OOTD: My favorite looks from my NYC trip!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

(This post contains affiliate links which, at no cost to you, may provide a commission to me to help keep my blog running.  Thanks for supporting my blog! And shoutout to my vacation photog - Eli)

One of my favorite parts of planning any vacation is...


No, I don't just stuff my suitcase full of whatever and hope for the best.  I'm also not the best at doing that thing where you find 12 different ways to wear the same shirt on one vacation.  I'm always like...well what about the pics???  Maybe this would change if I tried backpacking through Eastern Europe or something, but for the time being, I'm going to continue to be exxxxtra.

I do specifically seek out and shop for items that I think will fit in well with whatever locale I will be traveling to. I think about the weather, how much walking I'll be doing on certain days, and yes, what will look good in front of the photo ops I know I'll be seeing!

I had a couple favorite outfits from my trip to New York last week.  I knew I loved them, but I didn't realize they'd be such crowd pleasers!  I got lots of insta and real life compliments on these outfits, so I felt like they were great choices for my vacation!

So, before I left for this trip, I decided to place an order with good ol'

When I saw this dress, I knew it was a must!

It was only $25 and I loved the variety of colors in the stripes.  I figured it would be good for the weather we were expected for the end of May.

In reality, it ended up being WAAAAY hotter than expected and constantly sunny.  This was actually a great dress to wear in that kind of weather!  Normally, a maxi dress might be a little warm, but this one had the large slit, so it actually was pretty weather-friendly!  So, if you're shopping for a maxi dress to wear in hot weather, make sure to pick one out with proper ventilation! Haha.  Also, I knew I could throw on a cardigan if it did get chillier and I would probably be fine.  That was not necessary, though.  The only problem I encountered was sunburn!  Crazy tan lines, man.  Not gunna lie, I didn't expect to get that much sun on a "city" vacation.

Now for my handbag, I have this adorable little pink Pippa!  It's from the May kate spade collection and is the perfect "brunch bag."  The inside is striped and it closes with a drawstring.  I personally love it because it fits my DSLR.  Can you believe it?!  In that little bag, I have my camera, phone, card case, lipstick, chapstick, and Bath & Body Works size hand sanitizer.  Sometimes my business card case too.  There's surprisingly a lot of space!  It also comes in black and a few other colors.


Also a Forever 21 gem!  At $23, you can't beat that!

The 2nd day in New York was just as hot as the first.  I decided to spice up the layout of my tan lines with this little number.

Literally, I got so burnt this day.  It's all tan now, but dang.  
Note to self: Bring sunscreen to New York next time because it's $15 for a tiny bottle there and you will just say screw it and decide to burn instead...

But then I did pay at least $14 for every cocktail I bought there... My logic is clearly flawed.

But this jumpsuit was equally as weather-friendly as the dress.  Since it had pants this time, I was happy to counter-balance that with an open back.  It helped keep me cool, even though I truly was still sweaty af at the end of the day.

So there you have it!

Out of my 4 days in NYC, these were my favorite looks!  
Isn't it crazy that you can pay $25 or less for the cutest sight-seeing outfit?!

Can't wait to plan my next travel wardrobe!  And stay tuned for an actual New York travel post coming soon.  We have lots to talk about~


Review of the May PLAY! by Sephora Box

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hello all!

I've been meaning to talk about my PLAY! by Sephora box experience since I started receiving them in March of 2016 - That was before they specifically branded the boxes with this exact name.  This month is officially the 2 year mark of the boxes being called PLAY! by Sephora, although I believe they started the subscription service about 2 months before I got my first one.  Anyways.

Since this is my first review, I'll give you a rundown on what the PLAY! by Sephora box is all about!  Remember, any opinions about this subscription service are all my own.  This is not an ad, but I have included affiliate links to the products at the bottom in case you do decide to purchase (at no additional cost to you).

If you read what I had to say about Ipsy, you'll know that I wasn't super pleased with their boxes by the end of my time with them.  Nothing terrible, I just wasn't a huge fan of the brands or types of products they were sending me.

Then I heard that Sephora came out with their own subscription service, for the same price of $10/month.  I was hesitant to start with PLAY! because I didn't want to have the same *average* experience I had with Ipsy.  I realized that I love trying new makeup, I was NOT a fan of receiving things from brands I had never heard of - which was often the case with Ipsy.

But here's the thing - I ended up loving PLAY! by Sephora, because I trust Sephora.  I appreciate receiving new products from them, because I know they vet their brands well and only sell the very best.

I love that they send 6 products each month that I either already love or am excited to try.  They come in a cute drawstring bag, which I always find another use for.  You receive a folded up sheet listing the theme for the month, what the products are, and how to use them.  You can go on their website for even MORE info as well. On top of that, you get a card in every box called a PLAY! Pass that awards you with 50 extra Beauty Insider points if you make a purchase at Sephora.  It must be used during that same month, but it doesn't have to be any of the products in your box.  That same PLAY! Pass is also your ticket to receive expert advice and a one-on-one tutorial in the store with the products from your box.  I've never utilized that service because I am fine figuring things out for myself/don't want to interact with people if I don't have to, hahaha.  You also receive 10 Beauty Insider points for every box, just like you do when you make a purchase at Sephora.  If you're a frequent flier at Sephora, you'll appreciate that.

So basically, it's a great deal for $10/month!  You get to try some new products and maybe get some of your own favorites restocked.  This happens quite often for me!

Here's a link (not an affiliate) to find out more info on how to sign up for PLAY! by Sephora.  Sometimes there's a wait list.  But if you're interested, I suggest getting on it if there is one!

Without further ado - here is my little review of my 
May PLAY! by Sephora box!

The theme for the month was Beauty Goals.  
"Beauty products that have stood the test of time with their incredible formulas and cult followings."

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter in Champagne Pop:  I'm into it.  I have been a dedicated user of Benefit's Watts Up as a highlighter, but I might be over it.  I haven't used a shimmery pressed highlighter before, and I am a fan of this one.  It also will look really pretty on tan skin in the summer.  I linked a set with the Champagne Pop shade in it that I thought was a great deal.

Benefit Cosmetics POREfessional Face Primer:  I don't have an absolute favorite primer.  I do like Stila's Photo Finish primer (the original), but I tend to get so many sample of primer that I just use those and never buy it for myself.  POREfessional has been one of my favorites, it really does create a nice flawless look for under your makeup.

Bumble and Bumble Thickening Volume Hairspray:  This is the only thing I haven't used yet.  I'll report back!

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper:  This is the eyeliner I use daily, so I appreciate them sending this every once-in-a-while.  It's the perfect BLACK formula and the tip is nice and pointy for maximum precision!

Sephora Collection Mud Mask Purifying & Mattifying:  They send me a mask like every other month and I'm not a huge mask user.  I like them, I just never seem to find the time.  This one is on par with many of the others I've tried, but I don't really have a favorite.  It's kind of cool because it goes on gray and dries light bluish.  That's fun!  I thought it would be fun to use with a kid for a spa night.

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Fragrance:  It's a "warm and spicy" scent that I actually had never tried before.  I know it's super expensive so that's probably why.  It's not particularly my style, but it has a pleasant scent! Definitely "flowery and woody" as they describe.

Until next month!


How to Decorate a Custom Graduation Cap

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's finally here...

The authoritative guide to decorating your own custom graduation cap.

I'm so excited to share with you all my tips and tricks for decorating the perfect graduation cap!

If you remember from last year, I created a guide for How to Attach Your Graduation Cap Decoration.  Today we are moving backwards in the process...all the way to the beginning!

I have been decorating graduation caps since 2015, back when I graduated from college.  Little did I know, my idea of "best practices" would change and develop immensely over a few short years!

I sell my custom graduation caps caps over at my Etsy shop, MidwestMermaidArt.  I take a limited number of clients each semester so that I can truly pour my heart and soul into every single one.

There are a lot of mistakes and tricks I've learned along the way that I think would be better if you knew before starting a custom graduation cap of your own.

Since I can't decorate everyone's cap, I feel like it's only right to share what information I do know with those of you who will be decorating your own caps.  From conception to finished product, every step of the process is important and should not be overlooked.  In this post, I'm going to be focusing on "idea generating" all the way to supply collection.  You can then hop to my post from last year for instructions on how to attach your decoration to your cap, linked a couple paragraphs above.

Here we go!

Step 1: Brainstorm!

In my opinion, this is the most important part.  This is the part where you determine what aspects of your personality will be on display for all to see on graduation day.  Some people know EXACTLY what they want, while others are completely clueless!  

While I do think it's great to peruse Pinterest and other sites for ideas...  It can also be a slippery slope.  Even for me, it can become overwhelming with the amount of ideas that are out there.  And on another note, sometimes you may forget where someone else's ideas start and yours begin.  

For instance, in my shop, I will not recreate an exact duplicate of another artist's work.  I will use it for inspiration, to understand the direction the customer wants to go design-wise, but it ends there.  But when someone hires me to decorate their cap, chances are they are looking for something completely original anyways.  Originality is always best!

To create something that is never-before-seen, here are some great places to start:

-Color scheme: Many people choose their favorite colors, school colors, or the colors that will match their outfit.  I recommend just choosing colors you truly like!  The best place to start is to pick a background color.  What vibe do you want to set for the rest of your cap design?
A lot of people don't know this, but I never use the fabric of a cap as a background.  I ALWAYS use a completely separate piece of colored paper to use as the background, even if it's the same color as the cap.  It will create a much flatter surface to decorate.  More on this later!
-Quote: Completely personal, always meaningful.  Some people know right away that they want a particular word, phrase, or quote on their cap.  For others, they are in the beginning stages of idea generating.  For those who claim to be "clueless," I usually recommend they try to find a quote that speaks to them!  It's an easy place to begin and you can always build ideas around it.
-Images: Do you love dogs?  Are you going to be a nurse, event planner, mechanical engineer?  Do you travel a lot?  What's your favorite football team?  What do these questions all have in common?  Almost nothing!  Except that I have created a cap based on every single one of these themes.  Just think of your favorite things!  How do people know you best?  What are you most proud of?  There is always going to be a way to work these themes into your cap.

Step 2: Sketch!

First of all, can we make sure we are decorating our cap facing the right direction?  It may sound funny, but people have done it the wrong way!  It should look like a DIAMOND as you're decorating, not a square.  When decorating your cap, you want it to be POINTY on the top and the bottom, NOT FLAT.  You want those who are behind you to be able to read it without cocking their head to the side!  When you've never decorated a cap before, it's not the first thing you may think of. But it's super important!

Now that we've got that straightened out, let's get to sketching!

I like to use a blank sheet of paper and draw the shape of a cap (diamond), with the points in the right directions.  Draw a circle to represent the button in the middle.  Be thinking about that button as you are sketching your design!  You're going to have to deal with it at some point.

I make a list of all the important details to be included on top for reference.  Then I use a pencil to draw out how I think the cap should look.  The sketching process allows you to play around with different layouts.  Draw a few if you'd like!  That way you'll know that when you sit down to decorate your cap, you've already found the most visually appealing way to glue everything down.

I like to draw arrows pointing to each component of the cap indicating their color/texture (like glitter paper).  That makes it easier for supply shopping!

Step 3: Supplies & Shopping!

If you drew those arrows pointing to the different colors/textures of your cap, you basically have a shopping list already made.  Also keep in mind you may need to shop for embellishments (flowers, rhinestones, etc).

Best Places to Shop for Graduation Cap Supplies...

(These are my opinions based on price and quality.)

Paper (cardstock and scrapbook paper):  Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Papersource if you're feeling fancy (Keep in mind the many different colors, patterns, and textures you'll find at any of these stores! This will allow you to really get creative). Larger Joann Fabrics stores carry paper, others do not or have a limited selection.

Bows:  Hobby Lobby or Michael's (I use cheer bows).  If you can't find the color bow you want to use, you can make one out of ribbon.  For the same look, make sure the ribbon is at least 3in wide.

Faux Flowers: Hobby Lobby, obvi

Acrylic Paint: Walmart (cheapest for sure), Joann Fabrics, Michael's, Hobby Lobby (I use Americana, Folk Art, and Apple Barrel.  I do not use craft store brands because they tend to be super watered down and require way too many coats in order to look opaque.  Just pay the 50 cents extra for quality and be done with it, in my opinion.)

Rhinestones/Pearls: Hobby Lobby for silver, Michael's for colors (best deal is to buy them in large quantities, then share them with your fellow graduation cap decorators!). I always stick one big gem on the button at the end, which I currently buy them from Amazon in large quantities, but you can find them in the rhinestone mixes from Hobby Lobby too.

Stickers/Flowers: Hobby Lobby (If you want a shortcut, use letter stickers!  I also love the 3D flower sticker selection at both Hobby Lobby and Michael's).

Tacky Glue:  Walmart or any craft store.  Get some, you're going to need it.

Hot Glue:  For larger embellishments like faux flowers, use hot glue.  You can get a hot glue gun/extra glue sticks at Walmart or any craft store for pretty cheap.

Sharp blade for cutting small areas: You an find an Exacto knife at Walmart if you don't already have one.  I like to use a Penblade (size 15) which I found at Blick.

*Always download the Hobby Lobby app for your 40% off coupon, the Joann Fabrics app for different coupons every week, and sign up for Michael's coupons via email (you can also use competitors coupons there).  Keep in mind you can generally only use coupons on full price products.*

Step 4: Making a base for your design!

Let me just say - this is my least favorite part of the process.  I hate measuring!


Yes, some of you will get it right the first time.  I usually do too.  But wouldn't it be...I don't know...100x less stressful if you weren't painting, gluing, and bedazzling directly onto the ONLY surface you have?  What if you mess up on your one shot to get this right?

Not to mention, that fabric on top of the graduation cap can be pretty loose and cumbersome.  Not the best surface to be doing any type of art on top of.

So can we all agree...let's create a base to decorate on top of?  Which we will then attach to our cap quickly and easily, AFTER it is finished?

Good. Now that that's settled... Let me tell you what I do decorate on!

I like to find a really thin piece of non-corrugated cardboard.  Actually, it can be corrugated, but it does need to be pretty thin.  It looks better and it will be lighter in weight.  For instance, you can find this type of cardboard inside of a calendar or poster you'd purchase from the store.  I stalk Hobby Lobby for when their giant posters go on sale for $1.99, then I buy them all up and use the cardboard that keeps the poster stiff!

(Side note: Some people ask if they can just use cardstock/scrapbook paper as their base, which may work but I've never tried.  I prefer to use cardboard as the base, upon which I attach everything else.  I use different thicknesses of paper, depending on the design of the cap, and I want to make sure there's not going to be any buckling or bubbling once I use Tacky Glue to attach my base to the cap.  I could imagine that happening pretty easily with cardstock/scrapbook paper.)

Of course, the piece you need will only be about 9.5x9.5 inches max, but you MUST must must measure your own cap to find out for sure. They are not all made within those dimensions.  You will need to measure your cap and cut your cardboard to those exact measurements.

Then, one of the biggest quandaries I have encountered over the years - the placement of button by which your tassel will hang...  I'm not sure why, but it seems as if the graduation cap making companies have all conspired against me to determine that they will NEVER place the button directly in the middle of the cap!  It's usually off by a little, sometimes a lot.  This is why I no longer take orders for graduation caps without having the graduation cap in my hands.  It's way too hard to guess where the button is going to be!  This is why you'll need to take the ultimate care in measuring where the button is on your graduation cap.

Here's how to do it:
-Grab your cap.  Have your cardboard handy.
-Measure from one of the sides of the cap to the direct center of the button. Mark a line on your cardboard at that point.
-Turn it by 90 degrees.  Measure from that side of your cap to the direct center.  Mark another line on your cardboard so that you now have a + shape drawn in the middle.

Then you'll have to chisel out the hole in the middle for your button to fit through!  I use an Exacto knife, or my current favorite, the Penblade (size 15) because it's curved and easier to cut a circle with.  I'll do the best I can to describe the process I use to cut the circle.  First, I trace that + shape with the blade, making it through to the other side of the cardboard.  Then I use the blade to connect each point of the cross shape (so 4 triangles).  Then I place it on top of the cap to make sure I'm on the right track.  If I am, I'll round out those triangles by cutting 2 semi-circles.  
If that's still confusing, I do have these shapes drawn out in my "Grad Caps" highlight on Instagram @midwestmermaidart.

Once you have this process finished, your cardboard is cut to fit perfectly on top of your graduation cap, and your button fits through the hole you cut, it's time to adhere your background color to the cardboard.

For the flattest, most sleek look to your background piece, I recommend using Tacky Glue and a paintbrush to glue your piece of scrapbook paper down.  Just make sure the cardboard is has a nice thin coating of glue all over it.

(Hypothetically, you could use a gluestick, but I haven't had the best experience with this.  The paper seems to lift and bubble in spots upon drying when I use a gluestick.  It's just not right for this project.)

Then I pick the cardboard up and flip the it right on top of the scrapbook paper and let it dry for a bit!  Once I feel like it's ready, I'll trim off the sides of the scrapbook paper with scissors.

Once you've finished and the glue is dry, I like to finish it off by using a Sharpie to make my edge black.  I just think it looks better than the brown cardboard.  
(Picture below of a base with one of the edges colored black, for reference!)

You now have your base ready for decoration!

Step 5: Decorate and piece it all together!

This is where your vision and imagination come into play!

I would highly advise laying or sketching everything out and THEN gluing it down. I pretty much use only Tacky Glue on my caps.  If it's a small piece of paper on top of paper, then I'll use a gluestick.  For anything big, like faux flowers, I use hot glue.

I can't describe exactly how to decorate a cap, because it's literally different every time.  But if you have any questions specific to what you're trying to accomplish on yours, please let me know!  Leave a comment below and I'll answer it.

A question that I get a lot is - How do I know if I've gone overboard with decorations or added too much?  Is there such a thing?

To be honest, I run into the opposite problem way more often.  I'm always adding, adding, adding to caps because I don't think they look quite complete.  But I'm actually the opposite of a minimalist, so in life and in design I'll always tell you that more is more and less is a bore.  I love when there are multiple dimensions to a design along with intricate details.  I don't like too much empty space, unless it's purposeful.  My thought is just to keep adding things until you feel like it's complete, but don't glue anything down until you're sure.

And ta da!  Your decoration is finished and ready to be attached to your cap.  Just make sure everything is DRY, especially any rhinestones or pearls, before moving onto the next step.

Step 6: Attach your decoration to your cap!

Please refer to THIS blog post for my entire run-down on how to attach your decoration to your cap!


Are you trying to get an amazing photo of your cap to show off to your friends and followers?!

I ALWAYS photograph my caps in natural light.  The best time to take your photo is when it's light outside. I shoot for the hours of 11am-3pm.  Make sure you're near a window when you take the photo.  Also try to think of a nice simple background to photograph on.  Choose something that will compliment, not detract, from the decorations on your cap!  Just trust me, a natural light photo will look way better than if you took the photo at night!

I know it's nearly impossible to answer every single question you may have in one blog post. Please feel free to reach out if you have any other questions about decorating your cap!

And if you want to bypass this entire process, I am still taking custom graduation cap orders (for certain weekends) of Spring/Summer 2018 at my Etsy shop: MidwestMermaidArt!

Until next time,


FAQ: Where I found my cute MacBook keyboard cover!

Friday, March 30, 2018

This post contains affiliate links. 

My most-asked question that I wish I answered in my Instagram round-up...
"Where did you get the cute keyboard cover?!"
Along with other questions about the cute stuff featured in this image...

Well here are your answers!

Pink Ombre Keyboard Skin (MacBook Pro or Air): Amazon
Head Honcho Sign (got it last year!): TJ Maxx
"O" Monogram Mug: Anthropologie
Portland Mug: Somewhere in Portland, sorry I'm not sure

Milwaukee Cityscape: My friend Audrey makes them, @audreyrepa on IG.
"He is a Guest" Print: my friend CourtneyMayeArt on Etsy


February and March Instagram Outfit Round-Up!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


It's been a while, but that's because a lot has been going on around here!

It's "graduation cap season," which means my Etsy business is in full swing!  From March-May, I live and breathe custom decorated graduation caps.  Every free moment is spent designing and creating so that my customers can have the graduation caps of their dreams!

I'm also enrolled in Broma Bakery's Advanced Foodtography 2.0 course to better hone my foodtography skills.  It's only week 3, and I've learned a tonnnnnnn.  But I've been spending lots of time brainstorming new shoot ideas and styling photos!

I'm planning out my trips for the year and so far I have New York and Florida on the list!  Still working out the rest of my ideas.

I have my new foodie account,!  Find me on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates and restaurant recommendations.  I also share any foodie news I think you should know.  And I'm including recipes I try as well!

My "Mermaid Monthly" newsletter is still going strong, so make sure to sign up for my email list on the side of your screen (on desktop) or all the way at the bottom (mobile)!  April's free iPhone background is super cute, hint hint!

Since I haven't made a dedicated outfit post in a bit, I've created this list of my outfits from the past month or so that I've debuted on Instagram!  Read on for links and details below.

This post contains affiliate links.


Ruffle Sleeve Button Down (on sale!): Target, Vibrant Life Linear Earrings: kate spade new york, Boyfriend jeans (mine are old from Windsor, similar here at Nordstrom).


Not Your Sweetie Enamel Pin: Hella Cool Kids


Lemon Bodysuit: Forever 21, Trench Coat: Target, Dark High-Waisted Denim (mine are kate spade, but here's a similar pair from Vince Camuto), White Converse.


Tapestry Chiffon Ruffle Top: kate spade New York, Thigh High Boots (mine are sold out, similar here), Heart Sunglasses: Amazon, Night Sky Bracelet: kate spade new york.


Embroidered Stripe Ruffle Top: kate spade new york


Girls Support Girls Pink Tee: Daisy Natives, Vibrant Life Linear Earrings: kate spade new york.


Crochet Pom Pom Trim Sheer Lace Dress: SheIn, In the Company of Women: Amazon, kate spade SHE: Amazon, GIRLS Season 5: Amazon, Teapot (from Anthro last summer), Teacup (thrifted from Salvation Army!).


(This outfit is actually a re-share from last year, check out the original post HERE.)


Houndstooth Skirt (from Forever 21 but sold out, similar HERE, but I love houndstooth. So crop top HERE,  shorts HERE, scarf HERE, gloves that I used to have but lost one HERE.), Set Sail Statement Necklace: kate spade new york, Black Turtleneck (mine was from Forever 21, similar HERE from Everlane), Opaque Black Tights: Express, Langley Boots (on sale!): kate spade new york.

Hope you enjoyed this skim through my Insta feed!  I'll probably do these round-ups every once in a while.  Stay tuned for lots of dedicated outfit posts to come!



Midwest Mermaid Travels: A Long Weekend in Portland, OR - What to Do & Where to Eat

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Portland, the city you've heard you should like.
(I actually bought a book with that title while visiting!)

But really, all I've ever heard are reasons why I should visit Portland, OR (not to be confused with Portland, Maine, which is where my friend Brittni originally thought we were going!).  Everyone who has been there raves about it.  The food, the people, the sort of hipster culture...  It's a famously "weird" place, but definitely weird in a good way!  So here is how I experienced Portland in 5 days (2 being travel days) with my friends.

At the beginning of February, four friends and I took a trip to Portland with one thing on our minds: food.  My friends (not me) are vegan.  Portland is known as like, the vegan mecca of the world, so of course they wanted to visit.  I, on the other hand, have also heard great things about the Portland foodie scene.  Being the foodie I am, I knew I had to visit.

I approached this trip differently than I usually do!  If you've read my other travel related posts, you might remember that I am a self-proclaimed complete psycho when it comes to planning.  I like to create a Google map laying out exactly where I want to visit.  I didn't do that this time!  Part of me knew that it wouldn't be hard to find fun things to do and good things to eat.  Also, I just didn't have time to do my usual Pinterest/city map stalking!

So overall, we mostly ate.  
We also visited a few different spots that I'd encourage you to visit if you're in the area.
And we stayed in the cutest Airbnb ever!

So read on for my recommendations and my thoughts about this awesome city.

Where We Stayed

All I can say is that we made a great choice in where we decided to stay.  It wasn't downtown Portland,  but it was just a quick Uber ride to pretty much everywhere we needed to go.  The place itself was adorable and furnished beautifully.  Everything was monochromatic except for the gorgeous art on the walls.  Perfect for photoshoots with wine and your friends...

The host was cool, the check-in was super easy.  There was a nice patio in the back too!

The thing that was most enticing to us when deciding on where we were going to say was obviously the price.  I think Airbnb is an excellent deal as opposed to staying anywhere else we looked.  We spent less and got more.  A full kitchen and a fridge to keep our leftovers.  Plus dishes to use to eat them later!  A coffee pot and coffee provided to us (hallelujah).  A separate living room space to hang out, as well as bedrooms to go if we wanted to chill for a bit.  And just the vibe in general is enough for me.  Can't wait for more Airbnb travel in the future!

Funny story though.  The street we were staying on was apparently really long.  We were staying on the SE end.  From the airport we accidentally typed into Uber that the address was on the NE end instead.  Uber driver just dumped us off and said, "I think it's right there!"  Well, he was wrong.  Luckily, no such address existed because we probably would have just walked right in!  So there we were, 5 girls and their wheely suitcases pacing up and down the sidewalk, looking for their home.  Which was certainly not there.  We got lots of weird looks from the schoolchildren walking down the street, and even were offered help finding the address by the lovely people of Portland.  Then we realized the mistake and called a new Uber.  Okay, we probably could have done a little more research.  Oh well!

What We Did

The Portland Art Museum is a nice little museum that you can easily get through within a couple of hours!  It's the oldest art museum on the West Coast.  We really enjoyed their special exhibit, Animating Life, which was about the Portland-based animation company Laika and their stop-motion animation.  I always have loved those Christmas movies made with stop-motion animation, so it was especially cool to see how Laika has revolutionized the art of this process with 3D printing.  Laika's most popular films include Coraline, Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings.  

Portland Farmer's Market

We went to the farmer's market on the campus of Portland State University.  It was a quick walk through for us because it was our first stop of the day and we weren't planning on carrying a lot home.  There didn't seem to be a lot of options in terms of hot and ready food, but it was a nice market.  But I would suggest going at the beginning of your trip and grabbing a few things to take home to snack on if you have a fridge available!  They also had gorgeous flowers which I totally would have bought if I didn't have to fly home.


We weren't totally sure where the good shopping was, so we asked a lot of Uber drivers for advice.  We ended up walking down NW 23rd Avenue, which I guess is called the "Nob Hill" area.  There were lots of cute boutiques as well as more well-known chain stores.  I found quite a few things to take home!  And it's just so weird to only pay what the price on the tag says, instead of tax...and then a stadium tax...ha.  Really nice shopping experience for those of us who can't do math (me).

The Pearl District is another area you probably will want to stop.  There are lots of little shops around with things made in Oregon.  I bought a lot.  I got some really cool art made by Portland or Oregon-based artists, among other things!  Which brings me to the store that anchors this district...

I wish I had photos of this bookstore!  It's any reader's dream come true.  It's the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world.  It's almost overwhelming!  There are so many floors and so many books on each one, organized into sections and categories.  Sift through the books and you'll oftentimes find new AND used copies of the same books.  The used ones were in great condition and usually around $6 cheaper than the new ones.

I loved the variety in books that the 5 of us purchased!  It really showed the differences in our interests/personalities when I bought a watercolor book, a book about sociopaths, and a book about introverts.  So I looked like an introverted sociopathic watercolor artist, while Brittni bought a book about birds of prey...Courtney bought one about philosophy...and Amy bought one about Gabrielle Union.  In total though, we bought A LOT of books!  It's just so tempting when they're all right in front of you!

Vegan Mini Strip Mall

Heaven for my vegan friends!  You may have seen the Bring Me video on Facebook, but this is a little strip mall tailored exclusively for vegans.  There's a coffee shop/bakery, a gift shop, a grocery store, and a tattoo parlor that uses vegan ink.  They all stocked up at the grocery store for snacks to bring home!

Brittni Got a Tattoo!

She didn't get a tattoo at the vegan mini mall, but she got her tattoo that says, "compassion for all," at another Portland tattoo parlor that uses only vegan ink.

Where We Ate

We tended to choose restaurants that served both vegan and non-vegan options, and some that were entirely vegan.  But realistically, most of the time restaurants in Portland have vegetarian/vegan options on their menu.

For my friends who are vegan, eating at restaurants in Portland was EXTREMELY different from restaurants in Wisconsin (they live in Milwaukee and Green Bay).  They felt like they actually had options at restaurants without needing to ask for a million substitutions, or you know, just going hungry.  They felt like it wasn't weird to be vegan in Portland as opposed to being in Wisconsin - the land of cheese and sausage.

As someone who's not vegan, even I could sense the difference.  I recently wrote a list of the Top 15 Vegetarian Spots in Milwaukee on Female Foodie.  I feel like if I were to write that same list in Portland, it would be endless!

Now just a full disclaimer - I ate a combination of non-vegan and vegan options.  I order whatever I'm in the mood for and I'm not picky in the least.  In my everyday life, and especially when traveling, I like trying new and different types of food.  I'm always open to trying vegetarian/vegan meal if it sounds good to me, but I do not exclusively follow the diets of either of those lifestyle choices.

Food (all have at least some vegan options)

A fabulous spot recommended by my Portland-based friend Sue.  I asked her for recommendations for good vegan food, and she did not disappoint!  This was an Israeli inspired spot that offered plant-based fare.  As a table, we ordered hummus, which was very good.  I then ordered the shawarma bowl (hummus,  shawarma, pickles, tomato, cucumber, tahini, amba, and fries).  This was probably my favorite meal!  And then I accidentally left my leftovers on the table at the next place we stopped.  Hate when I do that.

Side note about Portland in general - We did notice that they must have a very low tolerance for 'spicy" in Portland?  Every time we ordered something "medium" spicy, it was super mild. Which is fine because it all still had great flavor!  But we noticed this at multiple restaurants.  Just an observation.

Homegrown Smoker is an exclusively VEGAN restaurant that serves BBQ!  This spot was at the top of my friends' eating list.  We liked it!  The vibe was unexpected, it was very bright and cheery for a BBQ joint.  I can't speak for any of their meals, but I ordered the Buff Burrito (smoked chikn, tempeh bacon, MacNocheese, mozzarella, grilled peppers and onions, spicy buffalo sauce, ranch, raw greens and diced tomato).  I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent flavor of this burrito.  I was intrigued by the fact that they included mac & cheese in it, so I had to try it.  And I was overall satisfied!  The chikn (faux chicken made of soy and pea) was probably the only part of this burrito that I was not a fan of.  Since I do eat regular chicken, it's a tough comparison to make.  But this was overall a very good and excellently flavored burrito.  The staff here were extremely friendly and even gave our table free cupcakes because we traveled all the way from Wisconsin.

I LOVE ramen.  I think that any ramen place that encourages you to slurp your noodles is a must-try!  I had heard good things about this spot, so we decided to try it.  They have 4 locations throughout Portland and a limited menu that they do very well.  I ordered the spicy red miso (spicy pork broth, pork belly, soft-poached egg and scallions).  Very good flavor!  My friends ordered the only vegan option on the menu, the veggie curry (vegetable stock, coconut milk, yellow curry, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, corn and scallions).

Classic bar food.  The thing about this place is that they offered a FULL vegan menu alongside their full "regular" menu.  That's absolutely unheard of in Wisconsin.  This was the first restaurant we went to in Portland and my friends were basically in heaven.  It was everything they love but is not easily accessible as a vegan option in Milwaukee.  As for me, I can eat bar food all the time, so I decided to sample off of the vegan menu as well.  The vegan garlic cheesy bread was PHENOMENAL.  The pizza I ordered was just okay.  Since cheese is my favorite food and my first qualifying factor of good pizza, I tend to judge it extremely harshly.  But you do get to choose from a variety of vegan cheeses and I may have just chosen wrong!  And again, the vegan chicken just wasn't my fave.  My friends ordered wings and they actually use sugar cane for the "bone" part.  I thought it was hilarious and inventive.  They really loved their wings!

Another upside of being in Portland (or any big city, I'd assume), is Postmates.  I live in the suburbs of Milwaukee, so Postmates is available but literally nothing from downtown delivers here.  It was nice being at our Airbnb because we had options for delivery!  We ordered acai and pitaya bowls from Moberi one morning as we were getting ready.  They were delish! And v photogenic, if I say so myself.

I didn't get a photo of my tator tots at Hungry Tiger, but they were super good!  We stopped here because we wanted to go out, but we also wanted to eat.  I ordered the Tot-chos, like nachos but with tots.  They were corn chips and tator tots covered in cheese sauce, black beans, house-made salsa, and sour cream.  You can also make this dish vegan with vegan cheese and sour cream, which my friends did.  I got a tasty drink too, The lavender sour (bourbon, lemon, ginger liqueur, and lavender bitters).

I was starving.  Needed pizza.  Cheese pizza is basically my comfort food, so that's what I got.  I scarfed it down in like 2 minutes while we waited for the Uber to arrive.  It was good!  You have to wait a bit though, at least at the one by Powell's.  They also have a vegan menu of pies.

I had just eaten at Sizzle Pie at this point, so I didn't order anything.  But I did try the (vegan) mac and cheese and it was soooooo good.  It was one of the best mac and cheeses I've ever tasted!  This was the perfect amount of cheesiness.  And great flavor.


Best donut of my life, I swear.  Bourbon blueberry basil.  They use a French recipe, and they are light and fluffy.  The glaze was a deep bluish-purple (blueberry) color and was incredibly flavorful.  I had Blue Star recommended as opposed to VooDoo.  I had heard their donuts are better and VooDoo's are really just good for a photo op.  I'd still be down to try VooDoo, but I'm so happy I got myself a Blue Star donut!  They usually have a vegan donut, but they had run out for the day.

Another best.  Some of the best ice cream I've ever had.  I love uniquely flavored ice creams, so I enjoyed their menu.  I mean, they have normal stuff too if you're boring.  You can sample as many as you'd like, too!  I chose the strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper and the arbequina olive oil (which tasted like a very rich and smooth vanilla).  I tried a few others too and loved them all.  They always have one vegan option, so my friends got that (I think it was strawberry coconut?).


Another thing I love about Portland is the fact that they have tons of little coffee stands all over the city.  You don't even have to go inside a building to order!  This place, called Best Friend, was really cute.  It was entirely plant-based.  I got the lavender latte (French lavender flower espresso, with coconut milk).

We also stopped at a few other coffee shops, cafes, and bars that served food.

Things For Next Time

-We desperately wanted to visit the food cart pods, but we were SO full when it would have been convenient for us to eat there.  Then we checked again when we were hungry and many were closed for the night.
-If it weren't February, we would have wanted to go to the Japanese Gardens and the International Rose Test Garden.
-If we had another day, or visited in the summer, we would have made a day out of Multnomah Falls.
-The "Keep Portland Weird" sign.
-I would love to go to the festivals in the summer.
-There are quite a few restaurants I want to visit next time!  Lardo, Pok Pok, and anywhere my friend Sue puts on her Instagram (but really, if you're headed to Portland, follow her!).

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