This past weekend Kirk and I (and toddling Walker) went to Portland, Oregon for the first Vida Vegan Conference. While I may not be a true vegan (although I was one for a long time) I consider myself open to new experiences and my good friend Cat of Verdant Life got me to come as well (I hadn’t seen her since October of last year!) Work and a mini-vacation all in one sounded nice….
The conference went for 2½ days, although I missed the opening things on Friday evening. We had left very early but hit the always nasty gridlock on I-5 for a good 75 miles and our trip took us well over twice as long as it should have. We ended up pulling off the highway and walking an A/C cooled Target to waste time to avoid the coming rush hour in Portland. With the sun cooling off we arrived in Portland and found our hotel. We stayed at the newer Residence Inn Downtown/River Place which was right on Portland’s Streetcar line (they have their own stop just a few yards away!). The conference was held 3 stops away at The University Place (just a couple blocks walking) and the streetcar is fare free in most of its run so what a bonus. Once we parked we didn’t move the car at all! The hotel at first makes you wonder – it is right on the edge of development, the last of a relatively new area and sits literally under the shade of the towering I-5 and 405 bridges. But once inside the sounds are gone and it is quiet. We opted for a 1 bedroom suite which had a full bedroom, kitchen, living room, etc. It was roomy and perfect for a small family to stay in. Having stayed in Portland a number of times in the past years I would say this has been my favorite hotel there (and that is of all the Marriots we have stayed at). For one the hotel is at the end of the road, the area around is clean, feels safe in the early evening and the River Walk pedestrian path is feet away, leading to relaxed evening walks, many restaurants and well, the river! It had a mineral pool as well – no chlorine smell or itchy skin. Walker went swimming with us and had a lot of fun. In the morning it had a massive breakfast buffet that rotated daily in choices with many healthy choices including a Japanese breakfast bar with rice, miso soup and toppings. I have to say that is one breakfast bar I had never seen before and I fell in love with it! Outside of the room’s carpeting needing a cleaning desperately and a chairs showing a few dog clawing (they are very pet friendly) our stay was wonderful. If I needed to be in the area again I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.
Kirk and Walker got up early with me and we took the streetcar to the hotel where it was being held and I checked in. We were given large swag bags of samples, food and even a cookbook – My Sweet Vegan: Passionate About Dessert. More about that book later…..
Kirk took my bag for me and they went their way to have fun for the day. Did I mention that you can get jogger strollers on the streetcar in most cases? Yay.
I went in and felt so alone…gasp. I don’t think that is a feeling I will ever get over. That one where you check to see if your clothing is on or not. Thankfully Cat showed up not long after so at least I knew one person. Not to fear though, within minutes I had sat down with breakfast and soon was talking away with so many people. Business cards were my friend for my forgetful mind and I happily took them.
A photo that has me in it (from Almost Vegan’s blog, be sure to check out her blog as well! I have to add that I picked up some amazing white chocolate peanut butter from her table as well!) I am wearing a short sleeved black shirt, sitting at the lower right hand table.
I spent the morning taking a class on blogs and while I didn’t agree with everything (does anyone?) I did walk away with thoughts running through my mind. I do well when I get a chance to see what others are thinking and doing. The only thing that bothered me was an off the cuff remark from one of the speakers who it seemed to me at least, was encouraging bloggers to have a blog for each thing you like in life – and who had a real opinion on blogs with stuff other than recipes added. I had to bite my tongue and not say out loud “There is nothing wrong with a blog about one’s life! It is OK to talk about your family, recipes and where life takes you!”. But instead I was a good missy and shut it. It is hard enough to blog daily, no thanks on running 3 separate blogs!
I had met Kristina of Eating Skinny after breakfast and found out she was attending Fran Costigan’s class on chocolate in the Pearl District at Whole Foods. Well so was I and I happily led a couple of us over to the streetcar stop and we got on. It was on that ride I remembered why being pregnant in a city was bad. As Kirk heard me say only too often “Why does everything smell like urine in this city??” On the other hand I was asked often if I would like a seat but all I could think of was “there isn’t enough Lysol in the world to sit on these urine scented seats” 😉
But onto better things – we got to Fran’s class and yowza – Fran’s class alone was worth going to Portland. My obsession is vegan baking – wanting to make desserts so good no one questions what is in them or rather what might be “missing”. My forgetful mind went away for that hour or so. I had what I wanted – to sit there and learn. And that cake. Oh wow. I have never had a chocolate cake that tasted that good – regular or vegan. It was freaking amazing. Covered in rich ganache frosting. So moist! I am drooling right now for a slice. Thankfully I have the recipe ;-)The recipe is an adaptation out of her last book: MORE GREAT GOOD DAIRY-FREE DESSERTS NATURALLY (she has a new book in the pipeline though!)
But more so was that I was in a room with a group who loved baking like I do. That felt just awesome. Kim of C’est La Vegan was so nice to talk to and her desserts look so lovely! It seemed that I would turn around and meet yet another lady who loved baking as much as me – but more so had the drive to want to know more. Susan of Pursuit Of Vegginess was another one of our clan.
That afternoon I met up with Kirk and Walker and he helped me take back things. It was so nice to be able to see them through the day. That evening as it cooled down we took Walker for a stroll and then out to dinner on the riverwalk. We were able to find a nice place with outdoor seating for the jogger stroller. And had a 2 hour dinner – shocking I know but for most of it Walker did great 🙂
On Sunday I was up early again and at breakfast I met Hannah Kaminsky – whose book My Sweet Vegan: passionate about dessert came home with me. After breakfast I attended a panel with Cat on marketing and branding. I have to say that for anyone who blogs, runs a website or wants to be more focused a class like that is excellent. The best advice came from Stephanie of Vegan Mainstream. Her advice had me not only wanting to come home and write so much more but as well gave me a focus I haven’t had in a long time for my business. It gave me a lot to ponder – in a good way.
It was there that Cat introduced me to Kathy of Healthy Slow Cooking who I might add has her new book coming out very soon! ( The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not!) Will Devour ). In the swag bags we had received a OXO Good Grips Pepper Mill, that had been donated by OXO through Kathy. What a fun gift, and yes, as soon as I got home I put it together 😉
After another long day I collapsed and Kirk and I went out for a late evening riverwalk/dinner at a cafe with outdoor seating once again and a relaxing walk until suddenly the left back side of Walker’s BOB jogger stroller fell back. Well, that wasn’t fun. Once we got back to the hotel I took a long look and found the stitching had come undone causing the buckle system to fail. To say the least this ruined my love of the BOB right there. We ended up going to REI and they took it back (yowza). But with the BOB’s on sale currently the local REI had no singles on the floor to check out. Although we could see from the Dualie version that the company no longer has the buckle on the back. I could have sewed it back up although it would have been pretty hard to get my fingers in there (I would have had to hand sew) and honestly I couldn’t find the enthusiasm to do it. When I lose trust, I lose trust pretty bad. But really it was all OK I realized – it was the only mar of the weekend and we could use the stroller in a pinch if we put it all the way back in sleeping position.
We had decided to stay through Monday morning so we could have a relaxing drive back. Woke up to clouds and drizzle and cool weather. After a weekend of hot sunny weather it was great! We took our time and had an easy drive home, Monday mid-morning is about as slow of a day as you can find and Walker slept most of the way.
Got home tired and with so much to think over. A lot to come in the future I know!