanwhile kind of ignoring us onlookers/creepers. We eventually got what we came for.

In Chicago, I came as close as I'll likely ever be to a marathon. We admired the runners as they crossed the finish line while lounging on the grass drinking beer.

IHOP in... Cleveland... maybe? Pro tip: Don't eat at IHOP even if you are hung over and McDonald's stopped serving breakfast already.

Niagara Falls! This is a really creepy place. Another Pro Tip: bring your passport and cross the bridge into Canada. Our brains were not fully functioning on this day and we didn't even think about doing this. Let me break it down for you. Niagara Falls, Canada = Las Vegas while Niagara Falls, US = Reno... or more like a boarded up Casino in the mid-west.

Vermont! We ate cheese! We sampled maple syrup! We screamed with delight every time we saw an old person walking down the little streets or another old building or a white picket fence or a cow or a colorful tree or...

Though it wasn't on our original tour plan, we drove over to Portland, Maine just so I could say that I went from Portland to Portland. Get the lobstah roll. You'll love it.

Though we were truly blessed with beautiful warm and sunny weather for 99% of our trip, our time spent in New York City was very very very wet. Also, I wore sandals the entire time. Have you seen how dirty a New York City puddle is? Thankfully our friend Steve took us on his "Free Tour of NYC" which included an elevator ride in a Times Square hotel. Surely, our fellow passengers thought we were clinically insane. Had they never seen three soaking wet 20-somethings giggling while facing backwards in a glass elevator so they can watch as the floor rushes to meet them?

I died and went to heaven in Philly. Playing jenga in an indoor/outdoor German style beer garden, just after our visit to Barcade, a bar full of video games and nerds (yay) and just before our visit to the 700 Club - basically an old upstairs apartment turned super nerdy dance club.

Me and Lincoln.

The car started to become unrecognizable as such... started to look more like a giant rolling suitcase.

I may or may not have placed stickers of my face all over New Orleans/this country. I'm watching you AMERICA!

When in Austin, do as the Austiners do... eat Queso and see a show at Stubb's.

Hollywood. Your bright lights drew me in, but your $9 cans of Rainier left a bad taste in my mouth.

Lucky to be in San Francisco! Even luckier there was only one small earthquake while we were there and I was the only one who didn't feel it - yet I also seemed to be the only one who maintained a high level of anxiety about this for our entire three days there.

After an afternoon of wine tasting and "walking it off" in Napa, we were back in the PNW! Got out of the car at the California/Oregon border to touch some snow. It was very dark and very cold and the mountains there are insanely huge and menacing looking at night.

After a day in Oregon, we trecked it back in the dark to my old hometown of Aberdeen. Filled with my new knowledge of "America: The Backroads" and more time spent in a car than I ever cared to experience again, I gladly unpacked my bags. Somewhere along the road, I realized that all of these places are unique yet the same. East coasters don't know what an Americano or a pumpkin patch is. West coast people don't know how to pay tolls. Midwesterners love frozen custard. But I'm here to say that we are all united by... donuts. Everyone thinks their town has the best donut (or whatever you happen to call those fried pieces of dough covered in sugar).

With this realization, I decided to stay in my hometown, because obviously our donuts are the best.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who's TED?

I was lucky enough to attend the TEDx Rainier conference in Seattle this past weekend. It was jam packed with 30 talks in a single day! As someone who loves exploring new ideas, I was pretty much enthralled the entire time. If you don't know of TED, please go and watch this this and this right now.

Also, as someone who apparently has terrible short term memory, I forgot a lot of what I heard...but the good news is that it is all online! As much as I'd like to dive deep into my thoughts on these talks, it's a little bit late and I'm still recovering from a weekend of sleeping on an air mattress. Below, I've posted each video along with the times for some of my favorite speakers. I hope you'll watch and enjoy as much as I did!

John Sharife (15:00) : Everything worth climbing is a mountain
Phillip Thurtle (35:59) : Superheros
Danny Dover (01:37:07) : Why are you here? Conquering a bucket list.
Cynthia Lair (01:54:11) : Cooking as meditation and love

Best: The New Old Time Chataqua (00:00:01) : The importance of community
Howard Frumkin (01:22:08) : Urban Planning and Habitats where humans can thrive
Gabriel Teodros (02:13:21) : Radical Science Fiction to envision a better world

Jonah Sachs (01:17:16) : How storytelling shapes our world
Roger Ressmeyer (01:30:24) : Fear and Hope

Friday, November 9, 2012

Let's Get Moving

I just went to an Aberdeen Planning Commission meeting to discuss the planning of our downtown area... needless to say, I have some ideas. 

These meetings are a great opportunity to hear about some of the dreams of the people of the community, but here's the thing: I want to see some change... like, now. I'm impatient. I'm not willing to wait 20+ years. Yep, Aberdeen. This is me calling you out. Please note that I'm not actually all that interested in turning Aberdeen into the next Port Townsend. I don't need a fancy street car and I while an 11 mile boardwalk on the waterfront would be lovely, there's a lot of other work that I would like to see done first. More importantly, these things are cheap.

1. New branding and wayfinding signage

Ok, maybe rebranding the town isn't the cheapest thing... but with all of the creative people in this area, you'd think we the city could work something out. I believe it should tie in our history, be colorful (also, much like our history) and be clear and consistent. I love this signage below because it is so simple and yet also attractive. Plus, it's just painted on a cement wall.... doesn't get much cheaper than that. And we've got plenty of walls to paint on.

PS - There must be signs to "Vampires," "Kurt Cobain," "Sasquatch," etc.

2. Graffiti Alley

One of my favorite things about Aberdeen is the alley ways. Aberdeen is a gritty, industrial and sketchy town and I think the alley really exemplifies that (I really do mean this in a good way). I was also recently told that there is one particular alley where it is legal to do graffiti... LEGAL! So, what? You think alleys are scary? Why don't we invest in some lighting and turn it into a cobblestone walk way with back entrances to restaurants and stores and add some nice lighting to brighten it up and keep everyone feeling safe? Honestly, a free graffiti alley way might be one of the most unique things in this town. I've never heard of this anywhere else.

3. Speaking of Lighting

Can we just do something creative like this? It is so clever and also so fitting considering the amount of rain we get here. This would be a lovely way to light up an alley way or community gathering space/street.

4. Make our existing parks and community spaces more user friendly

There is exactly one true park in downtown Aberdeen, and is in a pretty terrible location. Situated right in between two, one way streets (also known as the highway). There is little parking, it's difficult to get to (crossing a highway without a stop light?) and it's loud. Nobody wants to hang out there... you might as well be in a fish bowl. I think it would be nice if sides of the park running along the highway were creatively closed off. Parks aren't meant to just be something to look at, they should be places to relax. Why not plant some trees or build an interesting structure (like the one below in downtown Portland) to block the sound? This also seems like a great opportunity to do some story telling about the area's rich history.

5. Parklets... I'm obsessed!

How did I not know about these already? I want one in front of my store. This seems like such a unique way of adding character and a sense of welcoming to any downtown street! There should be at least one on every block as far as I'm concerned. A statistic they showed tonight is that a 77% increase in downtown seating increased sales by 14%! Since I was previously told that adding a bench outside of my store would only cause more trouble, with vagrants sitting there, I'm pretty glad to have gained this knowledge.

6. Don't ignore us bikers

I'm becoming more and more convinced that bicycles will save the world (also... gamers... but that's another story). I just read today that biking actually increases consumer spending. And I'm sure we all can agree that getting exercise makes us healthier and happier. Also, bikers are just cooler. Also, I think they tend to know more about what's going on in town than the average person since they see the world a bit clearer (ie. not from inside of cage of a car). Listen to them! So, can we get some G.D. bike lanes in this town? And maybe even a bike rack or two. There are NO BIKE RACKS HERE!

Moral of the story... these things need to happen and fast. But I think that's all I've got for tonight... next time I'll fill you in on why I think "Come As You Are" should be our town motto.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Less is More

I recently signed up for Alex Hillman's email list-serve. He's a guy I find super-inspiring and, if you've read anything I've written very carefully, you might have noticed that I mention him frequently. He's somewhat of a community building guru and his perspective is unique. What I find exceptional about him is that he comes across as a hard working guy and a "go-getter" yet he understands that sometimes you have to take what is given to you.

His email this morning included a parable about two brothers working on a farm. One works really hard to help the seeds grow, giving them everything they need... yet he tends to overdue it because he is impatient and believes that if some is good then more must be better. The other brother cares more for the soil and just tosses the seeds, letting them land wherever they want. They both see some growth, but the latter gets a much more lush, albeit more wild and random looking, crop.

I've become so involved in many different forms of community building in the last year and beyond and I can definitely see the tendencies of the first brother coming out of me sometimes. When sales are down and growth is slow, I probably tend to overdue it: Facebook updates, more advertising, more promotions. More, more, more!

I find many conversations I've observed lately, too, reacting to things this way. Let's plan more events! Expand it to a wider audience! Get more businesses here! Surely that will change the way things are.

Well, based on this parable, I'm guessing you know what I'm going to say. It's probably not going to work. I think the average consumer can start to feel strangled by all the advertising and drowned in the flurry of events and promotions. Also, the thing about community is that it's stronger when we all work together. At some point, people have to prioritize how they spend their time and if we give them too much to do, they will start to have negative reactions or will be forced to make a choice and all of us community builders will end up with just a percentage of our potential attendees.

What if we spent more time tilling the soil before we planted more seeds? What the heck does that even mean? 

What I'm taking away from this: Listen and Compromise. You can't force things to go your way. There are always environmental factors that are out of your control. Spend more time creating high quality and well-thought out products instead spending more time just creating more. Give people the opportunity to breathe and form a community in their own time... organically.

I put that photo above because it is an example of how I understand living as the second brother. I am incredibly picky about the art and the things I choose to have in my home. When I have an empty wall, I usually spend a lot of time imagining what I'd like to see there and eventually I get a pretty clear idea. I almost never listen to anyone else's opinion. Then, I spend FOREVER looking for exactly what I want. I have patience and I don't lose sight of the goal, because I want to love what hangs there... especially since I have to look at it every day. The coolest part is that I always find what I'm looking for, eventually, and all of those things I hunted for over time are things I really love and they have real sticking power. They live beyond any trends or changes in taste. 

I'm hoping to build a community like this. One that can outlive any economic trends or "shop local" campaign.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Tiny Trailer

Look what I just bought... a "new" vintage trailer! I've been on the lookout for one of these for at least 4 years now and when a local facebook friend/customer of mine posted that this was for sale, I jumped at the deal. 

The previous owners did a great job of refurbishing the trailer and it was super cute inside. I'm planning to do some paint and fabric updates to create a more modern look. 

The stove is orange. I'm obsessed with it.

I'm planning to keep you all up to date on the work I'm doing. Just started painting a bit today!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blaming the Economy

Does anyone else think it strange that people always seem to blame the economy when a business closes it's doors?

A restaurant in my small town closed this weekend. I'm not sure of the exact date it was established, I believe it has been around my whole life (so... est. circa 1984). From my early memories, I knew this place was the fancy place in town for no other reason than that I never went there. My mom went there a few times with her friends, but I was not invited and until very recently I had still never even seen the inside.

I became intrigued a few months ago when I started to hear rumblings about the place and how it looked like a library inside and was essentially out of fashion, yet almost kitschy, and had a happy hour menu.

Please understand that there are very few happy hours in this town. I was psyched.

I invited a group of friends, eight of us in total, to get happy hour on a Friday afternoon. We sat in these high-backed loveseats drinking cocktails straight out of the 80's (lots of rum), eating delicious fried zuchinni and potato skins/boats/whateveryoucallthosethings, and observing the round back brass and leather chairs, bookshelves and poker memorabilia. We sat there for three hours and ate nearly everything on their menu and had a great time checking out the crowd. A table of lawyers sat next to us and some other groups came in for drinks and appetizers, along with all of the patrons sitting in the dark wood booths across from the bar.

This place was kind of great. Not only that, but it was busy while we were there.

Why did it close?

Well, according to the local newspaper's story, the businesses profits had been declining over the years and had taken a particular dip in recent years. However, they were in the black at this time and figured they should end on a high note.

The newspaper's headline disturbed me. With a sense of doomsday, it declared this business another victim of our plummeting economy (in some other words similar to that).

Here's my theory. This restaurant was once thought of as the only fine-dining establishment in town, maybe in the entire county. It was on-trend in the 80's and 90's and had a great clientele. Since then trends have changed and, as far as I can tell, their branding and marketing efforts did not.

Now, to all of you reading this, when was the last time you went to any restaurant that called itself a "fine dining" restaurant. This is a working class post-industrial miller lite drinking community. Nobody is getting dressed up for a big night out. The local idea of a special night out involves driving to Olympia to eat at the Olive Garden.

Could this restaurant had survived if they became known as a local establishment with history and a great price on steak and beer? Maybe. Or if they revamped their happy hour menu and cocktail list to suit a younger crowd? Probably.

Yet one more issue that I believe killed this business. They have zero web presence. No real Facebook page. No website.

I'm a total product of my generation. When I'm going out to eat, I use my Yelp app on my phone to see what's around me. Even in this small town where I grew up. I look at their reviews first. Second, I look at the pictures of the place. I like to know what I'm walking into. Third, I like to review the menu, even if it isn't priced, I just like to see what my options are before I commit.

Remember how I had never been there until a few months ago? I literally had no idea what it looked like inside. NO IDEA. It could have been covered in gold and the dress code required sequins for all I knew. People always said it was a fancy place, and that turned me off. Why would I go somewhere fancy when I could go to the local pub for a burger and a beer in a relaxed atmosphere? A typical evening with any of my friends looks something like this: We get hungry. We say "well where should we eat"... we think about it for about 10 minutes and can literally only think of 2 places (neither of which are this particular restuarant). We go to the same place every time.

So, I'm here to claim that this restaurant closed not because of the economy, but because of a lack of understanding of their market and failed/zero efforts to re-brand.

I hope someone comes in and picks up the pieces to start something new. And I hope that our local newspapers and community members will not continue to blame the "economy" for all of their business problems. There's so much room for greatness in this economy if people are willing to put in some effort and understand the need to change.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dry The River at The Tractor Tavern

I went up to Seattle to see a show on Wednesday. It's times like these that I have sudden realizations that I'm starting to get a little older. Driving two hours for a tiny live show and then driving home and working early the next morning? I really had to psych myself up for this one, but it was worth it. I event got to see a few Seattle friends who came out with last minute notice. Love my friends who always make a good effort to hang out. I miss them!

Dry The River on their first U.S. headlining tour. I have to be honest, I have a real issue not understanding the British accent. It's been a life-long problem. I only realized the seriousness of it when I flew British Airlines and couldn't understand the announcements. The anxiety from my fear of flying was enhanced by the fact that I might not understand the emergency instructions announced, should something happen. Anyway, these guys seemed very charming even though I did not know what they were talking about.

The bass player had a habit of rising up on his tippy toes while getting energized by all the the lovely music he was creating. He must wear through a lot of shoes.

They're performance that night ranged from a capella harmonies to full on headbanging/thrashing rock on stage. The best combination of things, I think!

They encore'd with one last song sung a capella from the middle of the crowd. The entire show was great and well worth the trip up to the "big city." The crowd was also pretty fantastic. Approximately 4 guys were there who were obviously drunk (on a Wednesday night?) and therefore made fools of themselves by saying awkwardly loud things during the quietest of moments... nevertheless it was all forgiven because I loved the guy who yelled "2 more *trails off. awkward pause*... 4 more songs!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lazy Sunday

I feel bad for city people sometimes... sure they get to see cool independent movies first, go to concerts in bars with very particular themes like "unicorns" or "video games," and they can probably find anything they could ever want within a 10 mile radius, but how many of them get to wake up at 11am on a Sunday morning and think, "I think I'll go to the beach to get coffee."

This has become my default thought process on most weekends lately. After lazily laying in bed and trying to find interesting people to follow on twitter for nearly an hour, I find that I have nothing better to do than wander my way toward the coast. I'm quite thankful to live so close.

My friends Nick and Tara own a coffee shop in Westport, Washington and I am also so thankful that this place exists. Otherwise I'd probably end up spending all of my precious days off in some too perfect mega-corporate coffee supplier and I think we can all agree that would be bad news. Tinderbox Coffee Roasters is my kind of place. Nick is completely obsessed with coffee, tea and brewing techniques, as it should be. There are a few stools sitting in front of the coffee bar and I'm sure they were strategically placed there to catch you as you are lured into the mysterious world of coffee talk with Nick. If you have the time, they will fill it with interesting facts and an array of teas and coffees you must see smell for yourself.

This weekend's visit was no different, except Nick and Tara were out of town so I spent some time chatting with my friend Haley, one of their baristas and my somewhat genius life advisor. I sipped my vanilla latte from a giant blue mug and we shared about what we've been up to lately. Really it was more of a bowl with a handle. Makes me feel like I'm in an episode of FRIENDS... of course if that show was placed in the PNW Coast it would be 6 friends who are all artists/crafters yet are still able to live in a beachfront mansion... and it would probably have a pool... because that would make it absolutely absurd. Why can't that be my life? Why am I always so distracted?

I finished up my coffee and made the usual Westport rounds, driving over to the marina and taking the walk along the water and out to the jetty. Fishing is a pretty trendy activity right now, since the Salmon are hanging out in our waters getting ready for their big upstream swim. The docks and water's edge were full of people of all types, waiting for the big catch. I never did see anyone actually catch anything, except for some kids who gathered up a bunch of crabs just to toss them back in the water.

The boats in Westport are so beautiful. Most of them are old and worn, maybe from age or the typical stormy and wet winters they've lived through. It only makes me love them more.

Seeing all of these folks out on this beautiful and sunny fall day, I'm nearly tempted to start a new hobby. Or maybe I'll just leave it to the professionals and pick up my catch of the day from the comfort of the boardwalk.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Things happening lately:

-I chose Gold. If you see a few people around town wearing this ring, just know that they are trustworthy and kind people.

-I'm kind of obsessed with the idea of doing some local yarn bombing. My fascination only grew when I saw this from Seattle quilter Luke Haynes.

-Apparently Grays Harbor is falling apart at the seams... well, not really but there have been at least 3 fires and 3 robberies in the last week and my friend got his bike stolen out of his locked garage. Also, my car wasn't working for a full 48 hours. Bad news all around.

-I'm going to be a judge for a beard competition in Pacific Beach. To all you men who have the amazing capability to grow long/lush/well-kept/soft beards... please join us the weekend of November 2nd for this fundraising event.

-30 Days Of Biking. It's totally B.A.

-I "pre-ordered" an iPhone 5. It may never arrive. I'm not... sure.

-We put in a new 14 foot window bar at Gray's General Store made of a single cut of fir with a live edge. It's freaking amazing. If my business fails, I will be happy knowing that I can put that in my house (somewhere...).

-Finally took a real yoga class tonight after far too long! What is it about yoga that makes me feel so light and happy? Need more yoga.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I turned 28 years old last week and then this happened.

Words about Music

This is Don:

He is my friend and one of the owners of the super cool local music store called Rosevear's. I was really excited to see that they launched their new website today AND a blog! I've been waiting years (seriously) for these guys to start putting out some content on the web because I think they are hilarious and just good people. You should read these words from Don about music, because he is a very wise man.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I spent a good portion of today trying to figure out how I should react to the weird local drama that is unfolding around a yearly community event that takes place in my town. (I would tell you more about it, but I don't think it deserves any more attention)

First, I got mad. I kept wondering how anyone who considers themselves to be a good member of society could take a community event and turn it into a power trip. And not just a power trip, but one that directly affects a large group of people and highly offends and alienates the majority of the area's residents.

Then I got really frustrated with the fact that people are always placing blame on others and are quick to call out individuals and businesses who don't conform to their way of thinking in an effort to discourage others from communicating with them anymore. It's unfortunate that people think that complaining about another community member or group will actually fix any of their problems. In my experience, when you cut off someone or something from a community everyone ends up suffering for it. If you woke up with a headache one day, you wouldn't go and have your head removed right? You'd give your body what you needed to fix the problem. You'd give more to the part that needed the help.

All of this philosophical thinking today leaves me wondering what possible solution there could be? People are so divisive sometimes and nobody is willing to listen to each other or put their ego aside for just a second and consider the greater good. And I'm no better than anyone else, considering my first reaction to this was to get angry...

I usually have a very positive outlook about my town, but all of the drama lately does have me worried. How long can I stand up for a community that doesn't stand up for itself? 

I am curious about whether any other communities have encountered such negative and argumentative attitudes and how they may have overcome them (or not). What does it take to get people to realize that the only thing standing in their way is their own self?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

I finally saw Moonrise Kingdom this weekend! I think if I could actually live inside of any movie, this would be the one.

I had some fun finding things that remind me of this film and that I wouldn't mind having in my life:

Plaid Cape, Preston Bellini Glasses, Crosley Turntable, Old Town Canoe, To Build a Fire Scout Book

Deer Print Sleeping Bag, Handmade Arrow, Bike Basket, You're Weird, Canvas Backpack, Saddle Shoes, Wolf Mask