Month: November 2009

Issues of focus


I’m not sure if it was my friend, Merlin, who led the charge, but at some point, many of us, myself, included, gave up on streamlining, optimizing and other kinds of organizational navel-gazing and started turning our attention to attention.

What it was made of. What obscured it. What attracted ours.

As things accelerate and old structures crumble around us, a shift like this makes perfect sense. Power and money still mean something, but the means to them has changed quite a bit, a phenomenal amount in my working lifetime, to the point where I regularly find instances of people caught with their pants down all over the Internet, not to mention real life. The speed of life and the volume of stuff that fills it is staggering, which is to say I (and I daresay you, and that fella sitting next to you) regularly stagger under the weight of it.

And stuff. Let’s talk about that stuff, shall we? While I was too much of a pantywaist-commie-pinko-hippie to join the Masters of the Universe in the bloodthirsty late-last-century race to see who died with the most toys, I dined on their dime and drank their whiskey. Mea culpa, and I’ve been actively taking steps to address it ever since I realized my folly, from getting rid of shit to riffing less often to putting more time into what I really care about.

At the risk of sounding like a new age spongecake, the chief questions seem to me to be:

  1. What is getting in the way of what I want?
  2. How do I remove those obstacles?

What is missing from this list is, of course, the all-important “What do I want?” To those who would point this out, I would say either, “You already know that part, bub” or “If you don’t know, try getting rid of some stuff.” The excavation process is subtractive: heaping more crap, even really well-written or beautifully-made crap, is going to hurt you more than it helps. As one who spent many, many years wandering through the psychic equivalent of the Container Store, looking for neat solutions to organize my neuroses rather than haul them into the light where they might shrivel or at least be sterilized, I know. I know. That cheap crap from China is mighty alluring on the surface.

But now, well over two years into this wandering-in-the-desert shit, I’m here to say that there is no magic book or info product or life-changing seminar, or, yes, blog, that holds the answer. Like Dorothy, ain’t nothing in that black bag for you, son. Go declutter a closet, or take a long walk, or send that email to your friend with the great shrink and begin the sometimes-arduous, always long process of excavation. Because your inability to get traction or to focus is directly related to the myriad ways you’ve chosen to numb yourself.

Nobody’s blaming anyone, least of all me. I am currently grappling with a layer of clutter so tacky and tenacious that I can only hope it indicates the imminent breakthrough my clutterbusting friend, Brooks, seems to believe. Yet this layer feels as whisper-thin as it does dense, so that at the end of this all, the happy ending I’m trying to hold in front of my heart, I will look at this discarded skin/film/filter that separated me from my wholeness with wonder and disbelief: This? This was the Supposably Huge Thing standing between me and the Next Thing? That’s it?

The greatest gift you can be given is to be born with that clearly defined passion inside you. If you are so blessed, you must pay back the gods by pursuing that passion with laser-like focus in a way that helps the rest of us.

The consolation prize is ruthlessly, bravely, systematically eliminating what obscures that passion, keeping yourself sharp and light and open along the way.

Either way, focus is mandatory. Focus is the means by which all the good things happen (and, yes, the bad, but those are not concerns of ours right now).

Focus. Eliminate. Focus. Pursue.


Image by Thomas Shahan (Opo Terser) via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Black (Referral) Friday: Shop yer ass off with the communicatrix

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


Just because I’m decluttering, doesn’t mean I can’t shop! I just (mostly) buy consumable goods, by which I mean shit that gets used up or used a lot.

I’ve collected a bunch of these favorite items for you, below; some have Amazon affiliate links, but at least as many are just awesome things from awesome people just like you. Because we’re all going to get through this with joy and love in our hearts if it kills me.

Me? I don’t want anything. Seriously, I’m good! But I will ask this: if you are shopping Amazon, I’d love it if you’d shop via my store (which has tons of great book ideas) or one of my links. For now, it helps keep me in the books I love reading and sharing, but I’m always open to the idea of more money flowing in (and back out!)

Don’t forget there’s also almost a full year of Referral Fridays to shop from (several of the items below were originally posted there), plus a slew of book reviews (via the shorty, catch-all, not-recently-updated page or the unwieldy tag.)

Thank you, and let’s shop careful out there!


Food & beverages

The Best Dessert on Five Continents

The Flan King®’s official tagline is “Give your taste buds the royal TREATment!”®, but from the moment he vanquished my own skepticism back in 1997, my unofficial tagline for him has been “Even people who hate flan LOVE Flan King flan.” There’s a Flan King flan on every holiday table I set (or one that I crash, which makes me a much sought-after guest.) For now, the Flan King is L.A.-local only, but I have it on good authority that nationwide shipping will be available SOON…as in, in time for this holiday season. Get your orders in now, is all I’m sayin’…

The poor(ish) man’s perfect cup of coffee: a multi-step/present odyssey

Have you heard there’s a little recession we’re in these days? Yeah. Well, that’s no reason you or your loved ones should drink crappy coffee. In fact, it’s all the more reason to drink the good stuff–you just shouldn’t pay a lot for it, if you can avoid it.

  • First, get a stovetop espresso maker (aka moka pot , 3-cup style, $19.95 on Amazon). It will do you fine, provided you use the right coffee, which is Caffe Umbria’s Gusto Crema Blend, if you’re going all out. If you’re really on a budget, I recommend either Bay Blend or Organic Fair Trade Five-Country Espresso Blend, both from Trader Joe’s.
  • Next, grind matters. Those little Krups jobbies are okay, but if you or your loved one is a big-time coffee person, I’d invest in a burr grinder. The BF bought the Solis Crema Maestro ($149 on Amazon) and, with some fiddling on the grind, we can now make coffee, not apologies.
  • Finally, you know about good water, right? (Please, tell me you know about good water.) At the very least, get yourself a Brita; we use Sears’ countertop and under-counter single-stage filters, to deal with the chlorine (and rust balls from my rental apartment pipes).

Pears! Pears! Pears!

My dad sent us Harry & David pears for every occasion they were still in season. I laughed a little, but after he died, I found myself buying them myself–for myself, and for a very select few folks on my list. They ain’t cheap, but they’re insanely good. It was all I could do to keep from pulling off the I-5 at Medford to go lick the packing plant.

Adornments, Art and Arty Stuff

  • One of my earliest Referral Fridays was for Andrea Scher’s Superhero Designs. I still say that barring my grandfather’s speech team gold medal (which I wear on a gold choker), they’re the prettiest necklaces around.
  • I discovered Dave Sheely’s beautiful rings (Etsy shop, various prices, sizes & colors) after I began decluttering, but believe me: once I pare down my stuff, I’ll start building up again with these. Breathtaking, and super-fashionista.
  • Hey! In case you weren’t paying attention the first time I told ya, there are 2009 reindeer (various prices & cities, for now) making their way around the globe, courtesy of Brad Nack (full disclosure: Brad was a former client). One of them is going to end up in my home; if you’re smart and lucky, one will end up in yours (or the home of someone you love).
  • I own two original Walt Taylor (aka Sparky Donatello, aka Crackskull Bob) drawings and love them so. Sparky/Walt has no originals for sale currently, but you can get a collection of his work via Lulu titled Downtown for the positively weird price of $29.82.
  • Good as they are, the photos up at 20×200 do not do justice to the art of Mr. Mike Monteiro. Take my word for it: kickass stuff. (There is also an array of genius tshirts ($20, mostly) at his Mule Design shop. Remember this one? Yowsa, and hot damn.
  • I am also mad for the beautiful, charming, witty and impeccably produced shirts (various prices) of my design hero, Mr. Chris Glass, available for purchase at Wire & Twine.

Needful things

  • New year calls for a new calendar, right? I give my highest snooty Virgo calendar snob recommendation to Nikki McClure’s paper cut calendar, which I’ve used for several years now. Last year, I hit on the bright idea of buying three, that I might survey the quarter with ease; now everyone may enjoy the Nikki McClure 3-pack! ($40 for three, plus shipping) Or, you know, keep one and give the other two as gifts, like a normal person.
  • Oh, what I won’t do when this accursed decluttering is over with and I’ve used up all my notebooks and can start buying Field Notes ($9.95 for 3, plus shipping) like the cool kids. And did you know there are subscriptions you can buy that get you various colored Field Notes throughout the year? Watch the video and use the coupon code on the page for $20 off through November 30. You lucky clutterer, you.
  • I’ve been lovin’ up my Envirosax (3-pack, $37.90 on Amazon) since Oprah pimped them in her magazine some four…five years ago? They’re nylon, which is not exactly earth-friendly, but they roll up small and pack light so you (or your loved ones) will always, always have one on you (or them), thereby passing on more of the plastic and paper. Good stuff.

Miscellaneous consumables to make you feel fancy

  • Yeah, yeah–I like those Red Currant jobbies, too. Unfortunately, I am not made of money. And fortunately, I live in sunny SoCal, where I can buy Farmers Market Candles ($10 + shipping) for ten bucks and haul them home myself. You, poor thing, will have to pay for shipping. It’s worth it. TEN BUCKS. I should be getting a cut, dammit.
  • I have used Vitabath ($24.42 on Amazon) since I graduated from Mr. Bubble. Tried other bath & shower stuff, but come back every time, overscented tail between my legs. This stuff is the best. A little goes a long way, so it’s not as expensive as it seems. Whoever you give it to will thank you forever.
  • I hate patchouli and stinky hippies. I race past that guy outside the P.O. selling the horrible head-shop stuff that brings back Proustian memories of one ill-fated, 100% high summer (and stinky hippies). But I love love LOVE every stick of incense I’ve burned from Shoyeido. My especial fave is “Diamond-Power” ($3.50 for 40 sticks) but really, hard to go wrong. Expensive for incense, but CHEAP for presents. I buy it by the case.
  • Okay: this one is NOT cheap. Still, Lollialife, while very expensive, makes one feel sexy (smells amazing) AND stealth (comes in teensy metal tubes). I can only vouch for the “Breathe” fragrance ($7 for 1 oz., yikes!); the others smell like grandma to me. But it’s the bomb. If you’re getting it as a gift, buy one for yourself or have it shipped it straight from the source, to reduce temptation.

For kids!

Aunts! Grandparents! Godparents! I didn’t know this, so you might not, either, but Tessy is an adorable duck! And Tab is an equally adorable kangaroo! Together, they have all kinds of adventures which are then written up, colorfully illustrated and mailed out twice monthly to rabid fans in the 2 – 5-year-old set who apparently have no idea they are learning reading and math skills. Sure, you could fill the landfills with more crap, but how much better would it be for that little one in your life to get ACTUAL MAIL addressed to them twice monthly? A lot. The Tessy & Tab Reading Club ($48/year for 24 issues).

Image by kevin dooley via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Useful


When I had few things
I collected them
to fill the spaces
that felt scary
and fix me in space
so I would not float away

Now I have things
enough to know
you collect nothing
but are yourself
the collection

All the thoughts you’ve thought
and the feelings you’ve felt
and the stories you’ve shared
make you
your own curio cabinet,
collection, and all.

Much more fulfilling
than things you can hold
much less dusting
than things you acquire

What is truly useful
is what you carry
in your head
and your heart
on the way home

What is truly extraordinary
is the home you find
in empty space.


Image by roosterfarm via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

What’s up and what’s gone down (Nov 09)


A thus-far monthly but forever occasional round-up of what I’ve been up to and what I plan to be. For full credits and details, see this entry.

Colleen of the future (places I’ll be)

  • The Monthly Los Angeles Biznik Meet-Up at Jerry’s Possibly the last L.A. Biznik Meetup of 2009! Join me, the lovely and talented Heather Parlato, and 28 of your other favorite L.A. freelance peeps  for cocktails, conversation and oversized plates of deli food. It’s awesome, and it’s free. (Well, not the drinks or the deli food. But there’s parking!) Just register (free!) to become a member of Biznik, then sign up (also free!). Easy-peasy, Cousin Weezy!
  • L.A. Freelance Meetup Group at BLANKSPACES Meetup organizer Colleen Rice Nelson does a bang-up job with these monthly meetups. This month’s program is a repeat: Kelly Flint from Constant Contact is going to share best practices for making your newsletter kick ass and maintain high open rates. I loved it, and am coming back for a repeat! Okay, and cookies!

Colleen of the Past (stuff that went down)

  • Interview at White Hot Truth My friend and love object, Danielle LaPorte, she of the mighty, mighty firestarting, creative nudging and other glorious instigating, interviewed me for her Burning Questions feature. One of the nicest lead-ins I’ve had written about me ever, plus some questions that really challenged me to dig deep and think about stuff.
  • Interview at Project Simplify For a completely different take, check out this cool interview I did with my friend and former client, Shawn Tuttle. She’s one of the COOL organizers (i.e., the ones who help, not annoy) and a fine writer, too.
  • Ignite:Portland Possibly my favorite talk, ever, and hands-down the most fun event I’ve been to and participated in since I quit acting. Thank you to everyone who came out, Jason, Jolie, Sam & Linda, Vahid (who took these awesome pix!), with an especial shout-out to my gal, Morgan, LOVE YOU, to spearheader, Josh Bancroft, and the rest of the Ignite: Portland team, who made an L.A. gal’s dream come true. You, above all, rock, and damn, do I salute you! Video of my talk on this post and at; HUGE, mad thanks to A.J., aka @linuxaid, who got the thing on video when the live stream died. Everyone go give him money or love or something.

Colleen of the Present (ongoing projects)

  • communicatrix | focuses My monthly newsletter devoted to the all-important subject of increasing your unique fabulosity. One article per month (with actionable tips! and minimal bullsh*t!) about becoming a better communicator, plus the best few of the many cool things I stumble across in my travels. Plus a tiny drawing by moi. Free! (archives & sign-up)
  • The Virgo Guide to Marketing I’m almost done with a year-long project where I work on my marketing daily and blog about it weekly. People seem to dig it, as well as the podcasts I record weekly. You might, too!
  • Act Smart! is my monthly column about marketing for actors for LA Casting, but I swear, you’ll find stuff in it that’s useful, too. Browse the archives, here.
  • Internet flotsam And of course, I snark it up on Twitter, chit-chat on Facebook, post the odd video or quote to Tumblr, and bookmark the good stuff I find on my travels at StumbleUpon and delicious. If you like this sort of stuff, follow me in those places, I only post a fraction of what I find to Twitter and Facebook.


Photo of Arno J. McScruff housed on Flickr, where I also occasionally stick pixels.

Book review: Who’s Got Your Back


Retailers’ ambitious notions of seasons aside, as of this week we officially slide into the most demanding part of the year, otherwise known as “that infernal holiday season.”

Me, I like a good party and a wee bit of revelry as much as the next gal. But Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s here in the West is big, demanding and overly sprawling, full of relentless socializing, pernicious consumerism and eggnog. Okay, not so much eggnog anymore (and certainly not on the SCD), but you get my drift: there’s a reason my holiday card from 1982 was about excess, and it’s not because I was a college student rolling in dough.

Somehow, I’ve managed to opt out of a lot of the madness in recent years. Most of my immediate family either died or stopped talking to me (only the latter is my fault), and it’s fairly easy to keep the commitments to a minimum when you’re self-employed with only family of choice. It is not enough to cut things out, however: we must be generative and thoughtful, making things rather than just tearing them down (or locking ourselves in the bedroom with a stack of old MGM DVDs and a bottle of Pinot.) So I now use the holiday season for reflection and planning.

I’ve spoken before of my love for Ginny Ditzler’s Your Best Year Yet. I’ve done her backwards/forwards, heart-centered goal-setting plan for several years now, and I can personally attest to the magic of it. While I cannot similarly vouch for my friend Chris Guillebeau’s method, I think that his meteoric rise and staggering list of accomplishments is proof enough. (And if you’re L.A.-local or up for a visit and like reading my stuff and are looking for some one-on-one help, I’m guessing my friend Peleg Top’s retreat might be just the thing for you.)

If stuff isn’t happening as quickly as you might like, and/or if you’re just an overachieving, diehard-DIYer type like yours truly, I’m going to throw another book on the pile for you: Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep Relationships that Create Success, and Won’t Let You Fail. (And now that we have the Mad, Mad World of book subtitles, can we go back to the good old days of Moby-Dick or even How to Win Friends and Influence People?)

As you might suspect, the business books I like the most are the ones that are only nominally about business. What I really want are great stories that help me unlock my brain, with maybe a few how-tos thrown in there to fill the newly-opened spaces. Most of Keith Ferrazi’s latest book* is really well-argued rationale for finding that mirror you really need to look in, filled with great stories about how the light finally went on for him. (It’s a great story involving former Sony Pictures chairman Peter Guber, and it actually sent chills through me, it was so startling and spot-on.) I was distracted and agitated while reading most of it, which may account for my not finding what I thought was enough in there about actually locating the right people to be on your accountability/guidance panel.

The section that makes it all worthwhile, though, is perfection: in Section Four, he lays out precisely how to conduct a meeting of your own, personal mastermind group (they’re called “Greenlight Groups” in Ferrazzi-speak, including the principles that should be informing the group, rules of engagement, and a bit about recruitment/vetting/voting people in. It’s pretty comprehensive for just being one piece of one chapter; nestled as it is in a book full of juicy stories delivering the “why,” it’s a pretty useful “how.”

Other fine bits of useful information include learning to differentiate between the different types of support you need in your life and a really excellent section on goal-setting, complete with a distribution pie chart thingy that is amazingly close to the aforementioned Ginny Ditzler’s. The similarity was so close, it made me wonder if Ferrazzi’s book isn’t the perfect companion piece to Ditzler’s: use the latter to suss out your goals, and the former to find the right people to help keep you on track.

Before I even finished it, I recommended Who’s Got Your Back to two friends who are at a point in their careers much like Ferrazzi was when he had his breakthrough around asking for help. They’re established and successful and substantial at the first tier, ready to go nation- (or world-) wide. They are into a whole other level of biggification, as my friend, Havi, likes to call it.

But I can see that there is also valuable information in there for me, the slightly smaller lady cowering in my safe, rent-controlled abode of 10 years. Relationships, I finally realized this year, are the underlying structure that supports all growth, business or otherwise. So I’ll definitely be reviewing that part of Section Four as I mull over how to improve my own group experiences in 2010. And I may re-read the rest of it, as well, to help goose myself into moving toward the bigger bigness, after all…


*Ferrazzi also wrote Never Eat Alone, which I imagine is one of those Do One Thing Different(ly)** books, where you really only have to read the title to get the gist of the innards.

**Yeah, the “-ly” is mine. Can’t help it.

Image by Gwennypics via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Making like a Boy Scout


I’m safely back in Los Angeles after a harrowing drive from Portland, and I do not jest about the harrowing part, we were down to one lane in the mountains below Ashford, with blowing snow and about 20 feet of visibility.

And this, on the heels of a good four and a half hours of sheeting rain and/or crap visibility, which dogged me all the way from Portland to well below Redding, CA, the following day.

I grew up driving in snow and on ice; huge portions of the Midwest are covered in it for huge portions of the year. But I’ve gotten out of the habit after 17 years in sunny Southern California and my eyes are far worse than they were in my 20s. Add to that driving a lightweight car without 4-wheel drive or snow tires, and you have a disaster waiting to happen (and a nervous wreck even without the other kind.)

I take complete responsibility for being That Asshole from California, the one that gives all of you good people from CA a bad name. I’m sorry, and I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Really, I blame the excellent weather I got used to on my last visit to the PacNW, and the idiotic notion that things get warmer as you head south. Generally, of course, they do, but at 4,000 feet? You need a monstrously warm climate to counteract the chill effect.*

I put myself in great physical danger because I was ill-prepared. There’s really no excuse for such lunacy at my age, but there you have it.

On the other hand, things ended up going quite well at Ignite: Portland because I prepared my ass off. I did a some arithmetic over the weekend and figured out that between writing and rehearsing my little speech, I burned through roughly 24 solid hours. And that doesn’t include the time I took to think up my speech topic and post my proposal on the website.

It was well worth it, I think. In addition to being one of the few women (what’s up with that, anyway?) and even fewer out-of-state people allowed to speak at the Portland event (L.A., represent!), this was also by far the largest audience I’d ever spoken in front of (600, or so they say) and on the topic I probably feel more passionate about than any other: fear, and the addressing of it. These are the kinds of speeches I want to give a lot more of, and those are the sizes of crowds I want to give them to.

It’s tough and humbling to be staring at these twin things, this huge “win” and this even more colossal embarrassment. In a way, I think it’s indicative of the way I treat things in general: I’m ever so careful to take my time with and devote lots of energy to matters of the mind and spirit, and utterly disgraceful in the disregard with which I treat my body. I full well understand the delicious irony of a lady who hits Jack in the Box and McDonald’s, thrice, after showing a picture of her bloody insides to 600 strangers.

I’m pretty sure we all are working on something, and I’m even more sure that for 2010 and beyond, I need to take a cold, hard look at this. I’ve taken good care of myself before, and I know I can do it again. I must do it again, and probably for the rest of my life, given my age and the reduction in margin for error.

More on this, and how I’ll address it, as I figure things out. But for now, this observation: much like a drug addict or a drunk, I need to watch out for when I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. And I need to be wildly vigilant when I’m any of those things in combination.

And now, for them of you who weren’t at the Bagdad on that fateful and glorious night (and couldn’t watch the live stream, which took a crapper during a few of the talks, mine included), here’s the video of my talk:

Thanks to A.J., aka @linuxaid, for the video. You’re my total hero! (If you’re looking at this in a feed reader and the video doesn’t show, My Bloody Epiphany is viewable on

And thank you for reading and listening and not judging. Or, if you are judging, for keeping it to yourself. I do appreciate it, and am going to do my best to fold some of that into the new and improved Colleen of 2010, too.


*This is how much of a sheltered dumbass city motherf*cker I’ve become: I took the southernmost road through the Willamette National Forest on my way to Bend because, no, seriously, I thought it would be warmer and drier than going the Mt. Hood route.

Image by reidab via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Camas Hotel

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


When I was announcing to people in L.A. and environs that I was heading up to Portland, they’d invariably ask, “Why Portland?”

When I’d announce to people in Portland that for a big hunk of the time, I was actually going to be staying in Camas, they’d ask, “Why Camas?” Or sometimes, in the case of my car-free and/or bike-happy friends, “Where the hell is Camas?”

Camas is a tiny Washington town just across the Columbia River from Portland. It sprung up around an old mill that’s still in operation, albeit with far fewer employees (that’s automation for you) and a new name (ditto, conglomeration). It’s got a mid-sized city to one side and another tiny town to the other, and a whole lot of natural beauty every damned place you look. It’s also home to one of the most adorable small hotels it’s been my pleasure to stay in for some time.

The 100-year old Camas Hotel had fallen from grace when its present owners, Karen and Tom Hall, fell in love with her beautiful bones and decided to restore the rest of her. They went above and beyond, by all counts, I got the lowdown from the wife of the town’s retired GP, a 52-year resident of Camas who was treating her husband to a night in one of the Camas Hotel’s beautifully appointed rooms in honor of his 80th, or was it 85th?, birthday.

Didn’t get a chance to grill him on the history of the town or the hotel: he was out for his regular morning constitutional. (Note to self: time to reinstate the regular morning constitutional, and to add hills.) But everyone in the town whom I did speak to, and I spoke to pretty much everyone I ran into, as they’re a friendly lot, concurred: the new and improved Camas Hotel is every bit of both. I can personally vouch for the meticulously rebuilt bathrooms with their period-style mosaics and HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP the beds! The beds. I slept the sleep of the dead every night, which was just what I needed to do for that week.

Once there, you’re a walk away from the awesome in any direction. I got a fine, $45 haircut at a nearby salon, plenty of good work time in at the gorgeous new Camas Library (which recently won an award for being the finest in the state) and had delicious Chinese food from the shop around the corner. There were at least three spa-type places, for them of you what indulges, plus a high-end pizza joint, a wine bar, several other tasty-looking restaurants, scads of cute shops and an old-fashioned post office that still smells good. Oh, and the corner diner, with its floor to ceiling windows on two sides (and they is some high ceilings, boy howdy), makes a fine borscht. So you know.

The time I didn’t spend in the above I spent at the world’s greatest coffee shop, Piccolo Paradiso. I dropped staggering amounts of money there, considering I mostly just indulged in the phenomenal Americanos. Pam, the owner, fell madly in love with Italy some 16 trips back, and Italian excellence pervades the joint: delicious pastries and tasty-looking snacks, fine wines from Italy (natch) and of course, that old Italian stand-by, free wifi! I also picked up several bottles of well-curated, locally-produced wine to give as gifts; my hosts thus far have let me sample and, um, I’m planning one last swing by there to pick up some more on my way up to Seattle today.

Should you make a trip up to Camas just to see Camas? Your call. If you are a lover of hikes in nature (or Pendleton jackets, factory is one town away!), possibly. But if you’re in Portland, or Portland-bound, or doing a Portland-to-Seattle tour, by all means treat yourself to a day and a night in town.

And tell Karen & Tom “hi!” from me…