pedX Shoes

pedX shoes, Portland, Oregon

Every summer, as the air started to turn a little colder, my mom would prep us for back-to-school shopping. She’d parade us over to Nordstrom for their summer sale and we’d get to pick out a few things for school, including a pair of shoes. That particular year, both Emily and I had our eyes on a new pair of Doc Martens.

“Really?” mom asked, holding the shoes up, their thick soles gleaming under the shoe department lights. “I know you girls think these are cute, but in your size, they’re going to look ridiculous.”

Thank goodness for power in numbers, because I probably would have believed her. But the oft-used “Those will look ridiculous in your size” speech comes from a place of my mom’s own insecurity about her feet looking big. It’s a little ironic, considering we both have bigger feet than she does. And they didn’t look ridiculous at all. We proudly laced up and headed to school in those Doc Martens when September rolled around.

pedX shoes is a space filled with beautiful light, beautiful shoes and the almost constant smell of waffle cones. How does anyone accomplish anything under these circumstances?!

pedX shoes, Portland, Oregon

This inspired women’s shoe shop — “shoe shangri la,” is just a couple doors down from the Alberta location of Salt & Straw, which is where that heavenly smell comes from. But what about the shoes? I sometimes have trouble with independent shoe stores since the styles are so particular to that store’s owner and feel. But in this case, whoever is picking the shoes should keep it up. They are all beautiful, but with just a hint of practicality — which I appreciate. And not one pair would look ridiculous in my size.

The staff here are over-and-above helpful and sweet, and welcoming too. Great for a browse or a shopping spree. And don’t miss the great sale section!

pedX shoes, Portland, Oregon

pedX shoes, 2005 NE Alberta in NE Portland’s Alberta Arts District. Check out their sister store Manifesto for men’s and women’s shoes. See also pedX’s Twitter and blog.

Sip Juice Cart

Sip Juice Cart, Portland, Oregon

We set up shop with a card table, a piece of recycled cardboard and some Country Time lemonade. There were at least four of us, between my sister Emily and the neighbor girls. We went three blocks away to the nearest intersection in our Beaverton suburb, to maximize traffic and therefore, profits. Then we used our impressive marketing acumen and I crossed the street from our awesome lemonade stand to lure in customers.

A big moving truck pulled up to the stop sign, and the man in the passenger seat rolled down his window and asked how much lemonade cost.

“25 cents!” I said, in my most salesmanlike tone. He seemed impressed with the value, and asked me to come closer to the truck so he could hand me his quarter.

Freshly primed on stranger danger videos, I panicked. Absolutely convinced that he was about to abduct me and out of sight from my friends and sister across the street from the massive truck, I froze for a second and then I went into fight-or-flight mode. I dropped my sign and I ran as fast as I could toward home. I turned the corner just as the truck moved, and my friends and sister saw, where I had been standing, just my sign on the ground. No sign of me.

So much for summer fun.

Sip Juice Cart, Portland, Oregon

It’s tough work selling juice from a stand, but that’s what they do at Sip Juice Cart.

On a very friendly personalized recommendation, I ordered the Sweet Greens juice, which has four kinds of greens plus apple juice for sweetness and ginger for a nice kick. It was delicately flavored and the satisfying color of the flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado. They also offer smoothies and vegan milkshakes, which looked pretty decadent. I think my favorite part about grabbing a quick afternoon juice here is the design of the place — in the back window of the trailer, you can see piles of fresh oranges, pineapples and other fruit just waiting to be juiced. You can sit on the picnic table and enjoy a moment of zen and it’s lovely.

Sip Juice Cart, Portland, Oregon

Sip, located at 2210 NE Alberta St. in NE Portland’s Alberta Arts District, is actually the second location of this fine cart. You can find the first one at 3029 SE 21st Ave. Follow them on Twitter, too!

Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw, Portland, Oregon

It was late (for the elementary-schools kids we were) and my dad had picked us up from our evening swim lessons at the Aloha Swim Center. This was great news, because my dad is a very soft touch. This guy didn’t need to be told twice that tonight, we were getting ice cream on our way home. His favorite was a DQ Peanut Buster Parfait, and so off to the Dairy Queen we headed. As our creaky brown Ford Aerostar lurched into the drive-thru, he turned to us with his most serious expression and said, “Girls. The no-tell rule is on.” We nodded our agreement solemnly. This was the pact.

Like most conscientious mothers of the 1980s, my mom did not want us out and about, willy-nilly, eating ice cream at all hours of the day and night. But we were kids, for crying out loud, and we had needs. So the no-tell rule was invented. We got the ice cream, had a rollicking good time and then we hid the evidence (including checking my sister Emily’s chin and upper lip for signs of chocolate and dumping any cups/spoons in the outside garbage can where mom was sure not to notice them.)

This particular night was a gorgeous one — summertime, the windows were rolled down and the sky was a soft grayish pink in the last few minutes of daylight. We didn’t talk, as we were all three engrossed in our Peanut Buster Parfaits. And then, just as my dad saw the police car out of his right peripheral vision, he noticed that he was speeding — and that the light 100 yards in front of him was turning from yellow to red.

“Girls, I’m about to get a ticket,” he said, as the car sailed through the light and the police car threw on its lights. Moments later, all the magic was gone. We were bathed in the flashing lights, and my appetite was ruined. I was a very sensitive kid, and the act of watching my infallible dad get pulled over and issued a ticket freaked me out to the core. I wondered for a moment if I’d throw up right there. My ice cream melted in the cupholder.

After that, we trudged home slowly, and went through the motions of hiding the trash (and my half-eaten sundae) before we went inside. My mom met us at the door and my dad gave her a look. “What happened?” she asked us. It was Emily that spoke first.

“Dad got a ticket for running a red light!” she practically screamed. I’m sure my dad really appreciated that. “And the lady at the drive-thru…” She trailed off, but it was too late. In her excitement to spill the beans about the ticket, she’d broken the code of the no-tell rule. We were busted.

“Lady at the drive-thru, huh?” mom asked. Emily turned red and sulked away. My dad offered his most sheepish grin and — with a communal laugh at the absurdity of the entire situation — all was forgiven.

Salt & Straw, Portland, Oregon

I heard once that in Portland, we eat more ice cream per capita than any other U.S. city. I have no idea if that stat is true, but judging by the lines around the block at Salt & Straw’s three locations rain or shine, I’d say there’s some truth to it. Salt & Straw isn’t Portland’s original artisan ice cream — it’s actually a relative newcomer in the local ice cream scene — but its slick branding and inventive flavors have made it a favorite with pretty much everyone. I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t like it.

When it comes to the flavors, bold choices like strawberry balsamic and goat cheese marionberry habañero are stars on the menu, but I usually prefer the really well-done classics. It’s usually a toss-up for me between the sea salt with caramel or freckled woodblock chocolate.  Don’t worry — the no-tell rule is on.

Salt & Straw, Portland, Oregon

Salt & Straw has such a popularity problem that they now have three locations. The original is at 2035 NE Alberta in the Alberta Arts District of NE Portland. Their other locations are on SE Division and NW 23rd. They have an ice cream pushcart on 1st Street in Lake Oswego, and if the past is any indication, I’m sure they’ll have a shop there soon.

Thicket

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

I didn’t grow up in the kind of family that went hiking. But my college boyfriend loved it, and all things outdoorsy.

The diplomatic way to describe myself back then is out of shape. Although there is some debate about whether I had been in shape before that. The bottom line? I didn’t have a lot of endurance, a lot of dexterity or a lot of experience hiking. But Eric didn’t know this, and suggested we hit a nearby trail for the day. I agreed.

Colonel Bob, in the Quinault Rainforest, is not what you would call “a beginner’s hike.” It’s steep, it’s long and it’s not for chubby girls who don’t work out. We arrived at the trailhead, my stomach churning with dread and anticipation, and we started to hike. We hiked down into a valley, down further.

“Isn’t this supposed to be an uphill hike?” I asked Eric, after about 30 minutes of steep downhill. We paused, we looked ahead and around, and we finally discovered that were were going the wrong way. By the time we got back to the trailhead, I was exhausted. And we hadn’t even started the hike. I had an elevation gain of 4,492 feet ahead of me. I wanted to cry.

I did not cry though — not right then. The crying happened later — a couple of hours later, when I was completely sapped of energy, my legs burned and my lungs burned and Eric had been carrying my backpack for at least a mile. I wanted to make it to the top so badly, so that he would see that I could be a good sport. But I just couldn’t keep going. I slumped down onto a stump and started to cry, a little over halfway up the hill.

“We have to go back,” I said. “I can’t hike anymore. I’m done.”

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

I’ve since made peace with hiking and I love it, but this was not a great place to start. I now love to appreciate the nature along the way, and my legs and lungs are usually up to the task (although I still haven’t been back up that particular peak).

Nature can be overwhelming or nature can be the perfect oasis from our daily lives. At Thicket, it’s an oasis. This hidden gem is just a half-block off Alberta on NE 23rd, and it’s a garden supply shop that’s set in what I wish my yard looked like.

It’s green and lush but it’s also a place to sit for a moment and be inspired. All the plants inside look like they were chosen individually and cared for. The whole place thrives, and I turned bright green with envy when I saw the overhead canopies and the vintage-inspired potting shed. This place is worth a peek, a stroll and a few deep breaths. You’ll be hooked.

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

Thicket, 4933 NE 23rd Ave. in the Alberta Arts District of NE Portland. Thicket also has an inspiring garden blog.

Pine State Biscuits

Pine State Biscuits, Portland, Oregon

Dad’s Weekend at Washington State University, 2003. Those football fanatics up in the Palouse really love to camp out and wait for football tickets. The line ran around the entirety of Beasley Coliseum, and I don’t even remember what game the tickets were for. However, it was clear to us as we rolled up uncomfortably early on Friday morning to snag a spot in that line that we may not be getting tickets. That didn’t stop us from waiting, though — waiting and waiting, and getting to know the people around us, and hanging out on the cement floor playing Scrabble on Eric’s palm pilot (Yes, that’s right — palm pilot!)

Once every 15 minutes, the crowd would inch forward. We started to wonder if we’d ever make it to the front. Then my phone rang and it was my parents — in the time we’d been waiting in line, they’d managed to drive across an entire state to get to us. They came in to the coliseum and found us. It’s awkward to see your parents for the first time in a couple months while sleepily waiting on a concrete floor for football tickets.

“How long have you been here?” they asked. I couldn’t even remember. 3 hours? 5? 8? “Well, that’s ridiculous,” my mom said. “We don’t care about football that much. Won’t the game be on TV?”

She had a valid point. So we packed up our pillows and we walked out into the sunshine to spend our time doing anything else but continuing to wait in line.

Pine State Biscuits, Portland, Oregon

I was joking with friends lately about the lines that form in front of Portland’s favorite restaurants. In a city with so much great food, it seems weird that we’d be willing to wait an hour for brunch, but we seem to be a committed (and loyal) bunch. Pine State Biscuits is one of the restaurants with a perpetual line out the door. The line is there for good reason, though. The biscuits are insane. They’re fresh, melty, not-too-crumbly goodness and you can order them with gravy, with egg and cheese, with fried chicken or about a thousand other ways.

The smell is what draws you in and convinces you to wait around for awhile in a long line out the door. But once you place your order, the service is snappy and you can enjoy the side patio picnic tables and savor your large, cold Arnold Palmer while your biscuit cooks. The line is intimidating at certain times, but if you go for a late lunch or during work hours Monday-Friday, your wait won’t be too painful. Good things come to those who wait!

Pine State Biscuits, Portland, Oregon

Pine State Biscuits‘ main shop is located at 2204 NE Alberta in the Alberta Arts District. A second location near SE 11th & Division is coming soon, and you can also get Pine State at the Portland Farmers Market on the PSU campus on Saturdays through November.