A Shopping Trip to Portland: Part 1

 

Planning a trip to Portland any time soon?  A couple of Fridays ago I headed off down the I-5 at the crack of dawn in search of hipsters, birds, excellent food, perfect coffee, imaginative shops, and no sales tax, and was not disappointed.  The Friday was spent shopping with girlfriends, then the Minx and the Husband drove down to meet me and we stayed on for a great weekend.

If you’re thinking of going to Portland, here’s what you should do.

Firstly make sure that Myra of Seattle Bon Vivant and Lilian of Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs are with you. These ladies sure know how to eat and shop and they’re fabulously fun company too.

 

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When you arrive head first to Barista in the Pearl District for one of the finest cups of coffee you’ll have anywhere (and I live in Seattle), together with an extremely acceptable almond croissant.

You’ll need fortification before browsing through the crazy that is Cargo.  Just round the corner from Barista, Cargo calls itself a ‘showroom, flea market, and international bazaar’ and features bizarre and beautiful finds from Indonesia, China, Japan, Thailand and Mexico.  I guarantee you’ll find nothing in here that you need, but plenty that you’ll want. I bought some antique scissors and a small lucky waving cat charm for the Minx’s backpack. See what I mean?

 

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Next cross the river and go to The Meadow in North Portland’s Mississippi district.  This tiny shop sells salt, flowers, chocolate, wine and bitters, all personal passions of owner Mark Bitterman, author of the wonderful cookbook Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes.

I met Mark when he came to Seattle and, together with Myra, hosted a creative and delectable salt-based dinner.

This shop shouldn’t work, but it does, beautifully, because so much knowledge and passion has gone into the carefully curated selections. Just look at those walls of salt and chocolate.  I was tempted to buy a block of pink Hawaiian baking salt, but our kitchen has enough clutter. One day. 

I contented myself with a big bag of sel gris instead.

 

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Then head off for lunch at Pok Pok, which serves carefully authentic regional Thai and Vietnamese streetfood under a heated awning.

 

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Photo by Lilian Speirs

For some reason I didn’t manage to take any photos here.  However, here is Lilian’s detailed review, with a ton of photos. Like her I would have been happy to eat the phat si ew, a classic dish of stir-fried rice noodles, succulent Carlton Farms pork, Chinese broccoli and egg, all day.  Pok Pok is a fun, enjoyable place for a Portland pit stop, with great food and a buzzy atmosphere, deservedly a renowned Portland hangout.

After a hearty lunch it’s time to start shopping in earnest.

First go to Flora which sells a girly selection of scented candles, jewellery, stationery, art, apothecary items and general nicknackery.  I came away with a gorgeous fig-scented Tatine candle.  I wasn’t familiar with this range before, but loved the simple glass containers and the beautiful perfumes. The Minx also liked Flora very much when we went back the next day.

 

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Then head over to Canoe, by way of glorious yarn shop Knit Purl.  I forgot to take pics again, but did come away with two skeins of gorgeous naturally-dyed laceweight linen yarn. One has to have priorities.

Anyway, back to Canoe.  This shop has a wonderful selection of modern tchotchkes and home accessories, chosen with taste and flair.  The Husband particularly liked this shop when we returned the following day and it’s a particularly great place to browse for gifts for men.  I ended up with a new litter bin, a pink piggy bank for the Minx and some little glass bowls.

 

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After visiting more shops that I’ll get to in part 2 of this guide, we finished up at modern furniture shop Hive before settling down for a very well-earned and again excellent coffee at Cafe Allora, a little bit of Milan in downtown Portland.

 

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Finally we braved the immensely long line at Ken’s Artisan Pizza. We had to wait for over two hours, fortunately seated at a back table where we could drink plenty of wine, but the pizza was worth it when we got it, which means it’s VERY good pizza indeed.  Particularly the bacon pizza. Man, that was yummy.

The Minx and the Husband made it down the freeway in time to join us for an extra bacon pizza and dessert and we then waved goodbye as Myra and Lilian headed off into the night. I was left wondering why I don’t do day trips to Portland more often.

Find out what the Minx, the Husband and I got up to in Part 2.

   
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Eat It, Don’t Tweet It

 

Or a day in the life of my Instagram feed.

 

 

Maybe this is why only 41% of you follow me on social media.

Seriously chaps, thank you for the amazing feedback I’m getting through the Urtak. I really appreciate you taking the time and trouble to respond.  Some expected answers and some surprises so far.

   
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Blogging MY Way: Mirror Mirror On The Wall

 

So, as you will hopefully have realised, I’ve decided to take my blogging a bit more seriously in the last month or so.

Would you believe I’ve been pissing around in an unfocused and inconsistent way on this blog for about seven years now?  At the beginning of this year I decided it was time I either put up or shut up, which was one of the reasons I attended Holly’s class and have been thinking deeply about what I’m doing here.

 

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Can I take this blog to the next level, make it more professional and maybe start earning a bit of money off it?  I’ve taken a couple of online classes on monetizing blogs and it seems I’m currently at the bottom end of what an advertiser would be looking for in terms of monthly page views and unique visitors, so my first priorities are to bump up blog traffic, redesign the blog so that it better accommodate some curated advertising and put together a press pack.

I’ve also been giving some thought to the ‘elevator pitch’ for my blog ie. a short, succinct way of encapsulating what I’m trying to do here.  I found the section of Holly’s class where we talked about this to be enormously thought-provoking, as the one thing I’ve struggled with over the past few years is knowing and communicating exactly what this blog is about.

This is what I’ve come up with so far:

elevator-pitch

Does that float your boat?  Does it sound like the sort of blog you would visit often and comment on?  I’m a chatty, opinionated extrovert, so the things I love most about blogging are chatting, sharing opinions, hearing what others have to say, learning new things,and making new friends,

And all that can only happen if there’s an engaged commentariat.  Which is where you guys come in.  I love it when you stop by and take the time to comment and chat and I’d like to make this a place you want to visit often and settle in for a cosy chat with a glass of wine and your gossip knickers on.

So this bit’s all about you.  I’ve set up this Urtak questionnaire to find out more about the incredibly intelligent, stylish and forward-thinking people who read ‘mirrormirror’. Some bits of information concerns the sort of demographic stuff that might be helpful for advertising in due course, but most of it is so I can help develop content that you guys want to read.

The great thing about this Urtak format is that you can answer as few or as many questions as you want, and you can also add your own questions for commenters here to respond to.  The questions I’ve seeded it with are delivered to you randomly.  And obviously feel free to share further information about your deepest, darkest personal secrets in the comments.  I won’t tell.

   

mirrormirror readership survey

   

Update:  It has been brought to my attention that the mighty Urtak won’t let you add questions without making you register etc. Stuff and nonsense.  If you have a burning question for the ‘mirrormirror’ commentariat, please add it in the comments and I’ll make sure it gets asked.

   
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Blogging MY Way: Mirror Mirror On The Wall

 

So, as you will hopefully have realised, I’ve decided to take my blogging a bit more seriously in the last month or so.

Would you believe I’ve been pissing around in an unfocused and inconsistent way on this blog for about seven years now?  At the beginning of this year I decided it was time I either put up or shut up, which was one of the reasons I attended Holly’s class and have been thinking deeply about what I’m doing here.

 

buds-sakura-blossom

 

Can I take this blog to the next level, make it more professional and maybe start earning a bit of money off it?  I’ve taken a couple of online classes on monetizing blogs and it seems I’m currently at the bottom end of what an advertiser would be looking for in terms of monthly page views and unique visitors, so my first priorities are to bump up blog traffic, redesign the blog so that it better accommodate some curated advertising and put together a press pack.

I’ve also been giving some thought to the ‘elevator pitch’ for my blog ie. a short, succinct way of encapsulating what I’m trying to do here.  I found the section of Holly’s class where we talked about this to be enormously thought-provoking, as the one thing I’ve struggled with over the past few years is knowing and communicating exactly what this blog is about.

This is what I’ve come up with so far:

elevator-pitch

Does that float your boat?  Does it sound like the sort of blog you would visit often and comment on?  I’m a chatty, opinionated extrovert, so the things I love most about blogging are chatting, sharing opinions, hearing what others have to say, learning new things,and making new friends,

And all that can only happen if there’s an engaged commentariat.  Which is where you guys come in.  I love it when you stop by and take the time to comment and chat and I’d like to make this a place you want to visit often and settle in for a cosy chat with a glass of wine and your gossip knickers on.

So this bit’s all about you.  I’ve set up this Urtak questionnaire to find out more about the incredibly intelligent, stylish and forward-thinking people who read ‘mirrormirror’. Some bits of information concerns the sort of demographic stuff that might be helpful for advertising in due course, but most of it is so I can help develop content that you guys want to read.

The great thing about this Urtak format is that you can answer as few or as many questions as you want, and you can also add your own questions for commenters here to respond to.  The questions I’ve seeded it with are delivered to you randomly.  And obviously feel free to share further information about your deepest, darkest personal secrets in the comments.  I won’t tell.

mirrormirror readership survey

   
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Mad Men: Don Draper’s New Apartment

 

Zou Bisou Bisou.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get that song out of my head.

I trust we were all watching last night?  The big news of course is that Don Draper, apart from getting himself a sexy little package of a new wife -  who I predict is going to be nothing but trouble – but has also got himself a sexy, new, not-so-little apartment.

   

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Don now lives in the big city, away from Betty and her suburban angst and her suburban furniture (remember her er, lovely ‘fainting couch’?) in an apartment big enough that his kids can come visiting and where his wife can host wild surprise parties.

It’s a clever set.  Instead of filling it with mid-century icons such Saarinen tables and chairs and Arco lamps (unlike Roger’s office with its shipped-in style), it just feels very comfortable and of its time, very sixties, but not ostentatiously so. 

The colour scheme of burnt orange and turquoise is kept to the periphery and the accents  -  the aqua curtains, the seating out on the balcony, the orange kitchen cabinets and the gorgeous throw pillows, but the main body of the set is very brown, very boxy and very wood-panelled, with even the pattern on the curtains seeming quite subdued.

   

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A little light relief is offered by the white cupboard doors, the white feature wall and of course the infamous white rug, with the occasional dark red painted door or panel, but in general the main body of the set is kept quite spare and neutral.  Even the art on the walls is quite dull and nondescript.

   

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Which makes sense of course if the marriage-threatening surprise parties you hold are such a riot of sixties pattern and colour.  Weren’t the costumes in these scenes just awesome?

   

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I managed to spot a few Sixties icons dotted about – the Catherine Holm enamel bowls, the Eames lounge chair, the Murano glass and the zebra-striped cushion. Did any other Sixtie s paraphernalia catch your eye?

   

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And I have to give a shout out to the exquisite chandeliers in the entrance way, and that lovely low-hanging blue lamp.  What did you like most about the set?

   

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These images show how the designers had fun with costumes, party accoutrements and accent pieces to create a mood.  I’m sure we’re going to see that mood darken as the season progresses.

   

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I am certain the Husband had eyes for nothing but that glorious aqua Sixties vacuum cleaner in this scene.

   

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So did you watch? Did you enjoy it? What did you think of the new apartment? Any particular objects you were coveting?  I’m enjoying how the new Mrs Draper is quite literally leading Don by the balls.  I’m sure that’s going to end up well.

Zou Bisou Bisou.

   
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That Was The Week That Was: Weekend In Portland Edition

 

I forgot to do a TWTWTW last week, which was silly as I had some cool shots from our weekend shopping trip to Portland.

It turned out to be a sunshine and showers, great food and great coffee, groovy shops and pink petals sort of a weekend.

 

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We had a wonderful time There’s a blog post on shopping in Portland in your near future.

   
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Go Love Your Room: Vanessa Bruno’s Paris Apartment

 

This week’s Go Love Your Room – where I take a room, house or apartment and analyze why it really, really speaks to me – features French designer Vanessa Bruno’s apartment in Paris.

I actually blogged about this briefly back in 2007, but it has haunted me all this time and I recently came across a great set of photos.  I thought it would be interesting to examine what I love about it, and see whether it has stood the test of time.

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The space itself is cheating of course.  It doesn’t take much design talent to make those high ceilings and rustic beams look good.

The sugared almond colour scheme of lilac, celery green and dusky pink is still very attractive and feminine, though a perhaps a little sweet for my taste nowadays.  Though the colours, the sprigged embroidered cushions, the fresh flowers and the garland artwork are unashamedly girly, I love how Bruno keeps everything else spare and plain to avoid it tipping over the edge.

 

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The low picture shelf is a lovely touch (that Diane von Furstenburg could learn from) as are the rustic wooden frames that echo the beams. And I like the echoing triangles of the side tables and the chair legs. And is that just a plain, pistachio green canvas propped up to give an additional hint of colour?

 

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Pulling out a bit the red furry (beady?) artwork on the wall is a touch of genius, providing an emphatic focal point,, emphasising the symmetry of the room, dirtying up the colour scheme and providing a much needed touch of luxurious texture.  I also like that, unlike last week’s room she’s used a huge floor rug to cosy things up a little and ground the spindly-legged and rather insubstantial furniture, even at the cost of covering up those marvellous floorboards.

The string of paper lampshades, which Bruno apparently put together herself, is also a fabulous touch.

 

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The coloured lampshades over the table are clever too, bringing the colour palette into the dining area and echoing the shades on the other side of the room. And I absolutely love how the central one is elliptical and not round to prevent a surfeit of balls everywhere (and that’s never a good idea).

The hefty wooden table and industrial chairs again counteract the girliness and the substantial table legs contrast well with the flighty nature of the surrounding pieces. I’m not sure about having the table and chairs half on and half off the rug though.

 

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I like here how the sculpture on the secretaire reflects the painting above. 

This room is another study in geometric shapes – it seems I’m a sucker for them – the aforementioned triangles, the square cushions and dining chairs, the rectangles of the windows and the big round balls.  And also a study in contrasts – romantic v industrial, light v substantial, rough v smooth, spare v ornate. 

Though I think nowadays I’d add a bit more punch to the colour scheme and maybe some more graphic elements, I think this has stood the test of time very well and I certainly wouldn’t mind moving in tomorrow.

What do you think?  Too feminine or just right (or not feminine enough?)  Do you think it looks dated? Where can I get a red fuzzy thing to hang on my wall?

See how the sun is streaming into the rooms above?  It’s a photographer’s nightmare, but that’s what’s happening in Seattle at the moment.  It’s going to be a great weekend.  Have fun wherever you are.

   
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WTF Friday: Gwyneth Paltrow

 

Although we had a bit of fun with it the day after the Oscars, I did think that Gwyneth Paltrow’s white Tom Ford Oscar dress was absolutely stunning. 

 

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Picture from Goop

 

So I was interested to read how stylist Elizabeth Saltzman came to choose the dress in this month’s gloop goop.

Here’s what she looks for when choosing a dress for Gwynnie.

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Now, I must confess to finding Gwyneth Paltrow one of the single most irritating people on the planet, which maybe unfair of me, since I’ve never met the woman.  But honestly, if this is the brief she gives her stylist, who can blame me?

What elements would you look out for in choosing a dress for Gwyneth?

   
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Kate Moss at the Ritz for Vogue US

 

I just subscribed to US Vogue on my iPad, and to celebrate I thought I’d share the most gorgeous fashion editorial I’ve seen in a long while.

   

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Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere

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Alexis Mabille Haute Couture
   

It’s not often you get to ogle exquisite interiors as well as exquisite frocks, but Vogue wanted to celebrate the iconic Ritz Hotel in Paris, before it closes for a major refurbishment.

   

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Giambattista Valli Haute Couture
   

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Armani Prive’
   

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Alexander McQueen
   

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Chanel Haute Couture
   
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Dior Haute Couture
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Full editorial here. Photos by Tim Walker.

   
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