I like fun.

myllisa patterson, pdx, or, usa

kitchen counters September 19, 2011

Filed under: Fun Stuff — Myllisa @ 9:15 pm

     Over the summer my brother turned the island in his kitchen into a karaoke stage for my niece’s birthday party. Unfortunately I missed the bash, but I saw the photos and it looked EPIC – complete with strobe-lights and nine-year-old rock stars. What a fantastic use for the kitchen counter. Ms. Hannah will remember that evening forever. That’s what kitchens were made for. They’re the heart of the home and the place where we connect with our family and friends.
     Some of the most lasting memories from my own life were made congregated around a kitchen counter. When we started our house-hunt last winter, I was searching for a kitchen that would be the perfect place to make our home. Unfortunately, a great kitchen was one of many must-haves on our first-time-home-buyer’s list. It quickly became clear that the houses that were in our budget didn’t have great kitchens. Thankfully, realtor Tracey Henkels was masterful at helping us see the potential in the spaces we could afford.
     When we first looked at the house that would become our home, I loved (L-O-V-E-D) the layout. The place just felt like us. The kitchen, on the other hand, was dated, tiny and closed off from the rest of the house. Tracey immediately suggested that we could remove the wall that blocked the kitchen from the rest of the upstairs living area to achieve the open concept that I wanted. I could see the vision, but resigned myself to living with a cramped, isolated kitchen for a few years while we saved money for a complete remodel.

Early demo - you can see how closed off the kitchen was

     But then, once again, HGTV inspired me. A couple of weeks ago I saw The Property Brothers do a pass-through from a kitchen into a dining room in a remodel they were doing. That started me thinking that we could do something similar for virtually no money (just the cost of the trim/molding). I started pitching the idea to Brent and he convinced me that we could still get some additional counter space if we did the pass through and added a cheap IKEA wooden counter top for the base. The virtually nothing budget was suffering scope creep and we hadn’t even started. I proposed that we check out one of Portland’s many re-use stores and see if we could find a less-expensive and better quality alternative.
At the Habitat for Humanity re-use store we scored. We stumbled upon a hard-wood coffee table (someone had already removed the legs) in great shape finished in a stain that already matched our cabinets. For $25 we had our counter top and within hours there was a hole in our wall. We did the entire project for about $150 and we would have come in under $100 if we hadn’t needed some tools we didn’t have already (jig-saw, big drill bit, etc). Most of our non-tool expense was electrical wire/supplies because we had to move two light switches and an outlet.

Completed project = Open concept living space

     My husband is a super-star. He hung tough through several frustrating do-it-yourself-debacles and we ended up with an awesome pass-through that has revolutionized our living area. Our new open-concept space is exactly what I wanted and is going to be the perfect stage for a fall and holiday season full of indoor dinner parties.

     Hannah Jensen you have a standing invitation to karaoke on my new counter any time you want!

So, I hope this post leaves you inspired…

  1. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish with some elbow grease and some gumption.
  2. A tight budget opens doors to creativity. Don’t be scared of limited funds.
  3. Look at your kitchen and think about how you can use your space to build memories with your loved ones.

I’d love to hear your great kitchen memory and/or remodel stories. Leave your comments here, or stop by for a glass of wine and check out the pass-through for yourself.


Summer Dinners July 31, 2011

Filed under: Fun Stuff — Myllisa @ 9:42 pm

     What a gorgeous weekend in Portland! Since homeownership our lives have been full of new things like HGTV, improvement projects, yard work, AND my most favorite activity in our new house – dinner parties! We found ourselves domesticated very quickly this summer and lazy afternoons on our sunny back deck are what I’ve been craving. I spent today lounging in the sun and reading Sunset magazines – perfection. I’ve always loved Sunset, but it’s even more fun now that we own our first home.  The tips, tricks and ideas I’m reading are inspiration for our home and yard. We need all the help we can get because our yard is in serious need of an over-haul!

     Last week I stepped through a rotten board on our deck, we don’t have a picnic table and there is very little that is cute or even close to an inviting outdoor living space. The yard is pretty much a disaster area! I’ve been watching craigslist for wooden outdoor furniture and dreaming of a big dining table. The August 2011 Sunset has an awesome article about turning a shipping pallet into an outdoor table. I’m inspired and now on the hunt for a yard sale table that I can use for legs! I need to figure out our table situation sooner rather than later.

     This week we hosted two dinner parties. One on Wednesday (inspired by the Reboot your work week article from a few issues back – one of the tips – midweek dinner parties!) and one on Friday night. Our weather finally turned to reliably sunny this week and when I realized we were hosting dinners on days that would reach the 80s I started to panic a bit. The main living space in our new home gets southern exposure and tends to heat up beyond comfortable dinner temperature on warm afternoons. I’ve been dreaming of lovely summer parties with slow meals eaten al fresco ever since I read Katie Tamony’s description of the dinner parties they hosted under the stars on their patio last summer. It was the perfect week to host such a party, but all I could think about was my lack of table and chairs and the horrible disarray of the yard.

     I went back and read her editor’s note – Summer glow –  from the June issue and I got inspired. I borrowed a 6 ft table from work and bought a slew of hanging lanterns, hurricanes and candles at Ross ($30 goes a long way for stuff like this at discount stores). I couldn’t afford to run out and buy new outdoor dining furniture and fresh landscaping, but for less than $50 bucks I transformed our ugly yard into a moody and romantic outdoor dining room. We have a FABULOUS and giant Chinese Maple out back and its branches provided the perfect canopy for my hanging lanterns. I covered the folding table with a cute blue table cloth (on sale at Macys) and we hauled our dining room chairs outside. Once the candles were lit and the wine was flowing the backyard was one thing: dreamy.  Add two groups of fun friends and my husband’s out-of-the-this-world food and we had two perfect dinner parties! I have one word: blessed.

     So – thank you Katie and Sunset magazine for all of the inspiration and thank you wonderful friends and family for breaking bread with us on a couple of idyllic pdx summer evenings. They will be the first of many dinners eaten outside at our new place. I can’t wait to share a meal with more of you as our yard continues to evolve. Here’s to easy living and eating under the stars – Cheers!

See more photos of our dinner parties in my Summer 2011 album on facebook.


Peacock Lane December 20, 2010

Filed under: Fun Stuff — Myllisa @ 12:47 pm

     It’s not a big secret that I’m pretty much obsessed with Christmas. I LOVE this time of year with the giving and the getting and the trees and the lights and the carols. It’s just plain festive and fun. I especially love the lights. I remember when I was a kid the excitement of seeing our neighborhood light up just after Christmas. We also had a family tradition that included a post-Christmas Eve church service drive around town to see the lights. This tradition got less and less popular as the three kids in the backseat got older and older. But when we were small, the elbowing and fighting would always come to a halt as we passed an especially decorated Griswold-esc house. Wide eyes and expressions that reflect the awe of hundreds of twinkling lights are pretty priceless memories.
     I think every town has that one street, or that one neighborhood that goes all out – a normally quiet cul-de-sac that transforms into a busy street for a few weeks a year.  In Portland we have Peacock Lane. I have to admit, that I knew nothing about this iconic Portland tradition until this year. Holy cow! I can’t believe what we’d been missing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

     Peacock Lane is awesome and funkily weird all at the same time. It’s a short street of Tudor houses between SE Stark and SE Belmont (it would be 40th St if it weren’t Peacock Land). The houses are decorated to the hilt. Forget hundreds and think thousands of sparkling lights. It’s real good. But it can also be a traffic jam. Park a few blocks away and walk. Brent and I checked it driving one night and then went back on Friday and walked. It’s so much better to take it in at a stroll. Plus there are tons of people in festive moods laughing and having fun. You miss that part if you’re in the car (unless you’ve had too much wine and are hanging your head out of the car window snapping pics and laughing with people). The walk is worth braving the cold and it’s a short street so it’s quick and oh-so-much-Christmas fun.
Make this Portland tradition part of your Christmas plans this season.

     I’d love to hear of other parts of town that are twinkling with an above-average number of lights. What’s your favorite Christmas light display?


timberline December 17, 2010

Filed under: Fun Places — Myllisa @ 12:56 pm
Tags: ,

     Growing up in the outskirts of Oregon where snow flies in the winter, you’d think I would have been an avid snow-sport fan. A few disastrous sledding accidents and the fact that I HATE to be cold pretty much ruined it for me. Despite those two clear early indicators that I was never going to be a good snow-bunny, I tried my darndest to learn to ski when I was in high school. I had some “well meaning” friends who tried to “teach” <<insert sarcasm – what I really mean is these guys would have led me off a cliff just to laugh about the carnage>> me. I was a disaster. I could never quite capture the right rhythm or the ability to control my speed. What I was proficient at was dive bombing in a straight line until I was going so fast I would freak out and crash in some horrifically embarrassing fashion that left a yard sale of equipment in my wake. It was good for a comedy show, but after a few runs I was usually too wet, cold and worn-out to continue. I spent a lot of afternoons in funky lodges reading a book, trying to stay warm and drinking hot cocoa.
     The ski lodges of my youth were extremely underwhelming. I had a romantic (saw it in a movie) idea that ski lodges were grand cozy places with giant fire places and glamorous people sipping hot toddies in their high-fashion winter-wear. Damp rooms filled with cafeteria chairs littered with discarded skies, poles and gloves (not high-fashion gloves either) were more the norm in the tiny Eastern Oregon resorts where we skied.
     Imagine my delight <<more sarcasm>> when I fell in love with a Floridian who LOVES to snowboard. YAYYYY…(secret ugh). The saving grace is that we live near MT Hood and Timberline lodge. Timberline is dreamy and reminiscent of the lodges you see in the movies (maybe minus the glamorous people from the eighties). It’s totally the “Overlook Lodge” from the movie The Shining (exteriors) and I was disappointed the first time I visited not to find the hedge maze out front.  The disappointment stops there. I still do a silent redrum chant in my head whenever I walk around up there.

Mt Hood looking out the window in Timberline Lodge

     The lodge was built near the top of Oregon’s tallest mountain from the timber and rock that surrounds it. It’s rustic and cozy and lodgy and totally reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest. The sheer mass of the timber pillars and giant fire places is pretty awesome. I love cozying up by the fire on one of their funky couches and reading my book while Brent snowboards. YAYYYY (for real). There’s a perfect position there on the couches where you can get the fire and one of the big pained windows that frame the mountain in your sights all at the same time. Add a glass of wine and you’ve got pure perfection.
     Brent says the snowboarding is pretty good too. I’m committed to learning in 2011. We’ll see how that goes and I’m glad that when I’m wet and tired and cold I have a cozy (meets all my romantic expectations) lodge to snuggle up in. Explore Timberline lodge any time of year – but this winter for sure. The snow is plentiful! These photos were taken in late November. There’s loads more snow now. They’ve got decent food and good bars + world-class recreation in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
If you have a fun Timberline and/or Mt Hood story, I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment and share your adventure.


urban hike October 24, 2010

Filed under: Fun Places — Myllisa @ 10:01 am

     One of my favorite things to do when the weather starts to get chilly and the fall colors start to pop, is hike. There are so many trails to explore near PDX, and there are some GREAT urban hikes as well. On Friday Brent and I did one of my favorite Portland urban hikes – the Wildwood trail to Pittock Mansion.

  Blach Creek   It was the perfect day for a hike and with the rainy season looming, I wanted to take advantage of what will probably be our last sunny day of the fall. We parked in NW Portland near Macleay Park and caught the trail that runs along Balch Creek. The stone house is the marker to merge onto the Wildwood trail (basically just stay straight past the stone house) and follow the Wildwood Trail all the way to Pittock mansion. It’s about a 5 mile round-trip hike and it’s pretty easy. There’s a stretch of switch backs as you near Pittock mansion that can get a little intense, but it’s only a half a mile or so and well worth the effort.

     The first part of the hike is a half-mile walk along Blach Creek to the stone house and it’s just plain beautiful. The creek bed was slathered with falling orange and yellow leaves and the contrast they make to the lush green and earthy brown surroundings was breathtaking. We stopped on the first bridge to peer into a clear pool of creek water near a rock wall. There are usually a few trout meandering there in the mouth of an eroded cave. Brent spotted a big-daddy trout (maybe 15 inches) hanging out with some smaller buddies and we watched them for a while.

     Maybe it was the walk in the forest next to the running water, or watching the lazy trout floating in a crystal clear pool, or maybe it was knowing that I was going to see my best friend Brandi that evening, but I was reminded of a high-school fishing escapade. My best buds in high school were a rowdy group of girls and we loved to have fun. We were also lucky enough to come of age in Eastern Oregon, a place full of fun outdoor activities. Now, that said – I’m not exactly “outdoorsy,” not in the way my besties are. These girls grew up in the woods with their logger dads and hunting families. My family camped when we were growing up, but like in designated campgrounds. My dad didn’t pack his pistol and a shot-gun when we headed out for a family camping expedition. I’ve often been mocked for my lack of wilderness knowledge. I have trouble identifying the difference between a coyote and a wolf. It makes me the butt of lots of jokes.

     So, I’m the least “outdoorsy” of my high school besties AND…I’m the clumsiest. Once on an afternoon fishing trip, we were wading up the shallow waters of the Grand Ronde river. If memory serves me correctly, it was Jaimie and Brandi and me. It was a hot sunny day and our plan was to catch some rays AND some fish (we were way better at getting a tan than catching fish). In hindsight, I’m sure the picture of three teenaged girls in bathing suites, hair piled high in ponytails on top of our heads carrying fishing poles and gingerly choosing our steps while we tried to keep balance on the slippery rocks was pretty hilarious. Jaimie was convinced that there would be a good fishing hole just up around the river bend. The current was strong and the rocks were slick. Brandi was just issuing a warning not to fall as I felt the rock that my stepping foot lodged against shift to the right. That was all it took. Both feet slipped right out from under me and the cold water swallowed me up as the current took hold. It was a split second of helplessness. And then I felt a sharp tug on the back of my head and I yelped. My best friend Brandi with her cat-like reflexes had seen me fall and lunged forward to grab for my ponytail. She caught me in the nick of time and I was pulled to the safety of the big rocks on the river bank by my hair. We sat for a moment catching our breaths and then looked at each other and burst into laughter. As per the norm, we caught more sun than fish that day and I will always be grateful for a long ponytail and the best friend who saved me.

     Trudging up creek beds and hiking through forests are not new experiences for me, but an urban hike is different. It’s so cool to feel like you’re deep in the forest and lost to the world and have civilization right around the corner.  On our Friday hike we took the Wildwood trail up the hill to Pittock mansion. Forest Park gives the illusion that you’re off the grid. We were deep in the middle of a giant rainforest where the trees are so thick and high that they block out the sunlight and the ferns are pre-historically giant and suddenly I heard a siren. It caught me totally by surprise and I jumped. I was jolted out of the illusion and reminded that I was still smack dab in the middle of the city. The sensation of walking out of thick forest into the parking lot at a mansion is just…surreal.The views from Pittock mansion are the best in the city. If you want that iconic Portland city-scape spot, Pittock mansion is the place to get it. Seeing it in the Fall is extra special because the vibrant color of the changing leaves gives the city a patch-work quilt look. If you’re looking for a fun hike and you don’t want to have to drive to find it, hike Wildwood trail. The stretch between Balch creek and Pittock Mansion is gorgeous any time of year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


sauvie island October 20, 2010

Filed under: Fun Places — Myllisa @ 5:21 pm
Tags: ,

     It’s been an UNBELEIVABLE October in PDX. Last weekend was some of the best weather that we’ve had and to encourage us to get in the Fall spirit, I thought a trip to the pumpkin patch was in order. Sauvie Island seems like the place to find a good pumpkin, so Brent and I grabbed Roscoe and headed out for another grand adventure.
     I’d only been to Sauvie Island one time before. I went to a haunted corn maze with some friends and it was dark when we went. I had no idea what I was missing. Sauvie Island is pure heaven – gorgeous! I’m adding it to my list of favorite places. I want to spend hours and hours exploring there next summer. We pulled over the bridge and onto the island and holy cow! What a beautiful view. Also – there are lots of pumpkin patches to choose from (I was expecting just that one I’d been to before). We decided to delay the pumpkin hunt momentarily and just look around the island a bit first.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

     Here’s a little something about the place. I had to look it up when we got home because I was so intrigued. The island is situated between the Willamette River to the south, the Multnomah Channel to the west and the Columbia River to the east. On a clear day (which we had), you can see the cascade range as well as the five big mountains, Rainer, St Helens, Adams, Hood and Jefferson. Man – I cannot adequately describe how gorgeous it is. Fields and fields of farm land growing everything you can imagine + cows and sheep and pigs and lots of other animals all settled in this awesomely scenic piece of land surrounded by water and marinas and house boats. I loved it there.
     There is you-pick everything as well as farm stands if you’d rather not pick. There’s a wildlife area and also beaches. Brent says there’s even a nudie beach, but we didn’t check that one out…yet. There’re miles and miles of biking and hiking. We just drove this time but what we saw from the road was spectacular. Once I was done exploring, rubber-necking and photo snapping, we headed for pumpkins. We landed at Kruger’s Farm Market. There were pumpkins galore and a farm store and caramel apples and chickens and pigs and so much fall fun. If you need a taste of fall, or a good pumpkin, or just a day to sooth your soul in a gorgeous farmland setting, go to Sauvie Island. You’ll be happy you did.


speakeasy October 17, 2010

Filed under: Fun Food,Fun Places — Myllisa @ 10:44 am

     The San Francisco leg of our Napa trip started with a northbound trip to Calistoga. I know what you’re thinking. North doesn’t seem like the most direct route to get to San Fran from Napa. BUT, Schramsberg is to the north and we couldn’t leave wine country without a stop for more sparkling bubbles, a lesson on riddling and a tour through the caves stacked to the brim with bottles of bubbly in the making.
     After our tour and a few tastes of yummy sparklers, our trek headed south through Sonoma for a courtyard lunch at El Dorado Kitchen. Brent’s friend and Wildwood alum, Doug, is a Chef there and we had a tasty mid-day meal (and of course wine). It was Doug who gave us the tip about the speakeasy. He knew the name, but said we needed to go online to get a password for entry.
     And then, we were off. Cruising down 101 headed for the Golden Gate. Our dinner reservations that night were for RN 74 – a Michael Mina wine bar where the wine list was developed first and then the menu designed specifically to pair with the wines. We checked into our hotel and had a couple hours to explore Union Square. We landed at The View, a cocktail bar at the top of the Marriott Marquis, for some panoramic views of the city and pre-dinner cocktails.
    And then…finally…it was time for dinner. I’d been looking forward to this meal ever since Phil Meurer made the recommendation. The interior of the restaurant is designed to look like a bus/train station and then…the wine. The wine list is pretty out of control – pages and pages of bottles from lots of regions and with all kinds of legs. The most expensive bottle we found was about 10K. We, of course, ordered a bottle of something much more modest and yummy just the same. Wine is definitely on center stage in this place. There are wine stewards posted at a long wooden table in the center of the dining room. They opened, tasted and poured each bottle, as well as made recommendations. It was fascinating to watch them swirl, smell and taste before serving.
     The food was delectable and our service outstanding. We had great rapport with our waitress. She was excited to hear that Brent used to work at Wildwood and soon there was a manager at our table talking to Brent about other Wildwood alum that they both knew. After a “break-the-ice” chat with him, Brent asked if he knew about the speakeasy – and referenced it by the name we were given. He smirked and said – we love that place. “Do you want me to see if I can get you in?” It was pretty funny to see how the mention of Wildwood had escalated us from a table of tourists from Portland, to a group of people worthy of a chat from the manager and then, knowing the name of a no-name-insiders club and juice-joint upped our street cred even further. I could tell that the evening was going to be a complete success.
     He came back 20 minutes later with his business card. On it was written the street address of the Speakeasy and our password to get in. Our reservation was confirmed and our instructions were to find the unmarked door, ring the buzzer and give our password “CHOPPER”. We finished our dessert – best dessert of the trip by the way, Goat’s Milk cheese cake with ginger snap, blueberry sorbet and anise hyssop. The combination of the cheese with the ginger, blueberry and herb was to die for, pure heaven – and piled into a cab headed for our secret destination.
     A speakeasy is the term for an establishment that illegally sold alcoholic beverages during prohibition. The bar on Jones street in San Francisco that we were headed to is an actual speakeasy that operated illegally in that location from 1921-1933 during prohibition. Today, an unmarked door under a corner sign that says Anti-Saloon League marks the entrance to a glimpse back into the 20’s. When we arrived, just like instructed, we rang the buzzer and delivered our password. The door was opened just a crack and then we were invited in and directed to our table. The place was full of people drinking, but reserved and a total 20’s throw-back from the bar to the tin ceiling and light fixtures. We had totally taken a step back. Here are the house rules:

  • Please Speak-Easy
  • No Cell Phone Use
  • No Standing At the Bar
  • Don’t Even Think of Asking for a “Cosmo”
  • Smokers, Use The Back Door
  • No Photography
  • Please Be Patient, Our Drinks are Labor Intensive
  • Please Exit Quietly

     We followed the rules and perused the extensive (I mean really extensive) list of libations. The bourbon list alone was like eight pages long. I had their twist on a gin gimlet and it was fabulous. We sat and drank and marveled and felt, well, cool that we’d cracked the code and gotten into this speakeasy. If you want to go, let me know and I’ll send you the rest of the details directly.

     So, we drank our fill and slept well. And then on Tuesday morning we rode a cable car to Fisherman’s Warf and sampled all means of San Francisco treats. We even spotted the bush man – our trip was complete.
    The speakeasy was definitely the highlight of our day in San Fran. I’ve read they’re making a comeback. Anyone know if we have a speakeasy in PDX? I’d love to check it out. As always, the complete San Fran photo tour is available on Facebook. Don’t forget to leave your comments here about speakeasies or fun San Fran adventures.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.