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August 28, 2005

Hood to Coast

This weekend I volunteered at Hood to Coast, a relay race starting at Timberline and ending on the beach in Seaside. It's a huge event, drawing adventure-race teams from all over the country. Each 12-person team requires 3 volunteer (non-race-running) staff, and my coworker's team was short one volunteer. I agreed to step in, since I enjoy volunteering at cultural events, and the idea of partying in a beach house on Saturday night, eating good food, and meeting new folks seemed like a great way to spend half a weekend.

I arrived at around noon on Saturday. Half the team had already arrived at the house, while the other half was finishing the last leg of the course. We spent an enjoyable afternoon on the patio, eating fresh homemade salsa, drinking beer, and telling amazing stories. As the last runner approached the finish line, we walked down the promenade to cross with her. There was a huge crowd at the finish line, so we collected all the team members and headed back to the house for some much-needed dinner. The rest of the evening went much like the afternoon, with much beer and good conversation. The tired runners declared bedtime at 9:30.

I awoke early in the morning to perform my duty of cleaning up at the finish line. After a quick cup of tea, I dashed out the back door to walk up the promenade.

The beach was beautiful at dawn, slightly misty but not typical Oregon-coast cold. I helped pick up trash, stack chairs, break down tables, load equipment in trucks, and other post-festival tasks. The volunteer crew was very efficient. We were consigned to work from 7:30am until noon, but we finished at 10:45! I was very glad to be off early, since I was worried about worsening my slight sunburn from the previous day. I'm one of those people who always pinkens unless I'm able to reapply SPF 30 every 2-3 hours, or stay out of the sun during the hours of greatest exposure.

When I returned, the house was neat as a pin, having been vacated by the other residents after breakfast. I packed up my belongings and briefly considered napping on the couch for a few hours, but decided against it. The cottage was very comfortable and well-appointed, but the idea of napping alone in a strange house made me feel weird, even though I had been given permission. So I loaded up my stuff and locked myself out of the cute little cottage, having confidently expunged my brief Goldilocks fantasy.

With only a cup of tea and a handful of trail mix to tide me over at breakfast-time, I was ready to treat myself to a nice meal before making the drive back to Portland. Luckily, business was booming on a Sunday morning in the town of Seaside, and almost every restaurant had a sandwich board advertising brunch specials. I went to Granderson's, a gift shop/tearoom that I had spotted on the way in, and decided that it woud be just the perfect thing. It's always time for tea. The tearoom was pleasantly decorated and busy with customers, although they had plenty of room for me to pick a seat, and no one batted an eye at my coming for brunch alone. In addition to an appetizing menu of teas and foods, they offered a Sunday brunch special of salmon eggs benedict with herb potatoes. I ordered the salmon eggs benedict and found it to be amazing. The egg was poached fluffily, and the potatoes were terrific. I am not a connoisseur of hollandaise, but the sauce was not too thick, and it was liberally seasoned with tarragon. Paired with a pot of organic ceylon tea, it was a fantastic brunch for a tired girl. They even accomodated my request for an iced tea to go, so on my way out, I had the Monk's Blend to energize me for the drive home.

Posted by mara at 3:36 PM

August 22, 2005

Rock, Paper, House, Condo

Another condo, just what we need, or so one developer thinks. A historic home in the Sellwood area of SE Portland is soon going to be trucked away to make room for a mixed-use condo building. The Clay Rabbit House, a neighborhood landmark, was recently bought by a developer who intends to replace the existing building with residential lofts over first-floor retail space. Willy Week has more information on the development.

I am a big fan of condos in general. Owning a condo allows me to have the joys of homeownership (equity! painting my own walls! fixing my own dishwasher!) with the convenience of an apartment. Community housing is more energy-efficient, and less expensive to buy and maintain. The current trend toward building condos all over Portland worries me, though. In a few years, when I get tired of living downtown, I might buy a house in a quieter neighborhood. When I can afford the investment in money and time, I want the experience of having a yard, garage, driveway, and exterior walls of my very own. Are there going to be any affordable charming old houses left for me?

I think new development in Portland is generally good, even though I'm bugged about relocating a landmark. Increasing the housing supply makes housing more affordable for all. The Clay Rabbit House is a huge, desirable, restored early-20th-century home on a valuable commercial street. Willy Week calls it "Victorian", but I think the straight lines and simple pillars are more suggestive of the post-Victorian Arts and Crafts architectural movement. I'll make a guess that the average Portland homebuyer would fall far short of being able to afford the Clay Rabbit House, even if they were willing to accept the noise and bother of living on a commercial street. The house will be moved to another area of town, although neither of the articles mention if that detail was part of the property purchase deal.

As quoted in the Oregonian, city planner Jay Sugnet sums it up: "Most single-family homes on the city's major streets will be torn down or moved away."

Posted by mara at 1:44 PM

August 12, 2005

Another Crepe and She's Le Happy

What's red, hip, and covered with fake flowers? It must be Le Happy, the cute little creperie/bar located about 16 blocks due west of my place. I went out for a solo crepe dinner last night to celebrate a good financial month of July, and it was an extremely pleasant experience.

Le Happy is a small, eye-catching establishment at NW 16th and Lovejoy. The exterior is bright yellow, with dark wood furniture and warm red walls inside. Having read the Citysearch profile of Le Happy, I was a little tentative to try it for the first time alone. Most Portland restaurants are very friendly and accomodating, but I've come across a few that relegate parties of one to uncomfortable seating areas and terrible service. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded at the romantic Le Happy. There are two eating bars, and the friendly staff put me at ease immediately. I was not even the only person there by myself for a light dinner.

I had the Faux Vegan, a savory buckwheat crepe with spinach, creme fraiche, crimini mushrooms and goat cheese, paired with a glass of tempranillo. The portion was small, but excellently prepared and presented. Le Happy also offers a "make your own" option in addition to the regular crepe menu selections. I am intrigued and will definitely be back to try it. The prices are more expensive than Vivace and Chez Machin, but Le Happy is my new favorite for a relaxing, laid-back gourmet treat. They open at 5pm, with happy hour discounts in effect between 5pm and 7pm weekdays. I suspect I may become a regular!

Posted by mara at 12:56 PM