Sunday, December 16, 2018

Travel Writer Grows Instagram Followers Legally and Ethically - Quickly!

I’m excited! I recently reached 10,000 followers on Instagram. In fact, I was on a press trip at the Grand Canyon staring in awe as the clouds parted and we could see the stunning rock formations below when I hit the magic number.

So how did this happen? I started slowly, building a following of friends, colleagues, and family to about 1,500. It took me awhile. But when I found out from destination management and PR professionals that they looked at social media numbers before inviting a writer on a press trip, I wanted to know more. What I found out was that 10,000 followers was a magic number and 15,000 was even better. But how to get there with my "friends and family" approach?

I had heard about people who built a following by “buying followers, “ and I knew that was not for me—ethically or financially. I followed everyone who had similar interests (travel, the southwest, coonhounds and foodie finds) but my numbers grew oh so slowly.

Then a colleague whom I respect told me how she reached her magic number. And, it wasn’t by buying followers. She paid monthly for a service that carefully chose similar people to follow on your behalf and kept everything in line with Instagram rules. The company also could handle Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, but I was really into growing my Instagram numbers. I checked things out and found that they had a free trial offer and that the monthly rates were very reasonable for all the work they did on your behalf.
I'm now up to 10.3k followers!
They provided reports and told me exactly what they were doing. Quickly I saw my numbers grow. I’d wake up in the morning with 50 more followers and did nothing myself except post pictures of my travels, my dogs, and restaurants I was reviewing. And, the followers actually made comments on my photos and posted interesting things themselves. I enjoyed following my followers to expand my travel horizons. 

So, since the company has a nice affiliate program and I’m totally thrilled with their offerings, I’m taking a big step and recommending them to those who wish to grow their social media numbers. The company is Social Media Pro and the person who manages my account is Sean Boyle.

I would urge you to sign up, work with them to get the system going for you and you’ll see what I mean. They are very professional.

If you follow me on Instagram (@southwestliz), please be sure and alert me so I can follow you back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Feast Portland: Exploring the Bounty of Oregon Before Feast Begins

All trails do lead to Feast, as they say, so we explored the culinary offerings of southern Oregon before the Feast Portland events. Along the way, we met some folks who would be cooking and exhibiting in Portland and others who invited us to enjoy some locally sourced, farm-fresh foods. Feast Portland designated the hashtag #trailstoPortland for all the food enthusiasts who were traveling in Oregon on their way to Feast.

The Southern Oregon Artisan Corridor

After landing at the Rogue Valley Medford International Airport (less than an hour's flight from Portland) we headed down I-5. Medford, Oregon, near the California border on the I-5 corridor, is known for the famous Harry and David’s gourmet gifts but on our southern Oregon "Trails to Feast" experience, I happened upon a little bit of undiscovered artisan food heaven in the Central Point area just off I-5. They even have a name for it—the Southern Oregon Artisan Corridor.
To die for grilled blue and cheddar cheese from Rogue Valley Creamery
Ledger David hosted a tasting paired with Rogue Creamery cheeses.
It’s a stop that will leave you wanting to linger more in the area but if you only have an hour or two, you can benefit from the co-location of three highly regarded purveyors of gourmet delights—Rogue Creamery, Lillie Belle’s Chocolates, and Ledger David Cellars wines. Actually located in Central Point, part of the Medford metropolitan area, the three businesses share an unlikely location—next to the railroad tracks. But don’t let that deter you. The Artisan Corridor has award-winning treats in store. Read our full story on Wander With Wonder.

The Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument 

At the soon to be renovated Chateau, we experienced the lodge and coffee shop as travelers in the 1930s might have. This picturesque six-story lodge blends into the forest with its bark-covered exterior. The building extends down into a canyon with a little waterfall and trout pond. The Chateau houses 23 guest rooms, a fine dining room overlooking the canyon, and a quaint 1930s era coffee shop.
The Chateau
We gathered in the Caves Café coffee shop for traditional breakfasts—French toast, eggs, and local sausage, hearty bowls of oatmeal and, of course, coffee. The “Eggs in a Cave” were popular with the eggs being cooked inside a “cave” of Texas toast.
Cave Eggs!

It was easy to want to relax for a while in this old-fashioned café with birch and maple counters and knotty-pine paneling. But, the hearty breakfasts were to prepare us for the much-anticipated entry into the cave, just steps away from the Chateau.  Read our Oregon Caves story on Wander With Wonder.

The Wild Coast Beckons 

Since we were visiting the Oregon Caves, the best way to get to the coast was to take scenic Hwy 199 which dipped into California and gave us a taste of the magnificent redwoods at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. If you continued on, you’d end up in Crescent City, California. Instead, we turned north on Highway 101 to explore the southern Oregon coast.

Once we reached the coast we enjoyed a marvelous lunch and then traveled north to Port Orford. We were right along the coast with viewpoints dotting the road. Oregon legislators gave us all a wonderful gift in 1967. The Oregon Beach Act was a piece of landmark legislation in Oregon establishing public ownership of land along the Oregon Coast from the water up to sixteen vertical feet above the low tide mark. This means that people have access and that views are not marred by hotels and developments.

The views and hiking opportunities kept us busy for the afternoon and then that evening we had another marvelous dinner, watched a sunset from the deck of the restaurant, and settled into private luxe cabins in the woods for the night. Read about our wild coast experience on Wander With Wonder.

Experiencing Feast Portland

Once our foodie and fun explorations of southern Oregon were over, it was time to get serious about food. We had arrived in Portland, Oregon, for Feast Portland 2018 and soon it was time to delve into the latest food products from Oregon and beyond, sip a little wine and go to an amazing Feast Portland dinner event.

Read about our Feast Portland 2018 experience on Real Food Traveler. Save the date for year eight of Bon Appétit Presents Feast Portland, September 12-15, 2019. You’ll have plenty of choices if you log on quickly for tickets. If you procrastinate, you can still have fun with the larger tasting events.

Feast On!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dine the Couve: Vancouver, Washington Restaurants Offer 3 for $23 in October

It's Dine the Couve Month all of October. And we'll be out sampling the culinary goodness of Vancouver (The Couve) Washington for two years now during this event.

Vancouver restaurants and drink purveyors collaborate on Dine the Couve to put together affordable menus. Each year a group of us schedules a Dine the Couve meal at one restaurant a week through the month of October.

Trying the Restaurants


So what's it like out there? One year, Diner Nancy went to Niche Wine Bar and Bistro. Now, Nancy frequents Niche and often orders their special tarts. But during the month of October, Niche offered something new. So she ordered it.

Diner Nancy reported back that she loved the pot pie and hoped that it would become a regular menu item at Niche. She highly recommends the special Dine the Couve menu.

Green Salad with Fresh Tomatoes

Chicken Pot Pie

And then, it was time for our Dining Foursome to go to La Bottega. It had been awhile. Dine the Couve Month gave us all a great excuse to get together to break bread, without breaking our budgets!

Couve Foodies Unite!

La Bottega offered two choices of salad, three choices of pasta
and topped it off with a light and fluffy Tiramisu dessert.
After just two foodie experiences we all agreed that we needed to continue meeting that way. So we scheduled weekly Dine the Couve experiences.

Dine the Couve 2018

This year, we'll do it all over again. First, our group will be enjoying Chef Miguel's pasta at Elements, everyone's favorite new restaurant on Main Street. After that, we'll be heading to try out an old favorite... Hudson's Bar and Grill at the Heathman Hotel.

Tips for Dine the Couve

 - Some restaurants take reservations and some do not. Make a reservation if they do.
 - You may need to request the special Dine the Couve Menu
 - Spread the word via social media. Post your photos and tweet your delight. Use #dinethecouve

Ready, set... get out there and dine! Here is the list of participating restaurants and brewpubs.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Come to Portland for Foodie Fun: Feast Portland Tix Still Available

Can you believe it? There are still some Feast Portland event tickets left!

Yes, many Feast events sold out within minutes back in June, but there are several stellar Feast events with tickets still available including
  • Main Events
    • 80s vs 90s
    • Friday and Saturday Grand Tasting Presented by New Seasons Market
    • Brunch Village Presented by Bob's Red Mill
  • Fun-Size Events
    • Basically Bar Trivia
    • Big Feast in Little China
    • Healthyish 5Kish
    • Iron Mixologist: City of Roses Editon
    • Nouveau Bistro
    • Feast Sunday Tailgate
  • Classes:
    • Macramé & Rosé
    • Pigeon Toe Ceramics + Lord Birthday: Dream Muggin'
  • Drink Tank:
    • The New (Old) Italy
    • Act Naturally: Natural Wine Comes of Age
    • Tickled Pink: Why Rosé-inspired Ciders and Beers are Taking Over

Sunday, August 5, 2018

#FeastForLifeFlyPDX Get in on the Feast Portland Social Media Contest and Get Life Passes

 Bon Appétit Presents Feast Portland, the Pacific Northwest's flagship food and drink festival taking place Thursday, September 13 – Sunday, September 16, 2018, is partnering with the Port of Portland at Portland International Airport (PDX) for a “Feast For Life FlyPDX” campaign and social media giveaway of two Feast Portland “The Package” passes for life.

Starting Friday, August 3rd, the month-long Feast For Life FlyPDX campaign will showcase collaborative Feast-inspired items available from top food and beverage vendors located inside Portland International Airport. Participating tenants include The Country CatKenny and ZukesDeschutes Brewery, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Each week in August, the following exclusive Feast-inspired items will be available for purchase at the participants’ PDX retail space:

·      Friday, 8/3 – Thursday, 8/9The Country Cat will feature a special BLT sandwich with their newly packaged house-made bacon and local tomatoes.
·      Friday, 8/10 – Thursday, 8/16: Kenny and Zukes deli has created a Bahn Mi sandwich featuring their pastrami, country pork pate, Asian pickled cucumbers and spicy wasabi mayo on a hoagie roll.
·      Friday, 8/17 – Thursday, 8/23: Deschutes Brewery will serve a Backyard BBQ Burger featuring a two quarter-pound Painted Hills beef patty topped with a piece of pork belly confit, Havarti cheese, a house made BBQ sauce and crispy onion straws, all atop braised collard greens. They’ll be pairing the burger with their Black Butte Porter beer.
·      Friday, 8/24 – Thursday, 8/31: Stumptown Coffee Roasters will debut their new Stumptown Coffee Roasters x Feast Portland Mora Mora Ethiopia Heirloom canned cold brew.

On the first day of each product launch, the chef or artisan ambassador will host a tasting of their product at the Portland International Airport’s pre-security Clocktower Plaza from 11:30am – 1:30pm, offering travelers and locals alike a chance to experience their delicious Feast For Life FlyPDX item. Attendees of these special Clocktown Plaza events will have the opportunity for additional entries in the Feast For Life FlyPDX social media contest.  
The #FeastForLifeFlyPDX social media contest for will take place on Feast Portland’s Instagram (@feastportland) during the month of August. Contestants will enter for the chance to win two Feast Portland “The Package” passes for life, valid for entry into the main events of Feast Portland every year from 2018 and beyond. The winner will be announced on August 31st

For all contest entry details for the #FeastForLifeFlyPDX social media giveaway, please visit

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Feast Portland 2018 Launches New Feast Fab Collab Products

Fabulous Collaboration Products from Feast’s Artisan and Chef Participants Hit New Seasons Market Shelves Starting July 25

Bon Appétit Presents Feast Portland announces the return of the “Feast Fab Collab” series for the third year, teaming up several of the festival’s top participating artisans and chefs and retail partner New Seasons Market to create limited edition, one-of-a-kind Feast Portland-inspired items. These collaboration items will be available for sale exclusively at New Seasons Market locations in Oregon and SW Washington, hitting shelves throughout the summer leading up to Feast Portland 2018, September 13-16. 

Feast Portland 2018 Feast Fab Collab participants include: New Seasons Market10 Barrel Brewing Co., Olympia ProvisionsRuby JewelOregon Fruit ProductsBob’s Red Mill, Chef Maya Lovelace of Yonder (Portland, OR), Chef and Salumist Elias Cairo of Olympia Provisions (Portland, OR), Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s (Portland, OR) and Chef Abe Conlon of Fat Rice (Chicago, IL).

So here's what to look for:
Feast Mode Lager with 10 Barrel Brewing Co. - Launching Wednesday, July 25
This is the most thirst-quenching beer you could ever hope for. Feast Mode is a premium lager featuring pilsner malt, flaked rice and a subtle hopping for an ultra light and refreshing beer. Perfect for pounding on the porch or while grubbin’ out with friends.
Price: $7.99 / 4 pack

Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches with Maya Lovelace and Ruby Jewel - Launching Wednesday, August 22
Maya’s Southern Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwich: Featuring cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill and strawberries from Oregon Fruit Products, these chewy cornmeal cookie, and strawberry buttermilk ice cream sandwich represents the best of the Appalachian pantry - the preserved corn that serves as the backbone of every meal, the buttermilk giving richness and tang, and strawberry jam pulling us right back into the warm and sunny days of late spring.
Grandma Mae’s Sweet Molasses Ice Cream Sandwich: These ice cream sandwiches are inspired by the molasses and apple butter sandwich cookies found in Chef Maya’s grandma's secret cookie stash – the cookies were soft and chewy, and her apple butter seeped into them to create a surprisingly luxurious texture and a combination of farmhouse flavors she only ever tasted in her Grandmother’s home. 
Price: $2.99

Olympia Provisions Chef Sausage Series with Salumist Elias Cairo – Launching Monday, September 3rd
Ava Gene’s Owner-Chef Joshua McFadden was motivated by his love of Roman-inspired food when creating this specialty Italian sausage stuffed with kale and provolone cheese, poached to perfection. Grill and pair with fresh pasta, olive oil and some garden cherry tomatoes to elevate your pasta game.
Chef Abe Conlon of Chicago’s Fat Rice collaborated on this Goan-style pork sausage heavily spiced with turmeric, garlic, chilies, cinnamon and other spices, then smoked. Try this sausage in a new twist on paella, served with fresh shrimp and mussels.
Price: $8.99
A portion of gross sales from all Feast Fab Collab products will be donated to Feast Portland’s 2018 charitable partners, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Urban Gleaners. Since 2012, Feast has raised more than $372,000 to help end hunger in Oregon and is proud to continue supporting this important cause through its charitable partners.

Select Feast Fab Collab items will also be featured at Feast Portland’s main daytime events Friday and Saturday Grand Tasting Presented By New Seasons Market. Tickets are available at

More information and updates about the Feast Fab Collab items can be found at and by following #FeastFabCollab on Instagram.

Photos and Information Courtesy: Feast Portland

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

11th Annual Savor the San Juans: Wine, Beer, Farms and Whales

Wine, wheat, and whales! Join in as the gourmet archipelago celebrates over a decade of great food, local farms, and independent filmmaking. Savor the San Juans has grown to encompass film festivals, farm tours, harvest dinners, workshops, a bike-and-brew and much more. Ease into a slower time of year while indulging in the culture, and natural beauty of Orcas, Lopez and the San Juan Islands. Sample the artistry of chefs like Food & Wine Best New Chef Jay Blackinton on Orcas or Nick Coffey at Ursa Minor on Lopez.

 Take advantage of lodging, dining and transportation specials during harvest season.

Here’s your chance to open the barn door to see behind the scenes at some of the islands’ most beautiful farms, creameries, wineries, flower gardens, shellfish farms and more. Taste Island Grown foods and wine, beer, cider, and spirits, during a selection of farm-to-table dinners by local chefs.

A sampling of events:

  • All three islands will hold special all-day Farm Tours that include activities such as sheep shearing demonstrations, a fermentation workshop, cider pressing, and great local snacks. The San Juan Island Farm Tour takes place on September 9th, Lopez Island on September 29th, and Orcas Island on September 30th. More details coming soon.
  • Coho Restaurant and Doe Bay Wine Company pair up on October 12th to provide an unforgettable wine dinner featuring wines from the Orcas Project -- small-production, limited release wines made in collaboration between acclaimed winemakers and vineyards in the Pacific Northwest.
  • The Friday Harbor Film Festival will honor Captain Paul Watson, one of the founders of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, with the Andrew V. McLaglen Lifetime Achievement Award during the Opening Night Gala on October 26th.  The gala will include a screening of the film, Chasing the Thunder, a high-seas documentary that follows the eco-warriors as they engage on an epic chase of the notorious poaching vessel, the Thunder.
  • The 2nd Annual Hops on the Rock festival is literally shutting down the streets of Eastsound on November 10th to host a weekend of drinking, dancing, and NovemBEER events all across Orcas Island. Live music, local food, and 20+ local breweries from around the region will be featured.

For more details and a complete list of events, visit the San Juan Island Visitors Bureau Savor website and watch for information on the Visit San Juan Islands Facebook Page. It will be a Medley of Food, Farms & Film, September 9th – November 10th, 2018.

Pacific Crest Trail Days in Cascade Locks, Oregon Slated for August

Pacific Crest Trail Days is a 3-day summer festival that celebrates and promotes outdoor recreation, with a focus on hiking, camping, and backpacking.  It will be held August 13th - 19th, 2018. Attendees get to participate in activities, games, classes & presentations, win awesome gear at the raffle, watch a series of films, and get great deals on the latest outdoor products from exhibiting sponsors at the Gear Expo.  Whether you’re into car camping, day hiking, or long distance hiking, the gear and info you are looking for will be there!

All raffle proceeds are donated to the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West.  PCT DAYS is free to attend, with a fee for overnight camping on Thunder Island.  Don’t miss out on being a part of a great time at the 12th annual PCT DAYS, located in Cascade Locks, Oregon, the heart of the Columbia River Gorge!

For more info, visit

Twitter: #pctdays @pctdays
PCT DAYS Official Video:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

We Are The Seeds Event Slated for August in Santa Fe, New Mexico

As I mentioned in my article, August in Santa Fe: SWAIA Indian Market and So Much More, there are events and markets throughout Santa Fe during the Indian Market Week. We Are The Seeds is held in the Santa Fe Railyard, walkable from the Plaza if you like walking!

We Are the Seeds is a 2-day event at the Santa Fe Railyard Park that highlights Indigenous fine art. It’s a festive celebration that includes music, dance, fashion, literary arts, and traditional Native foods.

The event will host approximately 60 artists representing a diversity of cultures and regions. Artists include renowned painter Baje Whitethorne, Sr. (Navajo), innovative potter Brenda Hill (Tuscarora/Choctaw), master jeweler Fidel Bahe (Navajo), award-winning basket weaver Sally Black (Navajo), and high fashion jewelry designer Kristen Dorsey (Chickasaw). During the event, four featured artists will share their art by demonstrating techniques and artistry for visitors.

The Seeds Stage includes Master of Ceremonies Sherenté Harris (Narragansett) and performances by singer songwriter Zachariah Julian (Jicarilla Apache), DJ Celeste Worl (Tlingit), Randy Kemp (Choctaw/Euchee/Muscogee-Creek) with modern flute music, and Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dancers.

Seeds Santa Fe will feature a variety of interactive experiences for visitors including an “Art Creation Station”, a youth workshop, a social dance and dinner, and “Rise to Our Voices” a spoken word poetry workshop for Indigenous women.

We Are the Seeds Santa Fe Event Schedule:

Art Show and Sale
Thursday, August 16, 2018 – 10a-6p Friday, August 17, 2018 – 10a-6p

Performance Stage
Thursday, August 16, 2018 – 11a – 5:30p
Friday, August 17, 2018 – 11a - 9p

We Are the Seeds Social (open to the public) and Benefit Dinner by Jambo Cafe (ticketed)
Thursday, August 16, 2018 – 5:30p 

ACONAV Fashion Event (
Friday, August 17, 2018 – time TBA 

Youth Art Workshop – Screen Printing with Damian Charette
Thursday, August 16, 2018 / Friday, August 17, 2018 – 10a-12p and 2p-4p 

Rise to Our Voices: Spoken Word Poetry Workshop for Indigenous Women with Nicole Kahbah Johnny
Friday, August 17, 2018 – time TBA 

For more information, visit We are the Seeds on Facebook.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Summer Solstice Events in Fairbanks, Alaska

Summer Solstice, on June 21st, is Fairbanks, Alaska’s most celebrated summer holiday. Because Fairbanks is located at 65 degrees north latitude, the sky never gets dark for up to 24 hours per day during Midnight Sun Season, April 22 through August 20. Summer Solstice is the apex of the Midnight Sun Season. Three long-standing events that capitalize on the everlasting sunshine include the epic Midnight Sun Festival, the Midnight Sun Baseball Game and the Midnight Sun Run. 

I've never had the pleasure of exploring Fairbanks, but wouldn't this be an extra fun time to travel to Alaska?

Held annually from noon to midnight on the Sunday closest to Solstice, the Midnight Sun Festival is Alaska’s largest single-day event drawing up to 30,000 sun-worshippers. Downtown Fairbanks’ 1st, 2nd, 3rdand 4th avenues become pedestrian only and turn into a huge street fair offering food, drink, merchandise, information and activities. The cornerstones of the festival are four large stages that present 45 live performances including folk, rap, ballet, rock and more. The free festival is in its 37th year but history proves that downtown Fairbanks has been celebrating Summer Solstice in a variety of ways for at least a century.

Midnight Sun Festival in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. 
Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

The Midnight Sun Baseball game has been held on Solstice for the past 113 of years and has attracted national attention in outlets such as ESPN, Conde Nast and The New York Times. The game begins at 10 p.m. and continues on until 1 a.m. famously without the use of artificial lights. During the course of the baseball game people can watch the sun set and begin to rise without the sky ever getting dark.

The 36th annual Midnight Sun Run is a quirky Alaskan event that attracts more than 3,500 participants some wearing costumes. Super heroes, bumblebees, swashbucklers and more don running shoes and hit the route at 10 p.m. cruising into and beyond the midnight hour. Not your typical 10K, the Midnight Sun Run winds through neighborhoods where locals host outdoor house parties to cheer on participants.

The Midnight Sun Run in Fairbanks, Alaska—an annual 10K run under the late night summer solstice sun. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
 The Arctic Circle just 140 miles north of Fairbanks is defined by the fact that on Summer Solstice, June 21 (occasionally falling on June 20), the sun never dips below the horizon for 24 hours. The midnight sun is fundamental to summer time in Fairbanks and people worldwide come to bask in the sun and participate in these sunshine-inspired, middle-of-the-night events.

Find out more at

Information Courtesy: Explore Fairbanks