Friday, June 12, 2015

De-Nailing Deconstructed: The ReBuilding Center, Portland OR



For quite some time, I had been seeking an organization where I could volunteer. My criteria were as follows: it had to be close by, offer flexible times to do the work – and also be fun. My search led me to the ReBuilding Center. Many Portlanders are already familiar with the ReBuilding Center's very popular and cooler-than-cool retail location on N. Mississippi Avenue. The store is chock full of recycled building materials ready for reuse by contractors, architects, and home and business owners looking to incorporate salvaged materials into their projects.

One really big way volunteers contribute is by de-nailing: taking salvaged wood boards and removing the nails with various tools. It’s actually very gratifying – sort of like weeding – but better. First of all, with de-nailing, you can stand upright, as opposed to weeding, where you are forced to hunch over some naughty little plant burrowed into the soil. Further, once the nails are out, they are OUT for good. Nails, unlike weeds, don’t grow back in a week or after the first rain.



Anyway, for me, the epitome of de-nailing is when it happens on an actual deconstruction site. A typical “decon” scenario includes specially trained ReBuilding Center employees dismantling a structure, and volunteers de-nailing the boards on the spot. The de-nailing process consists of three steps: placing the boards on a sawhorse, prying the nails out with crowbars and hammers, and then neatly stacking the “clean” boards in a pile.

On the surface, deconstruction appears to be a pretty straightforward process, but the ramifications of the work are more complex. When volunteers are able to de-nail boards on site, it means the materials are processed instantly and can return to the ReBuilding Center ready for sale. Just as important, de-nailing on-site greatly facilitates upcycling by saving both time and energy. In fact, it actually takes the upcycling process to the next level, since taking down the building and reclaiming the materials happens in one efficient circle of activity.

Plus, everyone gets to wear a hard hat, and what could be cooler than that?


The ReBuilding Center
3625 N. Mississippi Ave. 

Portland, OR 97227

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Historic Balch Hotel: Dufur OR

I’m a sucker for historic hotels, and often seek them out whenever I take a trip.


That’s why I jumped at the chance to stay at the Balch Hotel in Dufur, Oregon. Dufur is a farming community roughly 100 miles from Portland and just east of The Dalles. The hotel (c. 1907), which has been elegantly restored and is on the National Register of Historic Places, looms large in this small town.

The Balch (as it's fondly called) takes pride not only in its historic roots, but also in creating an atmosphere where you can unplug. There are no TVs – but there is Wi-Fi for those that suffer from technology separation anxiety. Having said that, soon after arriving, not only did I put my iPhone down – I actually put it away. Yup, that’s right. I just turned off the ringtone and zipped it up in my purse. That way, I knew I could enjoy the sound of cooing doves wafting through my second-floor bedroom window without interruption.

Another great thing about the Balch is that, although it’s more than 100 years old, it does not have that musty, creepy feeling – often passed off as “atmosphere” – that some historic hotels have. The Balch stays true to its historic roots and has a definite period look and feel, but the aura inside is airy and light with just the right amount of furnishings, and not overwhelmed by overstuffed “shabby chic” Victorian furniture. 

The grounds are well maintained, and there’s also a lovely, spacious patio. (It’s easy to understand why this is a popular place for weddings.) The weekend I stayed the weather was sunny and warm (not unusual for east of the Cascades), so it was easy to enjoy the outdoor areas.


The hotel also hosts many events, one of which I attended: a spring winemakers dinner, which featured a delicious meal prepared by The Lamb’s Table paired with wines from Maryhill Winery, located just across the Columbia River in Washington.

An entertaining, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable marketing person from Maryhill Winery filled us in on the wines as we ate. This might sound invasive, but it was actually fun to learn about each wine in real time while eating the dish it complemented. I bonded with the Viognier, and ended up purchasing a bottle to go.

After the meal, I took an evening stroll around the grounds, gazed at the stars, then retired to my room – reveling in the simple pleasure of not feeling I had to go anywhere or do anything. 

In short, the Balch has a beautiful feeling both inside and out; it pretty much has everything one needs to chill, and is well worth a visit.

Balch Hotel
40 South Heimrich Street
Dufur, OR, 97021







Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Covered Bridge Reborn: Stayton OR



I had read about the covered bridges of Oregon, but had never actually seen one. So off I went down Hwy. 5 to check out the closest of the bunch – which would be the Stayton-Jordon covered bridge, located in the town of Stayton, just east of Salem.

Aside from the the bridge, I wasn't too clued into what else to see or do in Stayton, since the Travel Oregon site didn't have much to say about it. (Having said that, I did enjoy my pancakes at Kelly’s CafĂ©.)


Back to the bridge. Apparently, this bridge is actually a reproduction, since the original burned down back in December 1994 by a fire started by Christmas lights on the roof. (Note to self: things can burn in western Oregon in December, despite the relentless rain.)

Regardless, the "new and improved" bridge is still photo-worthy, and for amateur photographers, there are many shots to be had here. As I was leaving, three people showed up armed with a camera and tripod, which confirmed my hunch that this is probably the favorite local photo opp spot.

Monday, November 24, 2014

We Picked a Winner:
Portland Meadows, Portland OR


My pals and I decided to try something different for my birthday this year. Intrigued by a really great case study I found online about a local agency's rebranding of Portland Meadows (not to mention the charming billboards around town – yes advertising does work!) we were lured to the track to check out the ponies.


Vintage jockey portrait at Portland Meadows

Our group thought we’d be mildly amused by this unfamiliar pastime. But not long after arriving, we were completely taken in by the procession of jockeys on horseback dressed in their silks, the thrill of placing a bet, and the thundering hooves of the muscular and sometimes jittery horses. Before long, we were huddled over our racing form, discussing the finer points of exactas, trifectas and daily doubles, aided by a roving Portland Meadows “betting coach”, who patiently talked us through the wagering process.


video

Portland Meadows race snippet 

And then there’s the lingo! So many of life’s most familiar phrases have their origins in horse racing. (Think about it ... who hasn't said it's a long shot, they're on the homestretch, or that the stakes are high?)

And here are a few more fun ones:

Also-ran: a horse who finishes out of the money (does not win, place or show).

Bolt: when a horse suddenly veers from a straight course.

And my personal favorite…

All-out: a horse that is trying to the best of its ability.

At one point, a friend was concerned that due to a trip to the bar, I missed post time. Bloody Mary in hand, I looked at her and said – without a trace of irony – “It's OK. I don’t have a horse in that race.”

I knew my transition from clueless observer to race-fan-in-the-making was complete.

Portland Meadows
1001 N. Schmeer Road

Portland, Oregon 97217



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Out of Their Element in Portland OR



Decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood this afternoon to enjoy the lovely early fall afternoon, and lo and behold I stumbled upon a raised bed full of thriving cacti.

Hmmmm…not exactly indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, but striking none the less. Not sure how they’ll look in December.

But, just proves if you get out of your comfort zone you can still flourish.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Sitting on the Dock of the…Willamette
Portland OR



A good friend with loads of creativity and vision held a birthday party down on a nameless dock by the Willamette River, somewhere near NE 18th and Front. No one knew who “owned” this dock, so our party basically assumed squatters rights for the afternoon.

It was a striking backdrop for a fete: the arching Fremont Bridge against an early autumn blue sky, complete with rustic (and rusty) freighters rolling by, escorted by rough-and-ready tugboats – just as cute and sturdy as we remembered them from the childrens’ books of our youth.

Monday, June 30, 2014

K&M Tasting Room: Good Wine, Good People
Carlton OR


If you’re seeking a wine tasting experience that's the polar opposite of, say, Napa Valley on the weekend – i.e. impersonal corporate wineries with about as much charm as the inside of a Home Depot, overpriced tastings and gobs of people jockeying for position at the wine bar – then the K&M Tasting Room is the spot for you.

K&M Winery Rose, ready and waiting

K&M stands for Ken and Mauro, the two men behind the food-friendly wines showcased at their modest-but-stylish tasting room. It’s a calm and welcoming space, defined by spare furnishings and large windows that look out onto Carlton’s charming historical Main Street.

If this all sounds dreamy, well, that’s because it is. And I’m always impressed when people seem to be living their dream, because it means they had the wherewithal to make it happen. Inspired by close friends who owned a small vineyard, Ken and Mauro worked, planned and saved for many years to purchase their own. In one of life’s more serendipitous moments, Ken jumped on craigslist and the perfect piece of property popped up. They jumped on it, and the rest is history.

Ken with a few of his bottles
I figure if I’m that charmed by the K&M tasting room and story, then I will be equally charmed by the K&M vineyard. I have yet to visit it, but will be able to several times a year once I join K&M's wine club – which the retelling of this tale has just motivated me to do.

And now, I can hardly wait for my first vineyard event.



143 E. Main Street
Carlton, OR  97111