Manor

Manor, Portland, Oregon

I’ve been cleaning out closets, bustling around and taking loads of stuff I’m not that into to Goodwill. Call it crazy spring-cleaning jitters, but about right now I wish my house looked like the interior of Manor, an incredible home shop in NW Portland.

Manor, Portland, Oregon

Just walking through this place brings my blood pressure down a few clicks, taking in the textures and the expertly-assembled vignettes. It’s inspiring, for sure — maybe next year I’ll be able to get my home in order so that it can channel this kind of zen.

Manor, Portland, Oregon

Manor is a great spot not only for fine home goods, but also small gifts, thoughtful books and other things you simply won’t be able to go home without.

Manor, Portland, Oregon

Manor is located at 907 NW 23rd. There’ll be no shortage of exciting things to check out nearby, so I’d make a day of it.

Fireside

Fireside Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

Have you ever tried to describe Portland cuisine to people who haven’t been here? Usually I end up saying things like, “Lots of pork belly,” “New American” or “Comfort food.” It’s hard to define sometimes, the places that we love here in Portland who aren’t serving a style of food, per se, but food that we like. It has fresh ingredients, it’s prepared with care and we often get to enjoy it in well-designed, cozy spaces with people we care about. We are lucky to live here, indeed.

Fireside Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

I was introduced to Fireside (in what used to the the Music Millenium building on NW 23rd) by some clients of mine. I had a bowl of their leek and potato soup, and I came back three days later for lunch because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Fireside does that Portland thing well — comforting, well-prepared food from stellar ingredients, served in a cozy space. The people watching is good, the menu selections are delicious and varied and I’ll be back for more very soon.

Fireside Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

Fireside is at 801 NW 23rd Ave. Go for lunch, happy hour or dinner and for the love — have some of the daily soup.

Two Tarts Bakery

Two Tarts Bakery, Portland, Oregon

Sometimes you need just a little something sweet — and I always appreciate a place that makes something small and perfectly crafted. Two Tarts Bakery is like that — their signature item is a sandwich cookie in a few flavors that melt in your mouth and in just one bite. I think they’re the perfect little pick-me-up if you’re window shopping on NW 23rd. Pictured below: the vanilla cookie with strawberry buttercream, cappuccino and chocolate with vanilla buttercream.

Two Tarts Bakery, Portland, Oregon

The little sandwich cookies range from classic (their chocolate with vanilla buttercream) to seasonal (vanilla cookies filled with buttercream laced with the freshest seasonal berries and fruit) to peanut butter and cappuccino. They also stock their shelves with other delicious little bites — which you’ll just have to go there to discover. If you don’t live here in Portland where you can get a fix, Two Tarts offers a brilliant and sweet monthly shipment program and for $26 a month, they’ll ship you 2 dozen of their cookies to keep you satisfied at a distance.

Two Tarts Bakery, Portland, Oregon

Two Tarts Bakery is located at 2309 NW Kearney Street, just off NW 23rd Ave. Find them online for great ramblings on the blog and a complete rundown of their treats.

Sammy’s Flowers

Sammy's Flowers, Portland, Oregon

To say that I was a boy-crazy adolescent would have been a pretty serious understatement. My parents were repeatedly called by youth group leaders and teachers because of my behavior around the boys. That’s just the way I rolled — and I started early.

I started “going out” with boys — my mom was constantly asking me, “What does that mean? Are you going somewhere?” from mid-elementary school. That just meant we’d sit together on the bus and not talk to each other, but I still thought I was pretty hot shit — with a 10-year-old “boyfriend” who was 8 inches shorter than me. Where I was most in my element was Skate World. How could you beat it? It had nachos, roller skating, partner skates and special requests and dedications from the DJ.

I realize now that the boys I was chasing were probably horrified, embarrassed and totally unsure of how to get away from me, but isn’t that what the game of chase is all about? I’d save up my allowance money and on the weekend, when it was time to skate, I’d dedicate songs to my main man of the moment and buy him a plastic flower that lit up. I’m such a romantic.

Sammy's Flowers, Portland, Oregon

The point is, who doesn’t like to get flowers? Even if those flowers are a trap set by a wild-eyed adolescent girl who wants to share the next partner skate with you?

Sammy's Flowers, Portland, Oregon

The flowers at Sammy’s Flowers are some of my favorite (just after light-up plastic roses, of course). Not only because their arrangements are fresh and dynamic and beautiful, but because the way they display them outside their two shops in NW Portland is enough to brighten up your day just driving or walking by. I’m so glad they do that — it really brightens up the neighborhood!

Sammy's Flowers, Portland, Oregon

Sammy’s Flowers is at 2280 NW Glisan St., and their other location is in the Pearl at 1124 NW Lovejoy. Check out their blog for even more fabulous floral inspiration.

PBJ’s Grilled

PBJ's Grilled Food Cart, Portland, Oregon

My father-in-law, Ernie, is a total sweetheart. When it comes to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, he’s also a total creature of habit. I’ve been a member of his family now for 6 years and I’ve been watching this man’s PB&J routine like a hawk. I appreciate the attention to detail and the ritual that goes along with it.

Here’s how it goes: First, the bread is usually Dave’s Killer Bread. I do wonder if this was an upgrade from some other kind of bread he used before that was widely available. Surely Ernie has been eating PB&Js for longer than Dave has been making bread.

PBJ's Grilled Food Cart, Portland, Oregon

The jelly needs to be Welch’s Concord Grape jelly. No exceptions — although I do spot some marionberry jam from time to time in the cupboard at my in-laws’, so I don’t know if that’s an occasional substitute in a pinch.

Now on to the peanut butter: Adams. I appreciate this choice because I grew up eating Adams peanut butter, direct from the monster bucket my mom bought at Costco. I think there’s a clause about some kind of shelf-stable peanut butter being used in some contexts, but I can’t speak to this specifically when it comes to Ernie’s PB&J routine.

To enjoy it, the best way is to sit at the table (in ideal circumstances, this would be the table inside Ernie’s fifth child, his awesome Airstream trailer) and enjoy it with a cold glass of milk. This is the time-tested PB&J routine, and it’s just the way he likes it.

PBJ's Grilled Food Cart, Portland, Oregon

The PB&J that I found at PBJ’s Grilled in NW Portland would have thrown Ernie for a serious loop. These concoctions are delicious, but some of them sound a little off the wall. Because I wanted a vegan option, it was recommended that I try the Thai PB&J. I was a little nervous — I can be adventurous, but peanut butter with sriracha? Basil? Orange marmalade? I took a risk and went for it.

Now I can’t even think about it without my mouth watering. It was spicy, sweet and totally unexpected. And it was on Dave’s Killer Bread — so maybe I can get Ernie to try it next time he comes to town. What do you say, E-man?

PBJ's Grilled Food Cart, Portland, Oregon

Get your own crazy PB&J routine on at this food cart at 919 NW 23rd. You will not regret it.

Three Penny Mercantile

Three Penny Mercantile, Portland, Oregon

Flashback to 1989 with me. I’m 7, and inseparable from my best friend Julie. My little sister Emily plays sidekick. Most days start out good-natured, but eventually, Julie and I end up concocting mischief. This day is no different.

We decide that we’re going to have an impromptu birthday party (of course). It isn’t Emily’s birthday, but we’d like to celebrate it — now. Like, in 20 minutes. So we tell Emily that the party is going to be in her room and it’s a surprise so she can’t come in. I drag my parents’ gift wrap and crepe paper stash from beneath their bed and we go to work inside Emily’s locked room.

Three Penny Mercantile, Portland, Oregon

First, we annihilate the crepe paper stash by tacking it up with Scotch tape all over the walls. How festive!

Next, we need to focus on presents. We wrack our brains, not sure where we can find any presents on such short notice. Until we realize we are surrounded by toys. Madly, we begin to wrap up things we find on her shelves. Ten minutes later, we let her into the room. We sing to her, we show off our mad party-planning skills and then we settle down to open presents.

Emily was the absolute best sport of all time, always. She opened every single present, acting genuinely surprised and grateful for each. And they were just her own stuff, wrapped in wrapping paper.

Three Penny Mercantile, Portland, Oregon

It’s fun to have new stuff, even if it’s really used stuff. That’s why secondhand/thrift shops are a good time, and a great place to find some unique stuff. Three Penny Mercantile is a great spot, on NW 23rd Ave., to score some new (old) stuff. They have a great selection of vintage finds in a really cute shop, and you can sell your vintage goods there too.

Three Penny Mercantile, Portland, Oregon

Three Penny Mercantile is at 816 NW 23rd Ave. Stop in to buy or sell rad vintage clothes.

Porch Light

Porch Light, NW Portland, Oregon

When I was in late elementary school, my sister Emily and I loved watching the movie Man in the Moon. We’d snuggle up to watch it, imagining that we were Reese Witherspoon, falling in love for the first time in the summer in the south. It’s such a great coming-of-age movie.

It’s weird thinking back now — because I know at the time I wanted to know so badly what it felt like for those characters. What was it like to be in love? Would I ever get to the point where I had those kinds of feeling and emotions and experiences? Even as a kid, I was always a total romantic.

Porch Light, NW Portland, Oregon

Porch Light is a shop in the Pearl District that carries little oddities and beautiful objects — it reminds me of the south and it’s every bit as charming as that darned Reese Witherspoon. Pop in for a dose of inspiration or a new trinket or gift to remind you of a simpler time.

Porch Light, NW Portland, Oregon

Porch Light is in the Pearl District, 225 NW 11th Ave. They tweet too.

What was your favorite coming-of-age movie?

Popina Swimwear

Popina Swimwear, NW Portland, Oregon

I need you to understand something about me: I love water slides. I think they’re just about the most fun you can have. I trace this love of water slides back to being a kid, when I was too scared to ride most roller coasters but water slides were just my speed. I also grew up swimming, so when I’m on a water slide, I’m in my element.

One of my favorite places on the planet is Wild Waves, near Seattle. Yeah, I know it’s a little gross to be all dripping wet and barefoot with a million kids and their wet band-aids, but when I’m there, I’m on cloud nine. We used to go up there from time to time when I was a kid, and when I was too little to really ride water slides all by myself, my dad would always take me down the infamous green slides (which are so not the best slides anymore). My dad, like me, prefers his feet to be on the ground when it comes to thrill rides, but he definitely appreciates the laid-back and fun nature of a water slide.

Who wants to come with me on a nationwide tour of water parks? We could hit Schlitterbahn, Water World and Splashin’ Safari?

Popina Swimwear, NW Portland, Oregon

The only challenge to all that water slide fun is, of course, finding an acceptable bathing suit. Fear not, Portlanders — we’re covered. I know it doesn’t make a lot of intuitive sense that we’d have our own local swimwear designer, but we do and she’s awesome. Pamela Levenson, owner of Popina Swimwear, designs super-cute vintage-inspired swimsuits and shopping for them is actually fun. Bring your man friend — they’ll make him feel like he’s already on vacation with free Hawaiian beer while he waits for you to decide between suits.

Popina Swimwear, NW Portland, Oregon

Popina Swimwear is located in the Pearl District at 318 NW 11th Ave. and in the Hollywood District at 4831 NE 42nd Ave.  Follow the owner on Twitter, and let me know if you’re up for my awesome national water park tour!

Cupcake Jones

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

The way the story goes, my sister Emily was to be delivered via scheduled caesarean section. The doctor looked at his schedule and suggested September 13, 1985. The problem with that date, though, was that it was my second birthday. So even though the doctor had to move his Saturday tee time, she insisted that we have our own birthdays and my baby sister emerged on September 14.

The convenient solution to having your kids just one day apart is that you can combine their birthday parties! This was a revelation for my parents. Just one big mess, one huge herd of small children in the house, one day of chaos. They were sold.

This worked really well the first couple years. Until the year when we were 3 and 5. That year, we had each invited probably 8-10 friends and they all sat around us on the floor of the living room in their party dresses. The five-year-olds gathered around me, and the three-year-olds gathered around Emily. It was time to sing. The problem, of course, is that three-year-olds are such followers. They get confused easily; they’re little. So instead of doing the proper thing and singing to Emily, they followed the lead of the older kids and everyone in the room sang to me only. Emily burst into tears. Birthday ruined.

That was the last time we had a joint birthday party for awhile.

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

Everyone gets their own cake at Cupcake Jones — no sharing required. You can get a jumbo or a mini cupcake in flavors like peanut butter cup or chocolate mint. They even offer some vegan and gluten-free cupcakes so no one has to go without. My favorite is the vegan, gluten-free chocolate. Happy birthday to us, sister!

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

Cupcake Jones is in the Pearl District at 307 NW 10th Avenue. They tweet too!

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

The first time I discovered that my Spanish friends didn’t eat peanut butter, my mind was blown. How could anyone not eat peanut butter?! It was a time in my life when my eyes were opened to a new thing called a cultural difference. I was just sure that if they tried it, they wouldn’t be able to resist. So I tried feeding it to them.

First, I tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was too sweet, then just too weird. I was disappointed, but I didn’t give up hope that easily. So we invited another pair of matched Spanish-American students over to Conchi’s house, and our goal was to bake peanut butter cookies.

They were certainly not the best peanut butter cookies, by the time we had calculated the correct recipe with foreign measures and found some reasonable peanut butter to work with. But they did taste a lot like home, and in the end, our Spanish friends humored us and tried a cookie, but it was us who ate them, late at night in a kitchen in Barcelona, because sometimes a cookie has the power to take you home.

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

They must know that everyone appreciates the taste of a delicious cookie at Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar. This spot, on tree-lined Thurman St. in the Northwest District in Portland, is practically a time capsule. It’s a charming little place — a cookie bar — where you can walk in, order a really well-made cookie in flavors like dark chocolate with salted caramel or chocolate chunk, and enjoy a simple, well-made treat.

The bustle of the baking behind the counter is something to observe — all that bustle is preparing these lovely cookies to go out in shipments to local stores like New SeasonsZupan’s and Market of Choice. But the freshest ones are right there in the cookie bar, waiting to be eaten fresh out of the oven. Sit in the window seats and watch the bakers work for awhile — it will most definitely remind you of home, no matter how far away that is.

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, 2390 NW Thurman St. in Northwest Portland. Buy a dozen and share them with your friends.

Tell me you’ve tried them — and if you have, which is your favorite? For me, it’s definitely a toss-up between the chocolate chunk with sea salt and the vegan peanut butter banana.