Friday, November 30, 2007

O Tannenbaum

Growing up on the East Coast, decorating for the holidays meant simple, tasteful, and clean. Every year, my mom would wish aloud that we would just decorate our Christmas tree in white lights only. She didn't win on that one (I insisted on multi-colored lights), but we did have white lights in the windows, white lights on the trees outside with a few red bows, and nothing else to sully the look.

Here are a list of things you would never, ever see at my house or in my neighborhood in New York:
1. Lights that blink, alternate, flutter, or do anything other than stay on steadily
2. Solid strings of non-white lights outside
3. Any figures, statues, figurines, inflatables in the yard or porch. No dancing candy canes, no inflatable Frosty the Snowman, etc.

In all the other Portland neighborhoods I've lived in before this one, there was an eclectic mix of holiday decorations. But nothing, nothing compares to what happens in our new neighborhood between Halloween and Christmas. It is a spectacle of inflatable Santas, giant snow globes, and dancing lights. Last year I admit to thinking it was a little tacky. But this, this year I am INTO it. When the neighbors across the street put up their giant inflatable pumpkin before Halloween, I knew the Turkey was not far behind, to be followed by the Santa.

I am determined to get some good pictures this year. My neighborhood has some SERIOUS holiday spirit. If you want calm and tasteful, head down to University Park or Overlook. Portsmouth is all about the bright and flashy. My inner child leaps for joy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Giving of Thanks

Inspired by this post (and OUTED at LRB this morning - very impressive, Ali), I will say that I've been reflecting on all things to be grateful for this season. I have a long list, some of which I will share here:

1. My fabulous, wonderful, funny, compassionate husband of 2 1/2 years, without whom life would be significantly more difficult (and a hell of a lot more boring to boot)
2. A great little house that loves us (somehow I just feel it)
3. A new puppy, Lucy, who is a bundle of sweetness and energy (even if that energy does come out at 2 am...and 4 am...and 6 am)

4. A job that I adore
5. Being able to live in such a beautiful and satisfying place as Portland, Oregon
6. My new sport of dragonboating, which allows me to spend time on the river and see our fair city from a new perspective
There's so much more, but that will do it for now...

Evolution of 97203

The heart of the 97203 district is along Lombard between Fiske and the ‘village’ of St. Johns. While there have been a few neighborhood gems – the beloved Mexican grocery store with restaurant in the back room, the St. Johns movie theater, the St. Johns bookstore, and Tulip pastry shop, there are WAY more of the KFC/DQ/Gas station/car dealership type places.

Last Saturday night, R & I attended the grand re-opening of Genuine Imitation, a small art gallery formerly located in Old Town specializing in pop art. After meeting the owner, Vincent, and his wife Cassie, I was so thrilled I could hardly speak. This is exactly what St. Johns needs: a low-key, unpretentious, hip space (that would also make a kick-ass party venue) full of wonderful fresh art. We bought some fab postcards from this local artist (, mingled a bit, had some wine, and listened to the DJ-ed music. It got me thinking about how many changes in the neighborhood have happened since we moved in just over a year ago. In that time, we’ve had the openings of…

  1. James John Café (downtown St J)
  2. Ladybug Organic Coffee (downtown St J)
  3. Legong gelato/dessert/wine (downtown St J)
  4. Little Red Bike café (Lombard & Fiske)
  5. Pastrycat (Lombard and Buchanan)
  6. Encanto New Mexican restaurant (Lombard and Portsmouth)
  7. Leisure pub
  8. It’s a Dog’s Life doggy daycare (downtown St J)
  9. Refind – fun, kitschy estate sale-type housewares (Lombard & Buchanan)
  10. U.S.E.D. – nice used clothing & household items store (Lombard & Ida)
  11. Atomic Daylight – designer clothing (downtown St J)
  12. Genuine Imitation (see above)

On the negative side, we’ve seen the addition of Christie’s – a crappy, pseudo-Denny’s restaurant that is mere blocks from our house. However, the good outweighs the bad.

Add these to Trixie’s Beauty Bar, Anna Banana’s, Proper Eats, John St. Café, Tulip Pastry, Greg’s Gift Store, and Orleans Candle Shop, and you’ve got some good stuff all within 1.5 miles of each other. The neighborhood is really coming along and I’m incredibly excited.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I Choose You

R & I have lived in Portland now for 5 1/2 years. Prior to this house (which we've had for just over a year), I had lived in 7 different apartments/houses in those 4 1/2 years. The good thing about that was getting to experience different neighborhoods and 'feels' of Portland and find out what I liked. I experienced the crazy hippy-ness of Belmont, the tranquil poshness of upper NW 25th, the weirdness of St Helen's Rd, and (my favorite) the wonderfully small-city, walkable neighborhood of NE 28th/Burnside. I also got a taste of the 'burbs by living with a friend in Beaverton for a year (reinforcing the fact that I am NOT interested in buying a house in the suburbs), and experienced the SW in both Burlingame and Multnomah Village.

Point being that when we were house hunting, I knew what I liked: small, neighborhood feel + some walkability + access to Trimet. With our under-$235k budget, we had limited options for purchasing a home (we decided no townhouses/condos). Knowing we wanted to stay in the city (for us meaning inside 205), the neighborhoods within our reach were:

1. Portsmouth/St. Johns (on the N side of Lombard) (97203)
2. SE Portland: between SE 55th and 82nd/S of Powell, N of Johnson Creek Blvd (97206)
3. NE Portland: between NE 42nd and 82nd/Prescott & Columbia Blvd (97218)
4. NE Portland: between NE MLK Jr Blvd & NE 13th, N of Holman, S of Lombard (97211)

There were a few in 97217, a few in Rose City/97213, and a (very) few in N Concordia. But these were really the main ones. And without a doubt, the neighborhood we felt most at home in was St Johns & Portsmouth. We would have loved to be in St J village proper, or University Park. But as it turns out, we're happy we're a little bit closer to the 5 by being in Portsmouth. Even though it didn't have the 'walkability' of downtown St Johns (more on how that is changing later), it's still a lovely little neighborhood.

If money weren't an object and I could pick any neighborhood I wanted, I'd go with Laurelhurst in a heartbeat. Somewhere around 35th and Oak, or maybe just on the N side of Burnside...Davis or Everett. I love love love Laurelhurst. However, homes are outrageous. AND, I guarantee you there is no family-run Mexican grocery store that sells delicious $3.50 burritos out of the back room within walking distance. So take that Laurelhurst :)