Boise Bday Booze Tour

What could be better than spending quality time with my lovely daughter Hannah exploring Boise’s best bars and sipping tasty cocktails?  Maybe adding in some tasty nibbles along the way so that we can sample more spirits?  Having Thom as our designated driver? What a perfect afternoon!

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Hannah knows her momma well and surprised me with a thoughtful birthday present that we could enjoy together.  After your kids grow up and leave the nest, you quickly find out that any time you are able to be together is precious and to be savored like a fine wine or aged whiskey.  Luckily, she gets me and gave me not only time with her but tasty hooch.  LOVE. THIS. GIRL

Her birthday card made me cry and I am not a crier like Thom-just saying.  “You are the absolute best mom and Nai Nai!”  Nothing beats that.  Ever.  I’m going to laminate this card and pull it out every time I’m having a challenging day.  “Let’s go scout some bars & restaurants so you can have some new fave places when you live here full time.”  She wants to spend time with her momma?  Be still my heart.  I’m not sure when we’ll be able to make that dream of living in Boise full time real but I’m working on it.

So, off we went this past week on the Boise Booze + Bites Happy Hour Tour hosted by Indulge Boise Food Tours.  I like their tag line, “Eat Well.  Indulge Often.”  Okay, I can embrace that wisdom.  Our friendly tour guide, Lauren, told us about their company which started in 2016 when the owner decided to get off the corporate track working for the WNBA and settled back in her hometown of Boise.  Thom and I have taken advantage of walking tours and cooking classes all over the world in our travels.  Not only do you meet cool people but you learn stuff too.  We like them.

On this tour, I learned all about my daughter’s first drinking escapade (at a much younger age than previously disclosed), her favorite booze (beer-New Belgium Rogue) and her favorite food (Thai or sushi).  Lauren prompted discussion at every venue we visited with probing conversation-starting questions.  Even with family members, this can be fun and eye opening.  Hannah’s choice of the one place she would live if she could?  DC.  She spent a summer interning for Congressman Minnick while she was in college and it was political heaven for her even with multiple roommates (including cockroaches).  Me-NYC.  No place like it in the world.  Fav meal and drink for me? I would choose a Caprese Salad  with a nice Cab.

We explored new places like Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza tucked away on the second floor in an office building overlooking the downtown core.  I would probably never have gone to this place but the flatbread, washed down with a tart Raspberry Lemon Drop, was delicious so we’ll be back.  Hannah’s drinks during our tour had a summer garden theme either by accident or design:  Sage Cucumber at Flatbread and Lemongrass Sage with a Lemongrass straw at Press & Pony.

Mai Tai’s house cocktail, Mai Thai Old Way with dark rum, rhum agricole, dry curacao, orgeat, fresh line and mint, was a refreshing way to wash down some veggie spring rolls.  The atmosphere here is beautiful with overhead glass sculptures and water features.  Lauren said their Happy Hour is legendary and embraced by Boise locals.  I’ve had lunch there before but was impressed with their Happy Hour cocktail list, which I hope to sample in the future.

Now, I have started my own “Best of Boise Old Fashioned” contest to justify my tasting of the classic cocktail wherever we go.  So, I sampled The Mode and Press & Pony on this tour.  No contest.   Press & Pony, an intimate speakeasy with serious bartenders, won by a large margin.  The Mode’s Old Fashioned was okay but lacked the nuances of the one at Press & Pony.  There, Eric took my challenge seriously and laid down a cocktail I could enjoy with my Boise Fry Co. veggie burger (black bean and quinoa) and red potato fries.

Indulge Boise offer several types of tours:  Historic Downtown Boise Food & Cultural Tour, Capital City Sunday Brunch and private tours.  Check them out here if you are visiting Boise or are a local who just wants to have fun.  Cheers!

 

Balloons Invade Boise!

Hot-air balloons are truly a majestic sight.  Doesn’t mean I want to jump in and share a tiny basket with blasts of propane gas hurtling me through the skies but the balloons do photograph well and I appreciate them.  From a distance.  From the ground.

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Filling the blue skies as a colorful hurrah to the last days of summer, dozens of rainbow globes rose quickly.  Only Mia could get Thom out of bed and in the car before he had his first cup of coffee at 7ish on a Sunday morning.  For me, no way.  The last day of the Spirit of Boise balloon classic created a sense of urgency to get our lazy asses up and moving to see the awe on our granddaughter’s 3-year old face.  Was it worth it?  Certainly.  For her, anything.

For five days over Labor Day weekend, this annual event delights those who trek to Ann Morrison Park to get up close and personal each morning.  If you are not an early riser, you miss them as they take off at around 7 a.m.  We actually braved the crowds and shortage of parking on Friday evening to catch the Night Glow Spectacular where some of the balloons light up and stay tethered after dusk but left after we saw the humongous crowd and realized we were unprepared without chairs to gaze at the spectacle.  Next year, we will know better and come early in the evening with wine, munchies and blankets to recline on to enjoy the show.

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The festival even has a kids day one morning, allowing children to take a short flight in a tethered balloon and pose for photos inside a balloon basket.  Since Hannah probably won’t allow Mia to ever go up into the skies in a balloon (wise momma) this will be the only way for her to experience it.  I can’t say that I blame Hannah.  Thom and I flew the Arizona skies as one of the experiences on a business trip I won and it was f*&king terrifying.  Packed into the basket with other company folks, we quickly saw that the driver couldn’t exactly control where we went or how we landed, which was HARD in a random field.  The basket carrying us tipped on its side quickly, dragging us through the field with one poor woman screaming as her hair got stuck between the basket and the ground.  Yep, she lost part of her ponytail.  I just screamed in general but without any painful hair extraction.  No more ballooning for me.  Thom loved it.  Freak.

But, back to Boise.  The Spirit of Boise is a wonderful crowd pleaser for all of Boise to enjoy and all activities are free and painless.  While parking is limited, it’s an easy stroll from downtown where you can find plentiful parking.  Bring your camera!  Thom left his good one back in Seattle and was kicking himself.  Next year!  Boise typically is hot as hell and dry this time of year, allowing the balloons the perfect weather to fire up and have fun.

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With balloons inflating all around us, Mia didn’t know which way to look next.  In addition to the beautiful rainbow colors, there were specialty ones like Darth Vader, Yoda, Liberty Bell and Owl.  Several companies proudly displayed their logos-happy use of marketing dollars seen by thousands of local residents.   Walking back to the car after taking in the sights, we were thankful that we made the effort to get up early and enjoy the Spirit of Boise.  Can’t wait until next year to make this a family tradition!

 

Top 10 Tips for Airbnb Hosts

Does the lure of extra money tempt you to rent out an extra bedroom or your vacation home?  Sounds good but if you decide to profit by sharing your personal space with complete strangers, use these tips from my experience as an Airbnb host to make it a successful experience.

The last three years we have rented out our second home, a cute 1912 cottage in Boise, Idaho when we aren’t using it.  As an Airbnb host, there are definitely great moments when that rent money is deposited into your account or guests rave about your property but temper those delightful moments with the calls at midnight when the renter is drunk and lost their key or when the lovely 2 person renter in reality turns out to be a raucous house party that trashes your home.  With this reality firmly in mind, here are my top 10 tips for Airbnb hosts.

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Our adorable Hyde Park Cottage in Boise, Idaho
  1. Do your research before you commit to being an Airbnb host.  Stay at several Airbnb‘s yourself and see what you like/dislike.  Go through the booking process, examine how other hosts present their properties, look at reviews of properties where you stay and properties that are located near your property.
  2. Have an emergency plan.  We have a family member who lives locally and oversees our property for us.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friendly family member to assist you, then you will need to hire a property manager.  In addition to handling emergencies, this person/company can check people in and walk guests through your property so they have a great experience.  We also keep a lockbox on property in case of emergencies.  A guest WILL lose a key so, to prevent midnight calls, get a lockbox that goes on a door knob with a code you change after every guest.  Stuff happens.  Be ready.
  3. Cleanliness is key to bookings. Guests will let you know in their reviews if there are housekeeping issues and then you will miss out on future income.  Face it, no one wants to stay in a dirty place.  We deep clean every time we visit and our property manager handles the cleaning after each guest leaves.  Have cleaning supplies handy for guests to use as needed, especially if you have long-term clients staying longer than a few days.  Same goes for toilet paper, paper towel, garbage bags, etc.  Extra is better.  If a guest runs out of toilet paper, you are guaranteed a less than stellar review.
  4. Little touches make a difference.  We provide complimentary bottles of shampoo and body wash, coffee/tea/sweeteners, umbrellas, strong Wi-Fi, board games, cards, a Frisbee and a couple of bikes.  Guests love the bikes at our cottage as we are close to downtown Boise and parks and tend to attract an outdoorsy clientele.  We are kid-friendly with a port-a-crib available as well as kids books/,movies, and games.  After a client leaves, Airbnb will send an email to guests so they can leave a review.  When we check in a guest, we encourage them to complete the reviews.  Great recommendations will get you listings. The more, the better!
  5. Comfy bed, linens and towels are essential.  We learned the hard way that cheap towels don’t last.  Buy everything in white so you can bleach out the crazy stains you will find and spring for nice quality, not WalMart specials, so they last longer with frequent use.  Same with your mattress.  When we rent an Airbnb for vacations, I always read the reviews specifically looking for a great bed that won’t torture our backs.
  6. Tourist information is up-to-date and plentiful.  We gather the latest tourist brochures and magazines from downtown hotels and restaurants when we stay at our cottage and leave the information for our guests so they know awesome places to eat and visit in Boise.
  7. “Above and beyond” perks are appreciated by all.  We have stayed at Airbnbs all over the world and the best perks were: Bluetooth Bose speaker at our Waiheke Island, New Zealand Airbnb so we could listen to our playlists while lounging in the giant beanbag chairs on the patio and fresh soda bread upon arrival at our thatched roof cottage in Galway, Ireland. That’s great service!
  8. Fully loaded kitchen with everything needed to cook.  I know many people go on vacation to eat out at restaurants but I like to explore the local groceries and cook to save $$ that we use on other travel splurges like zip-lining, shopping, and concerts.  Upon arriving late in Portugal, we found out that coffee was not a big deal there so thus no coffeemaker just instant coffee and a hot water pot.  Bummer.  I will be first to admit I am a coffee snob who grinds beans fresh every morning.  We immediately went out and bought a coffee press for the apartment which we left for the next guest. Also, we supply salt and pepper as well as  plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil and every kitchen utensil, pot and pan that you need to make a meal at our cottage.  Guests love it!
  9. Safety first.  Provide a fire extinguisher just in case. Hopefully no one will  need it.  Of course, you should have working fire detectors and carbon monoxide alarms too.  We don’t provide candles or a grill due to fire safety concerns with our wood cottage.  Be prepared for the worst and provide a first aid kit.  I was injured on the ferry ride to our Airbnb cottage in New Zealand and the host promptly provided a cold pack for my injured hand.
  10. Finally, expect to make money but understand the expenses you will incur.  First, price your property within similar market offerings but not at the low-end.  Airbnb might encourage you to drop your price but we did our research and kept our pricing firm.  Guests may try to do side agreements to sidestep Airbnb but we politely refuse.   You run risks if you don’t have backing of Airbnb in case of damage and there will be damage.  We’ve been lucky with only one issue and the guest paid for the damage quickly so we didn’t even have to get Airbnb involved.  We allow only dogs due to my husband’s allergies to cats, which helps bookings because not very many properties allow dogs.  In our three years as hosts, we have only had people “acting like animals” damage and no true animal damage.  Go figure!  To save on energy costs, we installed a programmable thermostat that we can monitor via an app on our phones to make sure that in between guests, the temperature is appropriate.  You will need to have a landscaper, pest control, HVAC person, handyman and plumber identified and use as required.  The costs do add up–a broken water line here and an ant invasion there will reduce your profit.  Save some of that rent $$ for regular needed maintenance and emergency repairs or you will be sorry.  If you plan to occupy the property like we do on a regular basis, it will be convenient for you to have one closet locked and for your use only for your personal toiletries and extra clothes. We just bought a mini fridge for the basement so we don’t have to keep throwing out condiments after each of our personal visits between guests. Buying ketchup, mayonnaise, and butter every visit can add up and you can’t really leave food stuff for guests to use.

Hopefully these tips will help you if you decide to become an Airbnb host.  Overall, it’s been a good experience for us and a great assistance financially to help us pay for our second home to spend time near our family.  Good luck and happy hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamlet amidst the foothills of Boise

“To be, or not to be..”  That IS the question but if you want TO BE entertained and see some damn fine theater, get thee to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise. Pronto.  Wow!  The level of artistry was top-notch and having seen my fair share of NYC and London theater, I can tell you I am usually a tough critic but I was duly impressed.  In fact, the last Shakespeare play I attended was at The Globe in London for a Goth version of Romeo and Juliet this spring that I loved.  Hamlet, while sticking true to the story, did have an interesting casting twist.  Hamlet might be female or male, depending on the night you attend.  Hmmmm…..

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The night we attended we were treated to Laura Welsh Berg in the lead role, the only female in the US to be professionally acting the part of Hamlet right now.  How cool is that?  She alternates with Jonathan Dyrud and when they are not playing Hamlet, they are part of the supporting company.  Those actors work hard for their money.  And how on earth do they remember all those complex dialogues for multiple characters??  Throw in needing to know how to throw down some serious sword play and you have quite the acting challenge before they all die. Oops…spoiler alert.

The Elizabethan setting amongst the beautiful Boise foothills features a variety of seating arrangements including a new seating section on the stage so you can be part of the action as well as the standard options of tables, chairs or the hillside.  All good views.  We chose the blanket experience with lots of snacks, booze and fun.  They even provide little red carts to drag in all your picnic stuff from the parking lot.  Convenient.  You can also rent low chairs with backs for only $2 a piece for the hillside area.  After drinking a nice Merlot, it might be a challenge getting out of these low chairs but would provide additional entertainment for nearby patrons.  Beware.

Having been to lots of great outdoor venues and suffering through tough traffic and long lines to get into and out of concerts, we left for the performance fearful of the wait to get in and laughed our asses off when there was no traffic AT ALL and we easily parked in the main lot.  I love Boise!  This is a beautiful facility, moderately priced for such quality entertainment and definitely worth the road trip from Seattle to enjoy Shakespeare.  I can’t wait to go back and see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in August.  Having seen this play staged while we lived in Shanghai when Tim Robbins staged an updated version that I thoroughly enjoyed, I am looking forward to the Boise version.  From Shanghai to Boise, when Shakespeare’s words come to life, it’s a treat!  “Listen to many, speak to a few”  So wise and always relevant.

Ode to Bacon in Boise

Bacon. In Boise on Father’s Day, there was no better place to be for brunch.  Bacon is not only a unique concept in that the menu is all about the pig but the whole structure of the serving experience is very different.  Shots of bacon anyone?  Everyone?

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As you enter Bacon in downtown Boise, you can pick from outdoor patio seating or indoor tables with massive wood chairs or a leather seating area by the bar.  What’s so interesting is that while it looks like a sit down restaurant experience, you actually line up in the back by the kitchen and select your food, pay for it and then take a # to your table to wait for it to be served.  Want water?  Help yourself from the water jugs.  Need more coffee?  Yep, serve yourself.  This service style frees up the friendly and plentiful wait staff to concentrate on customer service, checking in on each table several times, delivering food and turning those tables over quickly for more bacon lovers.  It works.  Really well.

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Want a mimosa to wash down all that bacon?  Belly up to the bar and order/pay yourself.  Of course, I decided on a screwdriver and was shot down by the bartender because it was before 10 a.m. on a Sunday and Idaho has a draconian liquor law prohibiting hard alcohol sales that early.  What???  Is that a sign that I shouldn’t be drinking that early perhaps?  While I laughed with the other bar patrons as they waited for their Bloody Mary’s to be available (served with bacon garnish), finally the locked panels covering the alcohol got ripped off and the booze was flowing once more.  Cheers!

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But back to the bacon selections, we started with the shooter selection featuring these options to taste:  Berryhill, Spicy Hot, Kurobuta, Maple Rosemary and Candied.  Of course, I liked the Candied because I have a sweet tooth but, just as there is no bad wine or bad pie, there is no bad bacon so we all happily munched away trying all the varieties.

Of course, then more bacon came with my grit bowl.  I enjoyed a huge sea of creamy grits with poached eggs floating amongst the green onion bits with a side of bacon and a fluffy hot biscuit.  Heaven!  Bacon is only open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.  In the evenings, they flip the Bacon sign to become Berryhill & Co., a different restaurant owned by same folks but with different food offerings.  Next time in Boise, we’ll have to check it out!

Freak Alley is place to be in Boise

If you are lucky enough to explore Boise, you have to check out Freak Alley.  What surely used to be an ugly alley in downtown Boise has been creatively reimagined into an outside gallery that will stun you with the level of street art on display.freak alley

Billed as the “largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest”, Freak Alley began in 2002 as an artistic expression and grew into a multi-faceted lane showcasing superior talent that will blow you away.

I love Boise and the diversity found here whether in the art, the food (check out the Basque paella on Wednesday and Fridays at noon), and the spirits of all kinds from wine to craft beer to tasty cocktails.  We love our second home here and look forward to spending more time in Boise this summer.

 

Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza Rocked!

Experiencing the Boise music scene at the Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza hosted by Curtis Stigers at the Egyptian Theater was an eye opener.  Who knew there was so much local talent in little old Boise??  Now in it’s 11th year, this musical holiday journey featured Curtis, who is an amazing talent I was unaware of until lately, and loads of other Boise solo artists and groups. Not a bad note in the bunch and lots of moments that just made you smile.   It was sold out both nights and now I can see why.  WOW.stigers-2

This fundraiser benefits Interfaith Sanctuary Housing Services that supports the homeless in Boise.  I got to meet Dan Ault, Shelter Director, in the lobby while on a break and promised my future support.  How can you not?  We volunteer every Sunday in Seattle when we are home to feed 300+ homeless at Shared Breakfast.  For those of us blessed with so much, helping others with life’s basics of food and shelter seems to be the least we can do.  Stigers’ rendition of “Burden” by Foy Vance was so relevant and gave me goose bumps.  Foy is one of my favorite artists that we just got to see in Seattle at the Columbia City Theater, a small venue that won’t hold the crowd for Foy’s next concert swing as he gains in popularity.  Go see Foy if you get a chance.  Oh, and Curtis, please come to Seattle soon and allow us to enjoy a full evening of your music.  The Moore or The Paramount would be ideal venues for your big voice.  Please.

 

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Curtis sings Burden with back-up from many talent Boise artists

 

From an Irish band that I will have to check out soon at the local downtown Ha’ Penny Bridge Pub to Pengilly’s Saloon which seems like “the” place for local artists, we need to challenge ourselves to explore all this great Boise talent.  Trooping up to the stage, The Divas of Boise, a group of talented female singers/musicians started by Rocci Johnson in the mid-90s to showcase their skills and lend a helping hand in the Boise Community, brought it with big voices and loads of talent.

Silly us.  We have never fully explored the Boise music scene when visiting our home here because we are usually so busy with babysitting the lovely Miss Mia or doing home renovations.  Busy, busy but finding time to listen to great music is essential to a happy life, at least for me.

Lucky for us, Eilen Jewell who lives in our North End neighborhood was on the stage with her husband rocking out with some other local musicians.  I would love to see Eilen give a concert in this spacious theater.  The last time we saw her we were packed into the Tractor Tavern in Seattle.  Her heartfelt tunes and excellent band make for a fun evening but I would prefer not to stand the whole time.  Yes, I’m getting a tad older and like simple creature comforts like a  comfy padded seat.

 

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Eilen Jewell and friends rocking it out.  She’s AWESOME!

 

Curtis and his cohorts did a great job balancing the request for support with music and frivolity.  Even in bleeding red Idaho, the liberal taunts of Trump were woven into the evening and it felt good to be among fellow people with brains who could laugh and cry together at the state of our country.  The 3+ hour show went by quickly and raised a lot of money for those in need.  On a cold and wintery evening, we felt the holiday spirit loud and clear.  Happy holidays to all and to all a good night!