Tapas on Mount Hood

Yesterday, Catherine I and returned from three luxurious nights with friends at a cabin in the foothills north of Mount Hood. I hope to remember and repeat the way we cooked: We all brought food, so there was plenty. We mostly didn’t coordinate, we just ensured we got our own needs met. It was an open kitchen, so everyone was welcome to graze whenever. Those of us who like to cook, cooked when we felt like it. Those of us who hate cooking did dishes. Some of us brought booze, some brought mixers. With regards to the kitchen, each of us got to feel like we were on vacation.

I planned a Spanish night, with several different tapas courses leading up to a main dish, a sarten. The word is Spanish for “frying pan”, so the word is similar to saying “casserole”; both dishes are named for the dish they’re cooked in. In this case, I planned a dish of garlic, seafood, and black pepper swimming in a sea of olive oil, seasoned at the end by wild peas with a fresh nutty flavor that our new friend Kate had harvested nearby.

I started off making a Béchamel sauce into which went a bunch of garlic and about 2 cups of prawns, cooked and finely diced, plus about a quarter cup of tomato paste and seasonings.

While the prawn sauce thickened, I started on mushrooms, to go with aioli on bread. A few days prior, while camping at Bagby Hotsprings, I had failed miserably at sautéed mushrooms by marinating them in far too much balsamic vinegar. They turned out unpalatably bitter, and no amount of salt or other ingredients we had on hand could rescue them. That dish went so badly that I consulted cookbooks after the fact to learn how I could have been so wrong (a true admission of humility for me, which for the record happens regularly).

It turns out my problem wasn’t too much balsamic, but incorporating it at all. Balsamic vinegar was a bad guess. Sherry was the key! We had packed an impressive bar up to the mountain, but it was stocked for making cocktails. When do you ever need sherry in a cocktail? We had none; dry vermouth intended for martinis worked in a pinch. The mushrooms came out as dark and delicious as I had wanted, with nothing in the way of their perfect mushroom-forward flavor.

I improvised aioli: We had brought Trader Joe’s mayonnaise, the best kind. To it I added a lot of garlic powder that had simmered in as small an amount of olive oil and lemon as I could manage to simmer anything in. I think this would have worked if I had cooled the garlic oil and then whipped it into the mayo. Anyhow, it was a mistake to add the mayo directly into the still-hot pan, as that didn’t result in an emulsion. The flavor was just right, though and it was easy to hide its consistency in the plating: I simply spooned the oily, lumpy, delicious mixture over bread before covering it over with mushrooms. This tapas plate was the first served, and it was a hit.

Before adding the prawns, I had thought to double the recipe, but I didn’t end up having enough prawns for that, so I made twice as much Béchamel sauce as needed and reserved half of it. I offered it up to Zack to use in his cooking if he liked, but he had a brilliant idea: croque monsieurs, which are essentially Béchamel baked over grilled cheese sandwiches. (God bless the French.)

It was perfect. It had to happen. I had purchased two baguettes, and was simply slicing pieces off as needed for each dish, as thick or thin as needed — so we had plenty of bread. We also weren’t lacking for cheese, so I didn’t skimp on that or on the butter to fry the cheese in. While heating the oven, I made bacon, which went right back in after cooking, in between the grilled cheese sliders and their Béchamel blankets. (So these ended up somewhere between croque monsieurs and croque madams, which are like the former but with a hat of sunny side egg atop ham.)

Using the vermouth earlier had reminded me that martinis exist, and I’m afraid one thing led to another and I forgot to mind the broiler. I ended up burning the bacon, but I’ll be damned if these weren’t melt-in-your-mouth perfect just the same. That was a bit of luck.

Something like an hour and a half in, I had served two dishes. This felt about right. I had warned my friends this would be a lazy, casual, gradual evening of gluttony. But it felt time for a bit more variety, and also something a bit lighter, so I sliced up another bowl of bread and served it with oil and vinegar for dipping, mainly to buy a bit of time. Simple bread and oil can be such a treat. After giving the prawn sauce a stir for the dozenth time, I prepared and served a caprése salad, which was simple, light, and delicious.

Then came deviled eggs, which I was quite proud. They were every bit as delicious as they are typically served, but took a fifth of the time to prepare and were quite unique: I quartered 4 hard boiled length-wise to form wedges, and plated them with the hardboiled yolk left intact, yolk-side-up in a starburst pattern. Over that I drizzled what was left of the aioli and sprinkled salt, dried parsley and chives, and paprika. I served this with in true Spanish tapas style: Several forks for sharing and eating directly off the plate. The reaction in the living room restored the blow that the bitter balsamic mushrooms had recently done to my ego.

Into the skillet went as much spinach as I could get to stay in, with a quarter cup of water and several tablespoons of white vinegar. When it had cooked down I filled the skillet again with more, again as much would fit. A few minutes later I added an entire package of Neufchatel (cream cheese, essentially), half a lemon, and several tablespoons of Penzeys’ Tandoori curry seasoning to taste. About 5 cloves of garlic ended up not being enough to make a difference, so I’ll know to triple that next time. I also forgot to add the ghee, which I believe is what made this such a success the first time I’d experimented with it a week before.

While the spinach cooked, I served some salami and mozzarella on a plate, to keep up the rhythm. By the time I brought out the spinach, I was met by protestations: Was I was trying to kill my friends? No one could find any more room in their stomach, so sadly it was time to stop cooking.

I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more with having so much to do in the kitchen and delighting my diners with such a rich meal. And at the same time, it was healthy: We all ended up eating less since the slow pace and small portions of tapas force you to eat small amounts so that by the time the third and fourth dishes are coming out, you already feel full.

I’ll be cooking tapas more often. How I do miss you, Spain, and how grateful I am to be able to enjoy your cuisine!

What about the prawn sauce, you ask? It spent the night in the refrigerator, and the next day I formed it into small lumps breaded in panko, dipped in egg, and breaded a second time, before frying in a few centimeters of canola. These served for lunch. To my surprise, they needed salt — but otherwise you’re damn right I will be doing that again.

And that next day was Zach’s night to cook, so the sarten never got to be. Perhaps tonight… if only it weren’t 100 degrees in Portland today… maybe tomorrow, for a late breakfast with more bread and chilled white wine.

Sacrificing to the Travel Gods

This morning began when I rolled over and, bleary-eyed, mumbled to Matthew, “We should really post something on Galactic Panda today”. He blinked back, took in that first breath that stretches the rib cage, and pronounced, “… Sure!”

Matthew at the Cathedral of Seville

Matthew at the Cathedral of Seville

“What the heck are we going to write about?” I thought. We’ve spent our five days thus far in Sevilla playing catch-up at work, finding coffee and groceries, and begging our landlord to come over to fix the shower so it can be set to a temperature a little cooler than “nuclear volcano.” We haven’t seen much of the city.

Today was intended to change that. So we walked deep into the old city, in search of the cathedral.

And while there, today’s blog post wrote itself as I was lovingly pick-pocketed. Okay, metaphorically.

If you’re ever in Sevilla and some kindly looking woman tries to hand you a piece of Rosemary, you say “No, gracias!” repeatedly, and you move on. They won’t give you another moment’s attention when they see that you’re wise to their ways.

What ways are those, you ask? Well here’s what happened to me.

Wherein we find truth in gypsy stereotypes

In the shadow of Sevilla’s enormous cathedral is a glorious outdoor photography exhibit, filled with expressive black and white photos of African tribal people, elephants, Sumatran trees, Utah mesas, and Alaskan mountains.

As the hot sun beats down and we wind through these paintings, toward us come a throng of smiling women, holding out sprigs of rosemary, offering it to the art appreciators and tourists. “A gift!” they say, “A blessing from Santa Maria!” Most of the tourists declined the blessing.

When I was offered, I thought, “I love rosemary!” So I accepted.

And the beautiful young lady pleasantly, but aggressively, launched into an elaborate telling of my fortune based first on my right palm, and then my left, in patient Spanish. It all happened so quickly, I was in the middle of it before I had a clue of what was happening. She told me I would have two children, that the strength and luck of my ancestors passes to me, that my lottery number is five. She repeated that a few times — she really wanted me to understand that. My lottery number — it is five. She said many other things that I did not understand.

She was lovely and charismatic and seemed to really care about her craft. And at the end, I thanked her and started to pass her a couple euros in thanks. “No,” she insisted. It was five euros for each hand, and she had done both. I was in shock. Ten euros?! But I passed them over, just wanting the whole awkward exchange to be over.

I learned later that Matthew had had a similar experience: the woman made her offering, and he accepted it, and she launched into telling his fortune. Immediately, he declined, at which point she asked for payment for the Rosemary. Amused, he handed the sprig back, and said “No thank you” many times.

He then tried to walk over to me, at which point she waved him off, declaring the reading sacred — he must not overhear. He felt genuinely affronted at that point, as this woman stood barring his way to his girl.

“Seems a little extreme,” he said to me later, only then realizing that it must have been a sales tactic. She did not want Matthew interrupting her sister’s sale.

All of this was capped off by my fortune teller acting horrified that I wouldn’t pay for Matthew to have a reading of his own.

It’s strange encountering people whose entire livelihood depends on taking advantage of you

I was really hoping that this lovely lady with the weather vane was going to be the patron saint of ships. More photos and history later!

That “I’ve been taken advantage of” feeling washed over me. Even as we walked around the outside of the gorgeous cathedral, emotions flooded my gut: embarrassment that I had let it happen, and anger that people take advantage of others this way.

I let this happen. At no point did she handcuff me and forcefully take my cash. I was 100% complicit in this. But I never consciously consented to any of this. She manipulated and corned me with her aggressive and disarming sweetness.

I thought about what makes a good sale. At Rocket Lift, we talk about this a great deal. Our goal is to make every sale a win-win-win. The client feels like they’re getting an excellent service (which they are), Rocket Lift feels that the client is a good fit and that the work is worth the time, and the people doing the project are excited about the work. No one feels that they have been taken advantage of.

This young Gypsy had so much conviction in the value of her craft that I in turn felt that there was intrinsic value. That combined with sheer shock caused me to part with ten euros I really wish I hadn’t, and that I felt I got nothing for in exchange.

Las Turistas Estupidas

Our friends in Zihuatanejo, Jeff and Harmony, introduced us to “The Stupid Tourist Tax,” and we used that term for a while. All travelers have been in a situation where you pay too much for a taxi, buy groceries from the stores with the high tourist markup, pack too much and pay extra in baggage fees… These are the mistakes we make when we have just not learned better yet. Key word: yet.

Our friend Alba in Valencia has a different term for this: “Sacrificing to the Travel Gods.” We like this better because instead of something being taken from us, we can think of our parted funds as an due gift to benevolent and playful forces we dance with, who in return help us cope, function, eat, sleep, breathe, and perhaps even blend in a foreign place.

These sacrifices have inherent value, including wisdom, and stories we can share with you for entertainment.

All our knowledge has its origins in our perception. — Leonardo da Vinci

“Sacrificing to the Travel Gods” is 100% about perception. I can look at this experience as a negative one, wherein some horrible woman stole from me (I did feel that way for a good hour or so), or I can realize that now I know something I did not know before, and know it will make a funny story later.

When traveling, things can go very wrong

Once you realize you’ve been had, if you find yourself incapable of distilling a lesson or finding a pearl of wisdom from your experience, then maybe the Travel Gods had little to do with it. Or, maybe it’s just that something really shitty happened to you.

My father was pick-pocketed in France. As I recall, they took his passport, and he left my teenaged brother on the bus with their bicycles to chase down the culprits on foot.

I don’t believe that any just and generous God encourages one human being to fill another with the mortal terror that comes from being separated from their passport. No sacrificing to Travel Gods here, just desperate people victimizing others.

Dad got his passport back; the lesson here being: keep your friends close, your passport closer, and chase down pick-pocketing enemies with the wings of Mercury. (I suppose maybe he’d banked a favor with the Roman God of Travel earlier, demonstrating another side of the inherent value in these sacrifices.)

A big yellow taxi took my Peso away

We can look at the local entrepreneurs as merely taking advantage. Sometimes, they certainly do. On the other hand, perception can give two sides to the same interaction.

When we arrived in Zihuatanejo, Jeff and Harmony instructed us to take the bus to the city center. It would cost about a dollar. We walked around the airport, looking for signs to the autobús and asking everyone how to find them. Alas, no signs, and no one seemed able to help.

We eventually took a cab. $45. Boo.

A month and a half into our residence in Zihua, we knew we could get a bus to the airport, no problem. Busses with “Aeropuerto” stenciled all over them were everywhere in the Centro. Unlike taxis, these were filled with locals — not with gringos.

We suspect that the airport employees are in cahoots with the taxi companies, and aren’t about to help clever tourists take the cheap bus when they’re ripe prey for the taxi drivers.

No problem, we thought. We paid the Travel Gods — now we know better. We’ll take the bus on our way out.

Except, the day of our departure was the day that I got hit with the worst food poisoning I’d ever had. A few years ago, I would get food poisoning about once a month so I was no stranger to this, but this was something special. I spent the entire night praying to keep water down, and trying not to get dehydrated. Matthew had to pack and clean the apartment for us, all by himself.

Even though we had plenty of time to get to the airport, the thought of squeezing next to 20 other people into a tiny van (the buses are more like vans), without AC, with an unpredictable stomach… there was simply no way.

Matthew, my hero until the end of time, got me to the airport via a nice cool tax cab. Another $45, and the best we’d ever spent.

Knowing and choosing your options makes all the difference. It felt fine to pay the $45 this time, because we had agency. This was a win-win! We were happy to pay almost any price for a cool drive, and the driver was happy to take an expensive fare to the airport. Even if he was over charging the rich gringos, meh! We really didn’t care.

Pass the love and wisdom on!

Do you have any memories from traveling abroad when you wish you could’ve had a do-over? When did you spend too much? Dad, did I get that pick-pocketing story right?

The Pumpkin’s Progress

A journey through pictures


“I am a pumpkin! Will you be my friend?”


“I am so happy to be a pumpkin! But it’s cold in here!”


“Oh yeah. This is much warmer. Loving this!”


“It is my disposition to be happy. But WHAT THE HECK?”




“Given a choice, I would have become a gluten free pumpkin pie. Dreams do come true!”


Matthew and I honored the sacrifice of our cheery little pumpkin and devoured him the day after Halloween. Slightly more custard-like consistency than pie, but delicious!


A pumpkin inspired hat

IMG_0098IMG_0099Last but not least, our little pumpkin created inspiration for this bright orange floppy cap. This was knit with a seed stitch for the body and a nice thick ribbing. I make these hats floppy and stylish, but on cold autumn evenings you can pull this cap snug over your ears.

Want one for yourself?

This pumpkin inspired hat is only $25 plus shipping. It goes to the first person to send me an email.

I love making hats this time of year, and I’m not normally a BRIGHT ORANGE kind of girl, but this was a fun one to make as the trees turn the same color and fall from the trees.

Our Halloween

This Halloween I learned: Matthew has amnesia.

Every year he forgets how much he loves Halloween right up until the moment when little children start knocking on the door. This tragic infliction results in never having a costume prepared in advance. A mad scramble in the closet for anything “costume like” ensues.

Though he does make a very cute “Architect” (no complaints!), next year we will make an effort to cure his “Halloween Amnesia” a few weeks in advance, and dress him up like something other than architect (Jeans and a knit sweater.)

One more note: We had approximately 20 young visitors demanding candy. Like Portland, smart Denver parents design costumes that incorporate thick jackets and gloves. One boy came to our door dressed with a cheeky variation on the warm weather costume: He was all in light grey sweatpants, with GHOST stitched across his chest. His costume was one of the few we didn’t need to wonder about.

Something Tells Me it’s All Happening At the Zoo!

On Monday, Matthew and I played hookie and went where? Yes! The zoo!

We’ve been looking forward to November 3rd since the week we arrived in Denver. I went online to find all of the “free days” Denver has to offer. In addition to the zoo, we’ve also been to the Denver Art Museum and we’re going to the Botanical Gardens this Saturday, all for free! (Though we did buy a much needed coffee that afternoon at the chaotic Kibongi Coffee Shop.)

Coffee in the afternoon? Are we crazy?

No. We were freezing. Monday was the coldest day we’ve experienced in Denver, hovering around 39 degrees. Im an “autumn optimist” (some would say “autumn idiot”) and it is my tendency to not bust out my winter ware until frost is on the ground. Somehow, I believe that if I don’t dress for the weather (thereby acknowledging it’s cold out there) I can hold onto the last remnants of summer. My big grey “apocalypse coat,” (a gift from my Mama) stayed home.

Denial is a powerful thing. Except it didn’t work Monday and is likely to kill me in the future.

But we were at the zoo! So it was worth it.

I find myself conflicted about animals in cages, but I have to say this about the Denver zoo: they care very deeply about conservation and animal sanity. Not only do they supply their animals with homes as close to their natural habitat as man can create, they are active participants in breeding and releasing programs to repopulate eIMG_0301ndangered species.

All that said, I would appreciate it if you could send some happy thoughts to Denver’s snow leopard. Of all the creatures I witnessed in captivity, this fellow seemed to have the hardest time coping. When we were outside, he prowled around the back of his cage, occasionally letting out this wail that would chill your bones. You know that sound that your cat makes when you put it in a carrier? That guttural, threatened sound? Imagine that from a 150 lb creature. Once he came inside, he lay down on the rocks, and I captured this image. Like I said, just send these beautiful creatures some happy thoughts.

My new favorite animal, however, was having much more fun. But at 4 months old, everything is fun. The Fossa (pronounced FOO-sah) resembles a cougar (it was in the Feline exhibit) but their closest relative is actually the mongoose. They have long bodies and a tail to match and at 20 pounds they are the largest mammals on Madagascar, putting them on top of the food chain. Here is little Rico and his mama Violet. Although still at nursing age, Rico doesn’t believe he should be excluded from the bone that’s larger than him. No way.

IMG_0404 The last time I went to the zoo with my mother, she called out at the roaming peacock and got him to open up his plumage. (My mom’s got the pipes to seduce a peacock. I’m a proud daughter.) In her honor, I called out at all of the peacocks I saw, but they weren’t interested.

IMG_0466Last but not least, we have Denver zoo’s Toyota model. I hope she’s paid well and has an awesome dressing room.


7 Day Challenge: After Final Day!

We kinda can’t believe we did it. But we did!

A year’s worth of casual work and it all came down to one hard push for one hard week. We are both blown away with how much we accomplished in the last 7 days!

This would not have been possible without all of you, holding us accountable, sending happy thoughts, digitally standing there with proud, smiling faces. Thank you, dear friends and family!

There were a few days this week when we would have preferred to spend the entire day in bed. Of course, this was compounded by the fact that Matthew came down with a sinus infection, and now I am feeling fluid in my chest that wasn’t there a few days ago.

“We’re going live right now,” Matthew just muttered at me, tired but triumphant. “We did it!”

We’ve come to our self-imposed finish line, 30 minutes after midnight, exhausted and sick (despite many glorious naps!) and infinitely proud.

And hey! Check out the new site! LMTWorld.com is a safe hub for present and future massage therapists to get the tools they need to succeed. The primary feature is a set of audio study guides recorded by the one and only, Bob Sterry. These were designed with auditory learners (like me!) in mind, to help them learn their kinesiology (aka muscle anatomy), and to pass their massage boards. Ideally, these will be useful for individuals studying to be chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and so on. We’ll see!

In the meanwhile, Matthew and I are celebrating with a quick whiskey, then hitting the sack with tea and kittens who’ve been after us to come to bed for hours.

This is such a great feeling!

My New Superpower!

For many years, my personal claim to superhero fame has been that I give off a ridiculous amount of body heat. Especially while sleeping. If you ever find yourself trapped on a mountain, or snow camping (voluntarily?), you’ll want me there as your own personal biological space heater. (Those of you who know me know that I’d have to be under duress or seriously bribed to be found sleeping outside in the snow.)

Like Rogue of the X-Men, my superpower is a double edged sword. As much heat as I give away, I keep none for myself. I am the champion of freezing my butt off while I keep my partner snuggly and warm.

But here in Denver, I have a new superpower! One that not only benefits my little family around me, but is actually useful to me as well!

The best part? This superpower is one that you can activate! But more on that later…

So what is this superpower, you ask? I can find anything in my apartment. The source of this power is simple: I packed my life into my Camry, to move my boyfriend, two cats and myself to Denver. Hard questions had to be asked: what do we need and what can we fit?

Somehow, we managed to pack everything we truly required, and still found room for some camping supplies and my electric guitar, both of which I was sure fell into the “there’s no room for that” category.

All this boils down to the fact that we did not bring all that much with us! And there is a direct correlation between how much schtuff you have and how easy it is to lose things.

And because I was pretty much the sole human responsible for making these decisions and packing the car (I mean, the cats helped a little), the reality is, if I don’t remember packing it, it didn’t get packed.

These days, if a question starts with, “Do you know where…” I can answer, “Yup! It’s right there!” It is enormously satisfying.

If you feel inspired to get rid of some of your “unnecessaries,” here are five things that might fuel your declutter fire.

Activate your Simplicity Superpower!

  1. Get rid of 5 things every day for 3 months! Big or small, innocent or insidious, let it go. This should be easy for the first couple weeks and get gradually harder. But seriously, let go.
  2. “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” This is true. I have found my very favorite sweater, my very favorite blouse and the only pare of jeans I have ever loved at a Goodwill. Thank you, whomever these items didn’t work for!
  3. Stuff that got tossed

    “Argh! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” Firefly

  4. Take a picture of it. Are you surrounded by precious, memory infused items that you cannot part with, but inevitably collect dust or are always in the way? Photograph it and save it digitally. It is the memory that is important to us, not the item itself.
  5. Be honest. Do you really think you’ll fit into that dress you rocked in high school? You don’t weigh 113 any more. It’s ok. Forgive yourself. And give it to a high schooler.
  6. Enlist an ally. This is huge. Other people do not care about your crap. Not even a little bit. Invite your most honest (and loving) friend over, put a glass of wine in her hand, and hold things up to her while she says, “keep” or “toss.” You’ll make some fast progress.

Spring cleaning season has passed, but autumn is the time for stripping away the things you don’t want to hibernate with this winter! (Physically and metaphorically!) This fall, get rid of the things that are no longer serving you.

Spend this winter feeling clean, and knowing where all of your stuff is!


Our Plans through August, 2015

Yesterday, we outlined our Grand Nomadic Plan. Today we get specific.

September through November 20th, 2014

Our adventures begin in Denver, Colorado.

Here are the main reasons we chose to start here.

First: Denver’s got sun

Denver’s 300 days of sunshine a year easily beats Portland’s 144 days in our view. This is coming from a couple who are both self-diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome. We love Portland weather during the summer, but it bums us out most of the rest of the year. Extending our ability to bask in the celestial glowing orb’s rays of warming joy is an important requirement in choosing where to reside for more than a few days.

Second: Denver’s comfortable

Denver shares a lot in common with Portland, so we won’t have to adjust our lifestyles much at all to get on here. Keeping things relatively simple in our home life will allow us to maintain continuity at work, and focus on the adjustments we’ll need to adapt work to this new lifestyle.

We’re also relatively close to Portland, compared to some of the other places we’re excited to see (Spain, Thailand…), so in case this adventure doesn’t work out for some reason, we can get home easily enough to recharge and rethink our plans.

Third: Certain people live in Denver

Okay FaceTime vs face time which wins?

FaceTime vs face time okay who wins?

My brother Dan moved out here a year and a half ago for school. He and I are super close, and he and Catherine are big fans of each other too, so we’ve missed him quite a bit. He will show us around and introduce us to his friends and his cat, Spice. We’ll have work/study parties, and be Star Wars nerds together.

I’ve also been meaning for years to visit some good friends from college days who live here. Since I saw them last, they’ve established a thriving urban farm and made another (omg adorable) person together. Reconnecting is long overdue. I hope they don’t get sick of us while we’re here.

We’re here. Now what?

So whatchoo wanna do? I dunno, whatchoo wanna do?

So whatchoo wanna do? I dunno, whatchoo wanna do?

Through Airbnb, we’re staying in a small, charming studio apartment in the Wash Park neighborhood, about 10 minutes south of downtown by car.

Catherine had the brilliant idea of looking up Groupons a few weeks before we arrived, and booked us four weeks of salsa dance lessons.

Me enjoying the Washington Park flower gardens

Me enjoying the Washington Park flower gardens

We’re also looking forward to the touristy things. We’ll camp and go for hikes in the beautiful Rockies to the west, and perhaps Telluride to the south. I’m excited to check out local museums and city parks, and probe how easy it is to avoid my food allergens while dining out.

We’ll continue this writing habit, and make it more regular. Any day now, we’ll start that daily yoga & meditation practice we’ve been planning on. And, we’ll pick back up with our Spanish studies, which we had to pause as we got a little too busy packing up our apartment.

We’ll work as much as we can every day to launch a couple of side business projects. The weather has started to turn to the cooler side, so Catherine has started knitting like a mad woman (for the record: her words, not mine). We’ll write more about our other projects in the near future.

More generally, we’re excited to shake up our patterns, and bring a little more focus and intention to our lives. More astoundingly insightful reflections on that later, I’m sure.

Late November through early January, 2015

We’ll come back to Portland for the holidays, and live with Catherine’s father Art and his wife Elaine at Timberline Meadows, their horse farm out in The Boonies, Oregon City, Oregon.

We’re looking forward to the quiet of the farm, and the juxtaposition that turning towards rural living will bring, not to mention spending time with Art and Elaine.

We’ll head to Southern California for about a week in early December for Catherine’s mother’s annual extended family Christmas.

We’ll also try to work on catching up with as many Portland friends as we can, although time is sure to run short.

January through July, 2015

Ideally we’ll be in Valencia, Spain for six months, if we work out a legal way to live there that long as American tourists. Alternately, we will split our time between Spain and nearby countries outside of the European Union’s Schengen Zone. This all depends on our visa situation.

Once again, we’ll be working full time — not technically on vacation. This move will introduce a new time zone dimension into our distributed team’s workflow at Rocket Lift. This is part of what building a vibrant and sustainable modern business looks like to me, so I welcome the challenge.

Things we’re looking forward to include Living in Spain!, gorging our guts on paella, bending our brains with Gaudí’s space-warping architecture, soaking in the Mediterranean coast, lots of seafood, and Spanish language immersion. I’m over the moon about the potential to see Barcelona FC play in their own stadium(!), and am excited to build international connections in the open source web developer community.

We’ve chosen the coastal Spanish town of Valencia as our home-base because some long-time family friends who live there. We’re both excited to branch out from there, taking long weekends to visit other European cities. Catherine’s especially stoked to show me Berlin, and visit Prauge and Toulouse. We’ll reconnect with some expat and foreign friends we’ve made over the years, hopefully including Catherine’s brother [Dominic](LINK to Facebook), if his world travels as a professional Tango dancer and instructor happen to overlap with ours.

Early July, 2015

Our European tour next year will culminate in France, for Catherine’s cousin Meggie’s marriage to her beloved François.

July through August, 2015

We expect to head back to Portland for the summer. Since we’ve just started, it’s hard to imagine, but I’m sure it will be good to be back home.

Fall, 2015

Thailand? New Zealand? Mexico? Fellow traveling fiends out there, got any advice?

Our Grand Nomadic Plan

A week and four days ago, Catherine and I vacated our apartment in Portland. We gave away or sold perhaps a tenth of our belongings, packed our most important things into the Camry, and put the rest in storage. (Thanks for the garage space, Moms and Dads!) Then we drove to Denver, Colorado, with our cats and our excitement.

We’ll be living in Denver for a total of two and a half months. It’s the first stop in what we expect will be a lifestyle of traveling around the world. Stay tuned for more on why specifically Denver, tomorrow.

The idea is novel, but pretty simple. When your work is Internet-based and not tied to a specific geographic place, you can work from anywhere that you have decent Internet bandwidth.

Now we are Digital Nomads

By choosing to live simply and carefully managing our finances, we can trade having lots of things for having lots of new experiences, without a significant change in our income.

We can rent cozy, fully-furnished homes anywhere in the world on flexible schedules, for about the same cost as rent and utilities in a traditional long term lease. It’s all made possible by Internet-based services. Airbnb connects us with new landlords. Directories like Yelp crowdsource local knowledge to help us find great places to eat, and attractions to visit.

This is not a vacation. We aren’t spending money we have saved up to adventure full time for several days, before heading back to the grind. We continue working full time to sustain our income, even as we travel. This lets us travel more often, enjoy local experiences during nights and weekends, and continue advancing our businesses and careers simultaneously.

This translates to living more simply (in some ways), being more mobile, seeing more places, and having more adventures. It’s a bit like retirement, without stopping work.

Itching to Travel

When we met two years ago, we were both interested in seeing the world. We shared a passion to make this happen for ourselves somehow, some way, and sooner than later.

Catherine felt she’d missed out by not studying abroad during college. She’s been wanting to try living anywhere outside of Oregon for years. She misses the sunshine something fierce during Portland winters, and would like to reconnect with her childhood home state of California. She also wants to see the country, and spend time in Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America … name an interesting place, and she’s probably up for it.

And I craved the full time globetrotting-while-working lifestyle. I was introduced to the idea by colleagues in the WordPress field, where it is fairly common for teams to work remotely spread across the globe, and meet up a few times a year for workcations in far-flung places, to see the sights and collaborate on work projects in person. This has always appealed to me, because my idea of vacation includes work. Leisure quickly bores me. I want to chew on stimulating problems with a beautiful view by day, and to play hard with great food and friends in novel places at night.

Getting ready for this

So together in the last 18 months, we’ve read books and blog posts from people living the wandering life. They’ve paved the way for us with inspiration and insights.

We’ve learned about traveling light. (We have more of that to learn.) Catherine has mastered credit card mileage rewards like a boss. We’re working on building “passive income” (misnomer alert!) businesses. We’ve learned to make mail forwarding sane despite moving frequently. We’ve socked away some dollars in a safety fund.

Here goes!

Catherine and Matthew on a Seattle water taxi

Pandas. On a boat! In Seattle. Not quite as baffled as we look.