Wild Kratts and National Geographic on Netflix feeds my son’s hunger for all things animal

I’m writing this post as a member of the Netflix Stream Team and have been compensated for it, but as always all opinions are my own.

My son loves science. Anything dealing with plants, animals, rocks, the ocean whatever it is, he just eats it up. One of his favorite things on Netflix is the National Geographic documentaries. There’s the Amazing Planet ones, a dinosaur episode, but the most popular in our house is “Predators At War.”

Granted many of these would not be appropriate for all 6-year-olds. We have decided it’s OK if Logan gets to see nature at its most beautiful, where string rays gracefully glide through the rocky coral reef and its most gruesome, such as a shark’s bloody attack of a sea lion.

Martin and Chris Kratts created a funny cartoon series starring themselves. Through the brothers' adventures kids learn about the lives of animals.

Martin and Chris Kratt created a funny cartoon series starring themselves. Through the brothers’ adventures kids learn about the lives of animals.

Something that’s much more child-friendly is Wild Kratts. It’s the story of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt. They’re nature lovers who have combined that with their love of filmography to create this animated series. Each episode features an animal who is in trouble, whether it be because of a villain or a real-life issue such as the affects of deforestation. Then the Kratts and their crew use only-in-cartoon technology to save the critters all while sharing interesting facts about the animals.

The Kratts seems like fun guys, a little dorky, but in a charming way. That’s a good thing because as an adult I too find their banter entertaining. After the cartoon portion of the show, there’s a brief unanimated segment on other animals and it shows the real Kratt boys talking about animals.

I also like all the animal facts they present and the info seems to stick with Logan because out of nowhere he’ll go: “Mom, did you know that crocodile’s bite has 3,000 pounds of force?” or “Mama, did you know that honey badgers are the most ferocious animal because they have to face other predators like cheetahs, lions and hyenas?”

The answer is always no. I didn’t know that.

Maybe if I keep watching one day I’ll be able to answer with a “Yes” and spit back some other impressive knowledge like: Did you know that the monarch butterfly migrates south about 2,000 miles each year for warmer climes in Mexico?

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Who says you can’t talk about race, religion and gender?

How do you guys feel about book clubs? I’ve never really belonged to one, well at least not beyond reading the first book. Since moving to Portland, I’ve been checking out different groups to meet people to build up my tribe.

It’s important for me to have a tribe, a group of good friends who are there for you, are honest with you, even if it’ll make you mad, and really just love you unconditionally. My friend Patti mentioned she was going to ask her book club if I could join it because she thought I’d like the ladies.

Our book club Skypes with author Jessica Null Vealitzek about her new novel.

Our book club Skypes with author Jessica Null Vealitzek about her new novel.

Turns out the group had a lot of educators in it, they read my blog about my opinion of Oregon schools and felt I’d be too “hostile” for their book club. C’est la vie, Patti and I started our own, called Not Your Mama’s Book Club.

I got to choose the first book, naturally I picked Jessica Null Vealitzek’s The Rooms Are Filled because it’s a great book and she’s a treasured piece of my Chicago tribe. About a dozen of us met at my house, the ladies brought really, really good food and drinks. My favorite was when a sweet little coffeecarafeblonde showed up with a huge container of coffee. It was practically bigger than her, you’ve seen them before, they’re the ones caterers and restaurants use. I kept thinking about how my rabid Chicago coffee-loving friends would bow down to her brilliance. (Ahem, Coffee Lovin’ Mom.)

The group of ladies came from different experiences, some were born and raised here, others grew up on the East Coast or had hopscotched across the U.S. We had stay-at-home moms, corporate moms and folks like me who are working part-time. We all gelled naturally and spent a lot of time gabbing away.

I didn’t want to stop all of the chit chat because it was fun, but it was a book club so I felt we needed to talk about the book. Plus Jess graciously agreed to appear via Skype to talk with our club and answer questions.

We used our smart TV for the Skype session and though there were some connectivity issues (which I always have with Skype) it worked pretty well. Since our TV’s quite large, the dork in me imagined that my Jess was sitting in the living room with my new gal pals.

At the end of the Skype call, our conversation took an interesting turn. It started as we discussed intolerance, which is a prominent theme in the book, and soon I was answering their questions about my thoughts of being black in the Pacific Northwest. And in my typical fashion, I was honest in expressing my feelings. Some of you are aware of my frustrations tied to the lack of cultural diversity here and how that affects us, so it was good to talk it over with these women.

We also talked about race and having conversations about race with your kids, and how it’s different for each family. Some of us have biracial children and we discussed how that has shaped our experiences. The race talk then shifted to gender issues.

Gender in terms of family members who are gay and how they were received. One mom also shared the story of someone in her extended family who is transgendered and the challenges she faced as she and her family worked to accept her as a woman.

There was even a time at the end where we talked about religion. I couldn’t believe we were delving into all these topics at our very first book club meeting.

I can’t capture the magic of the evening in a blog post, but you’ll have to trust me when I say it was beautiful to have substantive conversations on sensitive topics. I promised them that each book club meeting wouldn’t always be filled with such weighty topics, because it’s clear these girls, like me, love to have a fun time. Still yet, it was refreshing to stretch the boundaries of our understanding about the human experience.

Thanks Not Your Mama’s Book Club, I’ll never forget it.

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Motherhood, Am I Doing This Right?

I’m sitting here at the top floor of my first blogging event in Portland. I was excited to cover the BabyFest Northwest because it was one where they reached out to me, which made me feel like I was starting to gain more ground on the local social media scene.

But now that I’m here, all I can think about is the unhappy guy at home, my sweet Logan. He woke up to find the babysitter already in his house and with the news that in about 20 minutes I would be leaving. It was a sad goodbye where he was crying and was begging me not to leave. (“Don’t LEAVE MEEEEE!”)


Keep in mind, Logan is six going on 16. He was in daycare starting at 7 months old and continued until Kindergarten. He usually isn’t this dramatic when it comes to departures. But today was hard. My theory on how to approach such situations is to rip off the bandaid and once the parents have left, things get so much better. Usually this is the case, but shortly after I arrived at the shower, the sitter called.

It was Saturday, so Logan had a baseball game. Since neither my husband nor I would be home, I arranged for another family to take him to and from the game.

Being the forgetful mom that I am, I left the house this morning without setting out his baseball gear. The sitter called asking if I knew where his equipment was. It dawned on me. Oh no, it was in the back of my Jeep.

The sitter passed the phone to the dad who was going to shuttle Logan to baseball. The dad wanted to know if I wanted him to push Logan to go.

By now I’m standing in a back storage room of the event space, finger in one ear, phone in the other. “Let him decide what he wants to do, but make sure he understands that once he makes that choice, he has to stick with it.”

Then I get to talk to Logan. He’s nearly hysterical and blubbers to me that he didn’t eat the bacon I made him for breakfast because he was still mad at me for leaving. *sigh* We talk about the baseball choices, he says he’d rather stay home. So home it was.

We hang up the phone. I just take a pause.

I’m sitting at this babyfest surrounded by, well, babies and not only is it hard not to get baby fever as all of these wiggle worms are all strapped to their mommies, but knowing that my baby is not doing well at home, I’m thinking. What am I doing here? Didn’t I quit my full-time job so that I wouldn’t have to choose between career stuff and my family? Freelancing and blogging were supposed to make this juggle less hectic. Even though it’s much better than before, am I making the right choices?

Sure today is just one event and it’s not like he’s going to be scarred forever for the time I didn’t remember his baseball equipment. But it’s funny how in motherhood you’re always asking: Am I doing the right thing?

If I had skipped the event, I would have regretted it and wished that while folding laundry or picking up toys that I was networking with businesses and other bloggers. So either way I guess I would have had regrets.

I suppose that the best thing is to have fun with the choice that I made and know that in the end, everything will work out fine. I truly believe it always does.

*I wrote this while at the BabyFest Northwest. After feeling conflicted, I found some quiet space amid nursing mamas and decided to write out my feelings because it’s how I process things. After that last line, I snapped my laptop closed and started networking. I have to say I’m so glad I did, I met some really inspiring people who are doing exciting and innovative things. Not to mention I clicked with a lot of folks and they gave me their number so we could go have coffee sometime. Also, Logan had a great day hanging at home. See? I was right, everything did work out fine in the end.

Posted in Blogging, Motherhood, Parenting, Portland, Women, Working Moms | 4 Comments

Tasty Tuesdays: Portland’s Cadillac Cafe has good pancakes, a real Cadillac and breakfast martinis

I told my new chiropractor of my quest to find a writing space in Portland and he recommended the Cadillac Cafe.

The pink Cadillac inside the Cadillac Cafe.

The pink Cadillac inside the Cadillac Cafe.

I was expecting a coffee shop vibe that’s similar to the other spots I’ve visited, but no, this is a laid back, serves-breakfast-all-day diner. There’s a real pink Cadillac in the main dining area and something I’ll call “The Garden Room.” Where the walls are glass, there’s a fireplace and the tables and chairs are either wrought iron, wicker or both.

Being how I just had a beast of a workout and then got my back cracked, in my mind that warranted some pancakes. I have a very unhealthy obsession with pancakes. I’m on a quest to find the world’s greatest pancakes, but that’s another blog for another time.

Cadillac Cafe has a full menu, and even fun cocktails in the morning. This goes way beyond the traditional Bloody Mary or Mimosa. The menu flat out says “Breakfast Martinis.” There’s the Oil Change, which has Frangelico, Baileys, Kahlua and a splash of espresso with a chocolate rim and the Back Seat, which has Mandarin vodka, triple sec, fresh muddled oranges and a splash of orange juice with a sugar rim. There’s more on the drink menu, but you get the idea.

Cadillac Cafe has been on North East Broadway for more than 20 years. It seems to be a popular staple of the Irvington neighborhood. Walking in on a late morning it’s moderately packed with older and old ladies. Not quite blue hairs, nor the “ladies who lunch,” but largely women who are in their early 50s on up to 80ish. Come lunch time, the clientele shifted to men in suits and early 40-something guys with beards and hoodies. (I’m in Portland, remember?)

Mmmmm, pancakes....

Mmmmm, pancakes….

I couldn’t write here as the food is so yummy. (Yep, the pancakes were really good. Not a contender for the World’s Greatest Pancake, but still oh-so-very enjoyable.) I’d gain way too much weight and then there’s the food coma that is now starting to settle in.

Maybe I’ll come back some time to see if the garden room has a different vibe, but really, right now, I just want to curl up and take a nap. Thank God I didn’t order one of those martinis, I might have done just that.


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Enter My Giveaway For Free Passes To The #NWBabyShower

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been chosen to be one of the VIP Bloggers for the NW’s Biggest Baby Shower.

Enough about me, let’s talk about you! If you live in Oregon or Washington, can enter to win free passes to the event. I know a lot of you guys already have kids, but this event is for parents at all Button_NWBabyShower_2stages, from those who have who have a baby bump to those with tantrum-prone tots. (Or maybe my 3 year old is the only one whose Terrible Twos are now Terrifying Threes…)

Anyway, each pass has a $30 value. It’s on Saturday, May 31 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Left Bank Annex in Portland. By attending the party, you can participate in some of the workshops such as sleep solutions, non-toxic babyproofing and how to birth without fear. Each workshop will also give away a fantastic prize. There’s 80 vendors that cover the latest and greatest in all things baby and it will end with “The Big Shower.” The organizers are telling me this shower is unlike any other we’ve seen and that they’re going to give away more than $10,000 worth of prizes. I say that’s way better than the cinnamon candle I usually win at baby showers.

The contest ends Sunday, May 25 at 11:59 p.m. You can enter as many times as you want by commenting on this post, liking my Facebook page or following me on Twitter. You can also like the Facebook pages of Kid Fest and ItsaBelly and their Twitter accounts: @kidfest, @itsabellyHQ @melissamoog.

You can also send out a Tweet: Wish me luck! I’ve entered @sheswrite giveaway for passes to the #NWBabyShower! @kidfest

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As a blogger for this event, I have received compensation for writing about the NW’s Biggest Baby Shower.



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Wordless Wednesday: Portland’s Forest Park


An entry point on Wildwood Trail in Portland's Forest Park

An entry point on Wildwood Trail in Portland’s Forest Park

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You’re Not Alone: Women, Writing and Online Networking

Writing is lonely, especially that first draft. You kinda know what you want to say, but aren’t sure how to get there and there’s always a surprise blip along the way that throws you off your game.

Then you begin to wonder, is this piece even any good? You need another set of eyes. You need a writing group. A collective of people whose honest opinions and writing talents you respect and who push and inspire you to be a better writer.

Jessica Null Vealitzek reads her debut novel, The Rooms Are Filled.

Jessica Null Vealitzek reads her new novel, The Rooms Are Filled. (Photo by Ginny Washburne)

“Writers need other writers,” said Michele Weldon, assistant professor emerita at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. She has been in a writing group for 12 years that meets once a week. “I have found that it’s been enormously successful, having that camaraderie, the editorial help and the brainstorming — it’s helped to enhanced my writing and my life.”

There’s something special about sitting elbow to elbow with fellow writers as you read your words. “You hear them sigh at the beauty of a sentence, or laugh at a line,” she said.

But with all the lean-in/lean-out hubbub of today, it can seem impossible to set aside time to talk about our writing. Many of us are ecstatic that we’ve managed to find the time to write. (I type this as my 3 year old is napping across my lap.)

This is where online writing groups come in handy. There’s so many out there, you can pick which group speaks to you and participate on your own schedule.

Some prefer bigger writing communities, such as She Writes, which has more than 20,000 members and is similar to Facebook. When Kamy Wicoff launched She Writes in 2009, she told Salon.com that she started it “to share our knowledge, to aggregate and harness the information each of us has hard-earned, and make it available to our community in an organized, efficient way that will make all of our lives easier.”

Other writers are active in smaller online groups, which can come out of umbrella communities such as She Writes. Increasingly, small writing groups have been creating their own online platform to share their work.

For example, Mary Breaden started PDXX Collective in 2012 because she became concerned by “the media’s depiction of women — from Hillary Clinton to Sandra Fluke,” she said.

“I wanted to encourage my many brilliant women writer friends to publish their work and mitigate the overwhelming male perspective represented in the media,” said Breaden, who is also an education assistant at Mediabistro.

PDXX Collection is comprised mostly of women from the Portland, Oregon area and aims to provide a woman’s voice on various literary facets including news, personal essays, fiction, science fiction and pop culture.

“At PDXX, I don’t think we live in the ‘pink ghetto’ of topics — I’d say we have a full complement of writing and I believe we break the boundaries of the four Fs (food, family, furniture [home] and fashion,” said Andrea Janda, writer and PDXX member.

Another member, Jessica Null Vealitzek, recently released her critically acclaimed novel, The Rooms Are Filled, and is grateful to be part of the collective.

“It’s cool to have this online connection,” Null Vealitzek said. “We don’t know each other that well online, but I feel like I have this resource of writers that I can not only read, but ask questions of and pick their brains.”

“I think it can be awfully lonely if you don’t have a sort of real-life, physical book club or writing club that meets,” she added.

But actually Null Vealitzek is about to meet members of the collective for the first time in person. She lives in suburban Chicago, but is on a book tour that includes a stop in Portland.

On Monday she and several members of PDXX Collective are reading their works at In Other Words, the feminist bookstore featured in the TV show Portlandia.

“I’ve known these ladies online through their writing,” Null Vealitzek said, “and I’m so excited to meet them in person.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Acres and Acres of Blooms At the Tulip Festival near Portland

More than 40 acres of tulips at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon.

More than 40 acres of tulips at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon.

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Tasty Tuesdays: Marina’s, a Portland cafe with a cause

Let me tell you guys about one my ventures to find a new spot in Portland. As I mentioned before, I’m going to bring you along on my coffee shop exploits as I try to find a good place to write.

This is a place that I stumbled upon by accident.

Marina's Kafe in Portland.

Marina’s Kafe in Portland.

Let me back up a bit and tell you that I’m on the hunt for vintage airplanes for the boys’ room. So every time I see a vintage store or resale shop, I try to find the closest parking spot and go shop. On my various travels I kept running into one called Vintage Vendors, but never have time to pull over and go inside. One morning, I did have the time. After unsuccessfully trying to pry open the door, I realized Vintage Vendors didn’t open for another hour.  That’s when I noticed an empty coffee shop, called Marina’s Kafe.

I figured, why not spend an hour here. I liked that it was sunken into the ground and had window seating that looked out onto the busy street. It’s perfect for people watching, which is especially good for when I’m running low on writing inspiration.

A room with a view.

A room with a view.

The decor was a little stark, in a no frills, but still warm sort of way. I wondered if it was new. Prince’s When Doves Cry was playing overhead and I took that as a good sign.

The walls had local art on them like all of the coffee shops around Portland. Yet some of this art looked different, kind of like they were drawn by children. There was a colorful nook for kids to play and a couple of towering, stocked bookshelves.

Works by artists from the Full Life Center in Portland.

Works by artists from the Full Life Center in Portland.

I chatted it up with the owner, Marina, who told me that she’s been there for nine years and that the art on the wall was created by clients at Full Life, an enrichment program for adults with disabilities. Even better is that the artists receive a portion of the proceeds from their works.

She also sells parenting books and kids’ clothing, and gives that money to the Letty Owings Center, which is a recovery center for moms and pregnant women who are battling addictions.

I half expected this lady to tell me that she also ran a homeless shelter out back, but she didn’t. She’s just a woman with a big heart who makes desserts that apparently are very popular. I was good on *this* day and didn’t order any, though they looked delish.

So, all in all, a good place. Not for my writing, as I need something else, but I will be back, especially if I have a case of writer’s block.


Posted in Food, Portland, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living in Portland: What’s It Like?

Portland. Portlandia. The Rose City. Mecca for foodies and green-living gurus. I’ve been here for nine months now and a lot of my friends back home have asked me what life is like here.

Portland-Sign2 Portland is a destination city for many. They’re drawn to the Pacific Northwest for its nature, lifestyle, world-renown food, sustainable living and the local arts and entertainment. In fact, according to United Van Lines’ annual migration study, out of all the people in the US who moved out of their own state, most of them came to Oregon.

So what’s so great about this city? I’ll tell you.

It’s green. This place is crazy green. There’s electric car plug-ins everywhere, I’ve never seen so many Teslas in my life and trying to dispose of anything requires a certificate of mastery. There’s trash, then there’s glass, paper, compost and about a zillion more different choices. I swear whenever I want to throw something away, I practically have a panic attack because I’m not always certain what bins to put my items in.

And the people here are so militant about it, part of me wonders if the Recycling Police are going to pop out of one of the bins when I put my used, biodegradable paper in the recycling. (There aren’t really police, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I set off some sensors for a recycling faux pas.)

One of the streams trickling through Portland's Forest Park.

One of the streams trickling through Portland’s Forest Park.

The nature here is ridiculous. I told you earlier about hiking and have since gone on a few other trips. It’s called the Rose City for a reason, there are roses, tulips and daffodils and other types of blooms all over and because it’s so moist, the lush vegetation is seemingly everywhere.

Slower pace. Whoa do these people move slow. They drive the speed limit (wha???) and checking out at the grocery store is quite the process. It starts off innocently enough, the cashier asks me 1) How may day is going. Then it gets Portlandy and she’ll ask 2) What meal I’m planning to cook with my items, which is followed by commentary on my planned meal 3) She’ll either ask about my child or start telling me something irrelevant about her life.

It was highly annoying when I first got here because I just wanted to get my food and get the <bleep> out of the store because, who knew how long my 3-year-old’s good mood would last. Not to mention, you don’t even know me, Mrs. Cashier! I know that’s the Chicago in me coming out, but even growing up in Kansas, the cashiers didn’t talk to you this much. And when I lived in Houston, they didn’t chat it up like this either. I used to respond curtly to speed things along, but now I understand that’s highly offensive here, so I press forward with the answers and wearing what I’m sure is a scary/crazy smile.

One cool thing about the slower pace is that my husband is home astronomically early most nights. Super long office hours are less prevalent here. In Chicago he’d leave around 6 a.m. and come home around 7 p.m. on a good day. Those good days were few and far between. Now he’s often home by 5:30 p.m. For the first few months of these “early arrivals” we’d stay up late enjoying our evenings as a whole family. Then Hubby and I fell into a rhythm and now it’s funny for me to see my 6 year old get upset when he finds out his dad has to work “late” and won’t be home until 7 p.m.

Food, glorious food. Portland has garnered a reputation as one of America’s foodie capitals and it’s a reputation that’s so well-deserved. The farm-to-table movement is big and the inventiveness regarding food makes eating an expression of art. I don’t believe I’ve had a bad meal here. I’ve had meals that I didn’t care for, but they weren’t bad. And the good food isn’t just at fancy places, it’s in your neighborhood dive bar, and the delectable and thriving food truck scene.

This is a popular dish at Clyde Common. It's quail and pork terrine, smoked onion jam, whole grain mustard,  and fine herbs. It tasted great, but after a few bites, I had trouble getting past how fleshy the inside looks. Hubby happily devoured it.

This is a popular dish at Clyde Common. It’s quail and pork terrine, smoked onion jam, whole grain mustard, and fine herbs. It tasted great, but after a few bites, I had trouble getting past how fleshy the inside looks. Hubby happily devoured it.

Ride or Die. The bike culture here is huge, there’s bike paths to everywhere, bike lanes on the roadways and always a lot of people walking around wearing spandex and bike helmets. It’s really cool, but I’m not used to sharing the road with cyclists. When I we first got here, I was convinced I was going to kill one of them, especially when trying to make a right turn. Thankfully, I’m much better now.

Getting into the biking culture.

Getting into the biking culture.

Ps & Qs. People here have manners. At first I thought Portland was the nicest place on Earth, but I’ve figured out that really, it’s that they’re big on manners. Men and women hold doors open for you, there’s a lot of please and thank yous, and the driving. Oh the driving. People let you into their lane when you want to get over, no one wants to “go first” at a four-way stop. It *is* like in the TV show Portlandia, “no you go … no you go!”

It’s just as weird as they say. The city’s unofficial motto is Keep Portland Weird and to Portland I say: Job well done. I’ve told you guys about some of the strange happenings, like the stripping chipmunk. But there’s so many wonky creative types here. Some folks decorate their cars, and I’m not talking a spray-painted bald eagle on pick-up truck. A better example is a girl in my neighborhood with aquamarine hair who drives a Pepto-Bismol pink jalopy and inside it are several naked barbie dolls. Some of the dolls are hanging by a noose. My nanny told me about a car with a mannequin leg perched atop its roof like a dorsal fin. The list of weird-isms is too long to count, but they’re fun to see. It’s definitely a creative space where people proudly floss their sleeves of tattoos and brightly colored and/or asymmetrical and/or matted hair.

So those are pretty much my view of this town’s major highlights. I have to admit that things haven’t been all rosy for us in the Rose City, but that’s a different post for a different day. Overall Portland has been enriching for our family and I’m looking forward to more adventures.


When in Rome, right?

When in Rome, right?


*Family portrait by Trista Page.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments