Winter/Spring 2019 in Portland

The last week has been sunny and the temperature is inching higher; warm weather is so close we can taste it. Since we were in Portland from February-April 2016, we’re right at the three year window and it’s been fun comparing how different it’s been this time around.IMG_0444.jpeg

Winter 2016 was very mild, but also very wet. The temperatures hovered around 50 (the average for PNW winters), and there were many gray and drizzly days (also average for PNW winters). Winter 2018 has been vastly different! The temperatures this go-round have been well below average with more 30-degree days than we’d care to count and a couple of snow days thrown in there. We didn’t see snow at all in 2016 unless we went into the mountains, so, needless to say, we were surprised.

Precipitation is another area that has surprised us this time. While 2016 was pretty gray and wet, 2019 has been…I don’t want to jinx it…sunny and dry. There have been days of rain, but more often than not the sun is shining. While the city has been dry, the mountains have been getting a lot of snow. We’ve seen snow much lower on Mt. Hood than in 2016 and all of the trails we’ve hiked have been covered in the white stuff. A big part of the reason we haven’t done much hiking this winter has been because of the cold as well as the snowy (and therefore sloppy) trail conditions.

Weather aside, we’re still really enjoying our time here. We’re not as gung-ho about seeing and doing all the things as we were in 2016, and have been taking our time settling into a routine. The food and beer are still top notch, though we do need to prioritize getting out more.

We’re really excited for the rest of spring and summer since we haven’t gotten to experience those yet. Big plans include: seeing the rose test garden in full bloom, getting to the National Forests, and spending some time on the coast.


Spring 2019 Hikes

Angels Rest

Angels Rest trail is an easily-accessed trail in the Columbia River Gorge, an easy 30 miles from downtown Portland. The trail is a 4.3 mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back with gorgeous vistas culminating in a spectacular view from the top. It is a gradual climb of ~1400 feet and features a stream crossing and waterfall. Since it is right off the interstate it can get busy, so it’s best to go earlier in the day. In early February the trail was quite muddy at the bottom and snow covered at the top, so having proper hiking shoes was imperative. The Gorge experienced a fire in 2017 that shut down most of the trails on the Oregon side of the river; this trail (and many others) only recently opened in November 2018. There is still evidence of burn the higher up you get, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.

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Mirror Lake Loop

The Mirror Lake loop trail is located in Government Camp at the base of Mt. Hood. The trail is roughly 4 miles with only 650ft. of elevation gain – it’s a very easy and fun hike for all skill levels. We went in mid-March when the weather was sunny and in the low-60s. The trail was moderately trafficked, but I imagine there are a lot more people if you go in the summer. The trail is primarily used for snowshoeing during the winter months. We didn’t have snowshoes, but luckily the snow was hard packed and we didn’t experience any postholing. Once we got to the lake, the original intention was to continue on to the Tom, Dick, and Harry trail, but the snow was too deep and not hard-packed so we were in it up to our knees. One of the coolest things was the bridge crossings – the snow was so deep that we were walking at the top of the railings, a good 3+ feet above the trail! This is a great trail and easy way to get up close and personal to Mt. Hood without doing very strenuous climbing.

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Shellburg and Stassel Falls Loop

We headed to Salem on a Sunday afternoon to hike the Shellburg and Stassel Falls loop. The trail is 6.5 miles and is on the easy side of moderate. The majority of the trail was on service roads with a couple of portions on single-track trail. The first mile or so is on a road through cow pastures. Once you enter the Santiam State Forest, about a mile and half in, you’ll be standing at the top of Stassel falls. The majority of people bypass the entire loop in favor of just seeing Shellburg Falls, but we opted to hike the entire trail. It was lightly trafficked the day we went and we didn’t see another person until we were on our way out (according to AllTrails this is not usually the case). The highlight of the hike was Shellburg Falls – a 100 ft. waterfall that you can walk behind. Snickers was a little scared to walk behind the water, but she loved running the muddy trails. If you’re in the area, Shellburg Falls is a great sight to see, but otherwise we weren’t too impressed with the trail. We do recommend stopping in Salem at either Salem Ale Works or Bine Valley for some beer after the hike.

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Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes


It’s been many moons since I’ve had an Irish car bomb, but whenever St. Patrick’s Day rolls around I find myself thinking about that delicious, milkshake-like drink. To honor the patron saint of beer I whipped up some cupcakes that incorporate all the boozy components of the quintessential St. Paddy’s drink…without the hangover. You don’t have to slam these like the drink, but I won’t judge you if you do. They’re that good.

The traditional car bomb uses Guiness, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Jameson. Around here, we tend to buck tradition and wanted to use ingredients that were local. I used Loowit War Tortoise Barrel Aged Stout (brewed in Vancouver, WA) baked into the cupcakes, Woodinville Bourbon Whiskey (distilled in Woodinville, WA) swirled in the ganache, and Five Farms Irish Cream (not local – Cork, Ireland) whipped in the icing.

The following measurements will yield 12 cupcakes.

Chocolate Cake

My go-to chocolate cake recipe is none other than Hershey’s that I’ve adapted slightly over the years. It yields an insanely moist and flavorful cake that has yet to fail me. For this version, I swapped beer for the coffee.

  • 1.5 oz dark chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup stout of your choosing
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk – I use 1/2 C milk with a tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder – can use regular cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare muffin tin.

Place chocolate chips and beer in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Whisk together until smooth.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, mix together buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, gradually pour in the milk mixture and mix until combined (~30 seconds). Slowly add the chocolate and beer mixture until combined.

Divide mixture evenly in the muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) dark chocolate chips – or your favorite kind of chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey – can add more or less depending on your desired booziness

Heat heavy whipping cream in microwave-safe dish until hot but not boiling (~45 seconds – 1 minute). Add chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently stir the mixture until smooth. Add whiskey and mix to combine. Allow ganache to cool; it will thicken as it cools and you may want to put it in the fridge or freezer to speed up the process.

Irish Cream Frosting

  • 1 cup of butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream

In large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter on high until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). Slowly add powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments allowing mixture to combine before adding more (this helps decrease the graininess you sometimes get with American buttercreams). Once all the sugar has been added, pour in the Irish cream and continue whipping until light and fluffy (~3-4 minutes).


Once cupcakes are cooled, use a knife to cut a small hole in the top of each cupcake. Spoon a generous amount of ganache into the hole. Frost the cupcakes using your favorite method (I used a Wilton 1M tip).


Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake


Around mid-February, when it feels like the winter will never end, I get a craving for all things fresh, bright, and summery. Enter the lemon poppy seed pound cake. This bread is moist and bursting with lemon flavor. The poppy seeds add a fun texture and the glaze adds an extra punch of lemon. It’s perfect for breakfast, a mid-morning snack, or any time you’re craving a sweet treat. As always, we love ours paired with a good cup of coffee.


Lemon poppy seed pound cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 1/2 large lemons (~2 tablespoons)
  • Juice of 1/2 large lemon (~2 tablespoons)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 F and grease and flour an 8″x4″ bread pan.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine softened butter and sugar and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy (~3-4 minutes).

Mix in eggs one at a time until just combined. Then mix in vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

Alternate adding in half the flour mixture and half of the yogurt, scraping down the sides of the bowl before adding in the remaining. Do not over-mix.

Pour batter in prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

Lemon Glaze

  • Juice of 1/2 large lemon (~2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Add additional juice or sugar as needed to achieve the desired consistency. I also added some lemon zest, because you can’t have too much lemon flavor.

Once cake is cooled, drizzle glaze over the top.




Portland Urban Hikes

Whenever we don’t feel like packing up the car and driving to the mountains, we explore neighborhoods around town and call it urban hiking.

Mt. Tabor

Mt. Tabor is a park on a dormant volcano located in Southeast Portland. We venture over here every once in a while to walk around the trails and let the dog run around. There are about 5 miles of trails throughout the park and plenty of green space. Cars are only allowed in the lower area of the park and aren’t allowed at all on Wednesdays, so it’s the perfect place to go for a relaxing walk. On a clear day, you get a beautiful view of Mt. Hood from the top of the park.

North Portland

We initially planned to walk across the St. John’s Bridge and hike some of the northern trails in Forest Park. We made it about halfway across the bridge before deciding that we’d actually rather walk around the neighborhood since it’s a place we’ve never been before. The bridge itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture, and the area around it was surprisingly lively. We were right near Cathedral Park, which is nestled in an old industrial area of the city right on the Willamette River. The park got its name from the Gothic arches supporting the bridge. We walked along the beach and Snickers had a blast running in the sand and wading in the water. We ended up walking around abandoned warehouses and an eco-industrial space called Green Anchors.

Washington Park

Washington Park is another large green space in Northwest Portland. We walk here often from our apartment and wander through the neighborhoods on our way to and from. There are amazing houses in the Goose Hollow neighborhood, and you can’t beat an ice cream cone from Salt and Straw in the Alphabet District. Washington Park is also home to the arboretum, the Oregon Zoo, and the International Rose Test Garden to name a few attractions. We haven’t explored the whole park, but we like walking along the trails and through the gardens.

Hoyt Arboretum and Pittock Mansion

At the northwest end of Washington Park lies the Hoyt Arboretum – 190 acres of trees and gardens with 12 miles of trails winding throughout. Portland got a dusting of snow in early February, and we headed here on a Sunday morning while there was still snow on the ground. There are plenty of well-marked trails throughout the park, and we did the 1-hour loop (didn’t actually take us 1 hour; it was about 1 mile long) followed by a 1.5 mile hike on the Wildwood Trail up to the Pittock Mansion. The arboretum and trails were not too difficult and are a great way to get into nature without traveling outside of the city. The Pittock Mansion is a gorgeous structure that sits atop a hill with a magnificent view of downtown Portland and the mountains. It was built in 1909 and purchased by the city of Portland in the 1960s as a historic site.

January 2019 Hikes

We have not done a lot of hiking lately. Between travel and minor surgery (for the dog, she’s fine) we just haven’t gotten out of the city much. We’ve still spent a good amount of time on the trails, but they’ve been ones we’ve done many times before – a perk of living in a city surrounded by great trails. Hopefully we can get back in the swing of things in February.

Oregon Coast to Neahkahnie Mountain

In mid-January we ventured out to the coast to do a long hike. The weather ended up being perfect – it was sunny and so warm we had to keep shedding layers. The trail is a 7 mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back with an elevation gain of 2,200 ft. It is accessible from both a north and south trailhead; we started on the south side which has the steeper climb. The trail climbed 1.5 miles to the peak where we were treated to sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean before winding down to to an overlook. Even with the elevation, the trail is moderate and the view at the top makes the burning legs worth it.

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