Great Expectations

The first theatrical performance I ever saw was the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations. It was at the Perot Theatre, named after the local and generous benefactor Ross Perot. The show had made a great impact on me. Just like my big move almost three years ago, If I had a theme for how I saw my life moving from the South to the Pacific Northwest, it would be Great Expectations. 


I’ll never forget the first Portland restaurant that followed me on Twitter. I was lying in my bedroom in Little Rock, taking a break from the packing boxes in the living room, responding to my social media notifications. And there it was. A restaurant I had never heard of, but they had a nice following and interesting tweets. I had created a list called “Portland Food & Bevs” so that I could more easily keep up with the specific food industry happenings. Out of roughly 2100 followers, I have 332 members in this list today.

“You’ll lose your clout,” my friend Jo Garcia said when I announced that I was moving to Portland. It was her way of expressing her disappointment in my leaving. I think. Another quote of hers that I’ll always remember is “Your palate is influenceable.” I’d invited her along on many lunches, launches, and happy hours where the owners/chefs would send out dishes for us to try, so she may have noticed the amount of extra attention I gave them on my blog or social media. Where her fame had been built with Playboy, Comic-Con and gamer following, I’d built my small following with foodies and restaurants. Not that I had any clout. I had friends and clients who often treated me and my friends to tastings of their food.

But Jo was right. I never forgot that first Portland restaurant that followed me on Twitter. I show them a lot of love. And I notice the places that like my pictures on a regular basis.

She was a good friend to me, helping me decorate my office using her high heel shoe as a hammer to hang pictures up, giving me a dress she ordered from Haute Look that she thought would look good on me. (It’s the dress I’m wearing in my Twitter profile.) We shared a love for good food, good drinks, and Star Wars characters. And she also left town shortly after I did. I wonder if she has any clout where she is?

My kids know her as the girl who knit them scarves for Christmas. And my last favorite quote of Jo’s: from Twitter.


A Tale of Two Cities: Little Rock to Portland

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Valentines Day 2015

Almost 5 months after we left Little Rock, I thought I had it all licked in Portland. I had landed a swank advertising gig just off the waterfront of downtown, my husband earned a managerial liaison position in Alaska with big oil ConocoPhillips, and our kids were getting adjusted to their new schools. All was happy in Happy Valley.

Then my husband called on Valentines Day. He was saying something about his new boss Keith, and his son Levi. I left the busy sales bay, through the lobby where Fox News was constantly on the air, and went into the large conference room where I could see cars driving on the bridges outside the large windows. He asked if I’d gotten my flowers. Yes, I had. Some small vase of flowers, including carnations. In my mind, I thought, “This is how much he loves me?” After all the sacrifices I’d made, and all I did despite the fact that I worked full time while he’s always gone, and I take care of our two daughters on my own basically? He said that Keith asked him to stay 6 weeks on and 1 week off despite the originally offered 3 weeks on and 3 weeks off. I started crying.

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How I Met Your Father

I was having a conversation with my daughter Gianna about boys and relationships, when something I said made her ask, “Mom, how many boyfriends did you have?!”Also, How I Met Your Mother is one our favorite shows!

Southern Bride
Photo By Southern Bride magazine, cropped

My first serious relationship was with Paul. We met at a Tri-Delt/Pike mixer in Little Rock where I noticed him first. I told my friend Debbie, who told her boyfriend, who was the pledge trainer. He told Paul to ask me out. We moved entirely too fast. “If ever there was love, it would be with you.” he told me. We got engaged, moved in together, and got jobs together at a restaurant where I was a hostess and he was a server. One day, Chelsea Clinton came in and asked for Paul’s section. Her secret service detail sat nearby at a separate table. When her dad Bill became the President of the United States, Paul’s dad and grandparents went up and stayed in the White House. I loved hearing the details about the Lincoln bedroom where they stayed and all the details of the house’s history.

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Please Tell Everyone on This Train I Love Them

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Instagram: @johanesenphotography

On June 5th, I woke up to a notification on my phone that a photographer had tagged me (@Portland_Love_Story) in this picture on Instagram. Total strangers tag me often, and it’s usually food related, because my Instagram is mostly of food in Portland. Food is my passion, and I created my Instagram to showcase it. However, another common tag that I get is from photographers shooting the beauty of Portland. Because there’s so much to love about Portland, and I guess I have the handle that says it.

But this particular photo made me think, “This is the true Portland Love Story.” The tragedy of the Portland MAX train stabbing over Memorial Day weekend was all over the news, including CNN. It was a great thing they did, standing up to bullying. And it’s awful how one instance can do so much damage.

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2015: A Look Back

For my next post, I thought of doing a 2016 collage and look back, but then I realized that I had this opportunity to do 2015 first. 

About this time two years ago, I had just accepted an offer to work at Comcast Spotlight as an Advertising Account Executive. When I moved to the Portland area, I applied to Comcast, The Oregonian, and KOIN. So Villa, the sales manager at KOIN called the week I accepted the Comcast offer. I sorta wondered later if I had gone into broadcast sales rather than cable, if I’d been able to make it work better. But learning cable advertising while raising two kids with busy athletic and social schedules while Jereme stayed in Alaska for 6 weeks at a time was a challenge.  We decided to take some time to get better adjusted to our new life in a new state.

The rest (and best) of 2015 was spent focusing on eating good food. (Left to right)


Pok Pok: The famous Vietnamese fish sauce wings there are so good, and a must have for an appetizer if sharing. Then there’s the flank steak salad with fish sauce, lime, chili powder dressing, mint, and cilantro. One of the best things I ate in 2015. My second visit to Pok Pok, I was shocked to see Andy Ricker walk by. I recognized him from Food Network features, and I followed him on Instagram. An actual chef/owner in their own restaurant in Portland. The more I found that it wasn’t so rare for many chef/owners, the more I loved this foodie town.

Por Que No Taqueria: My first visit was with Brittany for lunch. We went to the North Mississippi location, and she told me about the area. I had the Calamari, Camarones, and Lengua. I had a feeling about that place, and I now frequent the Hawthorne location often.

Jake’s Famous Crawfish: I loved the classic presentation of the Escargot there. I took Brittany and Jereme, and neither of them loved Jake’s like I did. So I didn’t really get to eat there as often as I wanted. Anyone else wanna go?

The Parish: This was one of the first places I visited the first week in town. I had read about Ethan’s Arkansas roots and studies at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and I was interested in meeting him. He actually knew about the small town I grew up in, and told me he had relatives there. The header picture of this blog is of the oysters from The Parish, and I was sad to hear it closed in 2016. I loved their gumbo, but now I’ll have to eat at EaT: An Oyster Bar, his other restaurant which displays the familiar Arkansas Razorback hat at the bar.

Urban Farmer: I submitted that bloody mary pic for a contest which I didn’t win, but I I thought the Taylor Swift reference was fun.

Acadia: As I made my way around Portland to taste all the new and renowned restaurants, I found my self going back to Acadia often, especially for the Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp. I love that they open for lunch at least one day a week, on Wednesdays.

Luc Lac: I had fun tweeting at these guys when I first discovered them. I have loved every single thing I’ve ever eaten there, and this Bo Thai Chanh (rare beef salad) is one of my favorite things to eat in the city. The pork and shrimp crispy rolls are also my favorite in Portland. They’re along the lines of how I make mine at home. Also Charles Phan style.

Smallwares: I didn’t get to eat at Smallwares as often as I wanted. The summer rolls shown above were from a tasting menu of a special dinner that we loved. We mostly had brunch there, and apparently enough that we got a “friends discount” once. I hope to see Johanna back so that I can eat more of her creative, tasty concoctions. RIP Smallwares.

St. Jack: I love the atmosphere, the location, and the foie gras. You’ll most likely see them in my 2016 recap as well. Loved watching the chef/owner Aaron Barnett on Food Network’s Chopped.

Check back soon for my 2016 recap! That one will be more difficult, probably…

Polish Day Spa

1420 NW Pettygrove St.   Portland, OR 97209   503.327.8328    Mon – Sat 10-7, Sun 11-6


My good friend Jenna found this nail salon/day spa for us to try when they were advertising a 15 minutes reflexology special for $10 on a sign outside. I laugh now at the memory of our visit because I had Jason, who applied the perfect moderate pressure, while I could hear Jenna next to me saying ouch, should that be painful? I was literally laughing out loud at her complaints, when she told him to go over there and do that to Thanh’s feet. When he did, I screamed out loud and said Jason is not rubbing that hard! You’ve gotta set your boundaries.

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Hanoi Kitchen


I don’t mean to give all my secrets away, but…..I am hooked on this place. Please don’t go there, because this is where I like to go without wearing lipstick, without fixing my hair really. I’m lucky my husband is fine with me like that. I feel fortunate I found him before social media, before filters. Take this dish for example. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s full of complexity, and has captivated my interest.

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Cart Lab Friends & Family Event


Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Friends and Family event for Cart Lab, Portland’s newest dining hall near the Tom McCall Waterfront Park area. It coincided with their soft opening to the public, which is like a dress rehearsal for restaurants.

This is a time that no media or food critic should attend, unless they can keep from writing. When I worked at an alt weekly publication similar to the Willamette Week, I practically begged our food critics to stay out of my clients’ new restaurants for the first month until they firmly established themselves. They didn’t always abide, and there was the time the editor titled my client’s food as Farm to Terrible. Thanks again, Lindsay.

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My Best Friends

Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything. – Muhammad Ali


I recently read a quote on Twitter that said, “I have too much emotion to be brief.” That sums me up. Our friend Joe once started on a monologue, pausing briefly to ask us what we liked about him. One of the guys countered with, “Your brevity?” He and I were always dominating our group’s conversations.

I’m so excited to visit Little Rock in November. While I’ve made great friends in Portland, there’s still so much love awaiting me back home. Angelica and I met at the Phi Delt house at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville our freshman year. My best friend from seventh grade was a pledge, and while I felt like Bridget Jones standing next to Hugh Grant with him, he still demanded my attendance at every outing. I was helping his entire pledge class pass Freshman English, and the pledge trainer let me sit in on their study halls.

“Who is that loud, obnoxious girl?!” I asked John. He wasn’t sure. The Phi Delt house in Northwest Arkansas was full of kids from Little Rock, and we were the new ones on the block from the tiny town of never heard before Nashville. We asked his pledge brother Kevin, and he told us. Angelica, from Mount Saint Mary in Little Rock. Kevin and I later built our houses, as adults, in the same neighborhood in the Villages of Wellington. I also found out later that he had actually played baseball with my future husband. Complete strangers have told me how my husband could crush a baseball when he was younger. People loved watching him play.

By the end of the night, Angelica and I were singing along to Jimmy Buffett songs together. Now, she is my everything. When my brother was diagnosed with cancer, he asked her to look after me. She’s done a pretty good job, considering. I still can’t believe we stayed at Trump International and never ate at Jean Georges.


I went to a Girls Night Out with my good friend Kristi, and this girl Karri was making me laugh every second she spoke.

I had to ask her, “Where are you from? You are so funny!!” She said, “Nashville, Arkansas.”I couldn’t even believe it. “That’s where I’m from!!” I told her. We compared friends and family stories to prove it. Such a small world.

We’ve had so many good times together just hanging out and laughing about everything.

I love her.


Kristi and I waited tables together at a restaurant where she lived nearby. When she told me she got mugged in the parking lot of her apartment complex, I laughed for some reason. I don’t think she thought it was funny. She went to college with one of my older brothers at UCA, where my best friend Anne’s dad had coached Scottie Pippen. When Anne died in a car accident in Cozumel, Coach Jones and his wife went up to Chicago to stay with Scottie the week after the funeral.

When Kristi moved back from Florida, she went to work for the Pulaski County Clerk’s office. She was a very left wing liberal, and she was helping our friend Pat with his race for the Secretary of State office. I called her at work because my friends said we should consider David Sanders for Senate, but he was a Republican. She was adamant that I not support him. He won anyway, and I ran into him in Seattle last year while he was attending a healthcare meeting with some other senators. He was actually with a lobbyist who had once challenged me on Twitter about the Farm Bill.

Kristi is now big in the Republican community. She had dated a well known conservative lobbyist, and she began consulting as well. She always maintains class and I need to be more like her. She asked me to promise never to go without talking to each other, and I will keep that promise.


Monika won me over at our office. She wanted to have meetings, and lists, and appointments with my clients to talk to them about her doing their social media. I really didn’t wanna do any of that, but we ended up sharing a few clients. We were both friends with Jo Garcia, so we ended up at lunch together. Moni has a way of expressing herself that is so cute. She always speaks her mind, and if you’re not right she will call you on it.

She became my plus one at so many events. I don’t have many pictures of myself solo but I have a ton with her. There’s one where I’m just sick of posing.



Now, the reason for my visit home in November. Donnie Ferneau is getting married to his perfect match. When I first met Meaghan, I liked her immediately. She hung out at our cooking classes and gave makeovers to my daughters. We went through an ordeal together when my publication published an article about Donnie’s potential reality show. If anyone in Little Rock is gonna have a reality show, it would be Donnie. But he wasn’t ready for the news to go public, and I got into it with the writer and the editor. I think this is an example of why they wrote about me being “a force to be reckoned with.”

But it looks like they all made up, because he’s holding his hog for the annual Arkansas Times hog roast.

I can’t wait to see all these people.

Thelonious Wines

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Lisa from This Beautiful Day invited our Portland blogger group on Facebook to attend a potluck at this fairly new boutique wine shop in the Pearl District, an area flocked by Portland’s finest.


While the event is further away this month, I found myself curious about Thelonious Wines. They have some very creative videos on their Instagram, and one of them in particular made me decide that Kelsey sounded like one hell of a sommelier.

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