Dear Internet Friends,
Hello! My name is Nugget and I am 12 weeks old. This weekend I met my new Mommy and Daddy. They brought me to a new home with lots of toys and treats and gave me an itchy collar. I miss my dog-parents Poe and Fae, but I am discovering all sorts of new things in this home. My favorite spot in my new house is on a big fluffy Flokati rug. On Saturday, I accidentally started peeing on it, but Mommy started yelling at me so I stopped. When I want to use the bathroom I sit on my butt near the door, and then my new parents take me on a walk. I made lots of new friends and discovered something called peanut butter. It is delicious. Mommy says I need to stop barking at other four-legged creatures, but I just get so excited! Yesterday at puppy pre-school, the trainer said that I need to make 100 human and dog friends before I turn 6 months old so that I become so-shuh-lized. I don’t know what “so-shuh-lized” means, but I heard Mommy telling Daddy that we should go play with other dogs, so it must be a good thing! Today my parents are at work, so Daddy set up something called a “web-cam” so that he can look at me on his phone while he is not at home. That’s all for now. I’m going to take a nap in my bed!
Machu Picchu is limited by the Peruvian government to 2500 visitors each day – and only about 10% of that daily total typically come via the long route. Those that do make it are following in the same footsteps as the Incans in going from the old Incan capital of Cusco to the hidden peaks of Machu Picchu, a journey that takes you up, over, and around the cavernous Urubamba River Valley, to the tune of four days (or 3 if you are particularly motivated), 45 km (27 miles), and a hell of a lot of rock steps.
For us, taking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was the main premise of our trip to Peru, and without a doubt, the experience delivered. Over the course of four long and tiring days, we gazed upon countless magnificent views, saw a plethora of Andean wildlife, pooped in a number of questionable holes in the ground, and tasted a life’s worth of home-cooked Peruvian and Incan dishes.
With Cusco at just about 11,000 feet, we spent our two pre-hike days acclimating to the altitude, and it was well worth it, especially on a trek where you are consistently above 10,000 feet (and that takes you as high as 14,000 ft on day two). While the distance from Cusco to Machu Picchu is actually 50 miles (and 500 years ago the Incans would have done the full load), the Inca Trail actually begins at Piscacucho at kilometer 82, after a quick pit stop at Ollantaytambo in the AM, where our bus picked up the 12 porters that we would have accompanying our group of 6. So it wasn’t really until about 9 or 10 when we first got started on the first leg of our journey, as day one was, in the words of our masterful guide Edgar, a relatively flat (even according to Peruvian standards, where flat really means up and down), 12 km jaunt. In the morning, we covered about half of the 12km at a constant altitude to Llaqtapata (8694 ft), where we had our first lunch stop. A very scenic couple of hours, the hike was along the Urubamba River, where we had a chance to see several Incan terraces and a few small ruins along the way. After a three-course lunch prepared by our porter-chef Fredi (“Chico”), which set the high standard for food throughout the trek, we took off on an afternoon where we would cover the remaining 5km, mostly going uphill to an elevation of 9842 feet, to the site of our first campsite at Wayllabamba. The views in the second half of the day were solid, if unspectacular, with a couple stops here and there to check out some Incan ruins in the distance. At Wayllabamba, we were camped in a field within the tiny village, surrounded on all sides by mountains. The village had a Christian church and some old ruins that we checked out at the top of the hill, where we happened upon a pick-up soccer game played by kids living in the village. All of our party, tired from the first day, went to bed early, especially since we were about to embark on a series of 5:30am wake-up calls.
Happy Friday! Since we’ve had packing on our mind this week (3 more days till Peru!), we thought we’d bring you a few of our travel favorites.
1. New Trent Portable Battery charger
Don’t know where I would be without this one. Now that I use my phone for everything when travelling (mostly looking at google maps for places to go and yelp for places to eat), I can always count on my battery dying at some point. With a portable battery charger, especially one that has 5200 mah or 7000 mah, you can charge your phone 2-3 times while you are out. Or if you don’t like carrying something extra (or your girlfriend dislikes carrying your gadgets in her purse – AHEM), I also use a built-in extended battery case like the Mophie JuicePack Air, which you can find on Groupon for half the price every so often.
I’ve gone with four electronics devices as my other four travel essentials, so I might as well continue the theme. TripIt takes a little while to set up to the way you want to use it, but once it is ready, you never need to worry about printing itineraries again. It syncs everything online, so whether you access your itinerary from a computer, or on your phone, you’ll know exactly what’s next. You have two options in the free version: you can forward your confirmation emails to TripIt, and it will automatically add it into your itinerary, or you can allow it to search through your emails for confirmations. I use the former, and it works great, but if you use the latter, I would love to hear your experience! TripIt is free to use, with a paid “Pro” version ($49/year) that enables instant alerts (like flight delays, cancellations, gate changes), frequent traveler points tracking, and seat alerts.
3. JVC Marshmallow Earphones
I’ve had several iterations of these for the longest time now, mostly because my ear canals are so oddly shaped that normal buds don’t stay in. These I chose because they have a memory foam tip, ensuring a snug fit regardless of the activity. They are dirt cheap (<$12, even for the one with the built-in remote) so you won’t kill yourself if you leave them on a plane, or in a cab. BONUS: the snug fit of the memory foam makes sure creates a semi-noise-cancelling effect, perfect for drowning out the hum of an airplane engine. Or a screaming baby.
4. Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad
This thing is awesome. One, it serves as a sleek, magnetic cover for your iPad, complete with matching aluminum-casing, so you almost look like you are carrying a really small MacBook. In its other form, it serves as a sleek, full-functioned bluetooth keyboard so your iPad really becomes your laptop replacement. Keys are quiet, the stand is sturdy (and magnetic), and the battery life is off the charts. Get one, and say good bye to lugging your now (relatively) brick-like MacBook around.
Whether you enjoy the occasional cocktail or you frequently partake in a nice, stiff sipper, nothing says welcome home (or welcome TO my home) like a well-stocked bar. In the first of this three-part series, I’ll go over how I got my own personal mini-bar started, so that you too can indulge your Mad Men fantasy (drinks, not the crazy affairs or chain smoking).
In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit that this idea (as well as the initial components) were the brainchild of my fabulous girlfriend Winnie. While I’ve always enjoyed a well-crafted cocktail, taking the time to prepare and build an elaborate drink always seemed too complicated, considering a nice beer would satiate the same need. However, for this past Christmas, W decided I should get a bit more classy and gifted me the beginnings of a minibar, including a serving/storing tray, a cocktail set, and some quality liquors.
So onto Part 1: The Basics. What you need to get started:
The Waffle Window
3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR
Portland is well known for its many breakfast destinations. Whether you’re looking for simple cafes, fancy coffee shops (stump town), crazy donuts (voodoo), or a hearty sit down brunch, Portland has something for everyone. The Waffle Window is another quick and delicious breakfast option, an unassuming (literal) hole in the wall next to the Bread and Ink Cafe, serving up crisp, golden waffles topped with sweet and savory ingredients.
Our choices on this particular morning included:
- “The Whole Farm” – thick cut pepper bacon, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes, and chevre cheese atop a crispy, sugared Portland-style Liege waffle;
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Dipped Waffle – waffle with creamy peanut butter with generously drizzled chocolate;
- “The Rose City” – fresh local strawberries, rose cream, whipped cream, and a rhubarb sauce set on a sugar waffle;
- Cold Chocolate Dipped Waffle – dipped in chocolate and refrigerated, this is exactly what it sounds like – a chocolate covered sugar waffle!
The sweetness of the sugar waffles provided a delicate contrast to many of the savory ingredients, which is why I think The Whole Farm and its cousins (a bacon-less Farm Fusion, a spicy bacon cheddar jalapeno, and a Bacon/Brie/Basil with peach jam) are must-haves when you come to Waffle Window. Not to mention the fresh fruit in the Rose City, their complex selection of dessert waffles (blueberry cheesecake or waffle ice cream sandwich, anyone?), and you can’t forget to take a cold chocolate dipped one for snacking on the road.
With all prices lower than $6 (mostly in the $4.50-5.50 range), this is a breakfast that won’t blow your budget. And while you are around, check out the neighbouring Hawthorne District, a fun and ecclectic area to explore in SE Portland.
For a special Father’s Day gift idea, I thought I’d introduce you to the manliest thing possible: shaving in style.
Being a fairly hairless Asian male, let’s just say shaving isn’t something that bothers me on a consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, I still do an electric trim each morning to get rid of some unwanted stubble, but considering my hair pretty much only grows in a few places, I’m usually okay with the bare minimum.
Enter Harry’s. Started by the co-founder of Warby Parker, Harry’s places itself squarely in the market for those who are looking for a quality shave, but who aren’t looking to break the bank with one of these or one of these. Sure, you can get the same job done with a cheap BIC (or even if you splurge on a Mach 3 or Fusion, which will run you about $10 at the convenience store), but if you want something permanent to class it up a bit (I’m talking weight balanced and contoured handle, with German-engineered steel blades), Harry’s makes sure you won’t pay for it.
At $15 (shipped) for the Truman Set (handle, three 5 blade cartridges, and a tube of shaving cream made with extracts of licorice, cucumber, and milk thistle, with Vitamins E and B5 and loaded with marula and coconut oils for moisturizing), a start is not much more expensive than a disposable razor at your local CVS or Duane Reade. The kicker is that while the drugstore brands like Gillette give you the razor for $10, they mark up the blades, often selling an 8-pack for about $20-25. Harry’s sells replacement steel blade cartridges for $2 or less ($8 for four, $15 for 8, $20 for 12, and $25 for 16), plus free shipping for the 8-, 12-, or 16-blade sets.
On my test run, the shaving cream lathered thick and spread smooth on my face (must be the thistle!), and the oils really helped avoid any sort of razor burn. The Truman handle was well balanced in weight, and holding it felt effortless. The blades hugged my skin thanks to a rubber pivot that allows the blades to match the appropriate angle of my face. While I won’t say the shave will knock your socks off (especially if you are particularly adept at the task already), something about the feel of quality in the handle, and sincerity in the blade, made me feel satisfied, if even for a brief moment. At $15 bucks and less than $2 a blade, you could hardly do better.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think! Happy Father’s Day!