NERD CAMP Wine Tasting and Speed Friending

Help Us Raise 4,800 Pounds of Food for SnowCap Community Charities

NERD CAMP Wine Tasting and Speed FriendingLooking for some nerdy fun where you can make 20+ friends in one night? What if I told you it involves wine and fabulous prizes by local Portland businesses? And—by the way—you can feel good about having all this fun because you’re also helping raise money to buy 4,800 pounds of food for the needy in east Multnomah County, right before Thanksgiving?

That’s right: get tickets now for NERD CAMP Wine Tasting and Speed Friending, November 15 at Pairings Portland! There are two seatings, one at 6:00 pm and one at 8:00 pm, and a total of 48 seats available. Tickets are just $25 each, and $5 of each ticket goes directly to SnowCap Community Charities, where it will buy 100 pounds of food for your needy neighbors. If they sell out, that’s 4,800 pounds of food in just one night!

Plus, they’ll be raffling off fantastic prizes from the Hollywood Theatre, Things From Another World, Red Castle Games, The PDX Broadsides, Hour to Midnight – Room Escape Games, and Stranger Comics!

Here’s how the event works: each seating will start off with a practice tasting to learn how to taste wine properly, and then you’ll be given a nerdy topic to discuss over a great wine so you can get to know your table mates. After each question, you’ll move to another table with new friends to meet. There are six tables and six wines, and you’ll meet more than 20 new friends by the end of the night!

Special thanks to Victory Point Property Group for advertising support. Tickets are limited and this is a great cause, so please buy yours now!

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Last Gasp of Summer: Free Things to Do in Portland

Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden at Grant Park

The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden at Grant Park in Portland. How have I never been here?!? From left: Ribsy, Ramona, and Henry.

I don’t mean to stress you out, but there’s only four more weeks of summer. Summer vacation, that is. At least, school starts for Sid August 29 (what the heck happened to school beginning after Labor Day?) and with our final weeks flashing before my eyes, I realized I needed to make a list. Of course. So here’s my curated list of free things to do in Portland this August.

Fountains

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than getting blasted by Portland’s fountains! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think the best ones are here:

Downtown Portland

Salmon Street Springs
Waterfront Park, Naito Parkway at SW Salmon
The classic. Large, right on the waterfront, plenty of firepower (waterpower?).

SalmonSprings

Sid and his friend Ernie enjoying Salmon Springs Fountain last summer!

Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain
Keller Fountain Park, between SW 3rd & 4th Ave, Market & Clay
The large concrete structures make this a fun one. I got in trouble in the third grade on a Bible study field trip by walking through one of the waterfalls, fully clothed. In retrospect, I would have been in much more trouble if I had been naked, right?

Teachers Fountain
Director Park, SW Yamhill & Park Ave
This is a new park and fountain. Not a lot of excitement, but great for toddlers and small children. Also good for foot soaking. Near Nordstrom.

SE Portland

The Rose Petal
Stark Street Island Park, SE 106th & Stark
I have never been here, and I cannot help but wonder what SE Portland did to be denied any close-in fountains. Am I missing something?

NE Portland

Grant Park Fountain
NE 33rd Ave & US Grant Pl
This is also the location of the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden–and they’re part of the fountain! I will be going here immediately.

Holladay Park Fountain
Holladay Park, NE 11th & Multnomah
I have not personally been here, but the Portland Parks & Recreation site says, “The fountain has programmable nozzles and valves on several plumbing loops to create a playful atmosphere of surprise trajectories and timing sequences.”

Woodlawn City Park
NE 13th Ave & Dekum St
I played at this park with Sid during the first year of Trek in the Park (in 2009!). Four-year-old Sid highly recommended the water feature.

NW Portland

Jamison Square Fountain
Jamison Square, between NW Kearney & Johnson, and NW 10th & 11th Avenues
Extremely popular, was near a good ice cream place last time I visited.

N Portland

Dawson Park Fountain
Dawson Park, N. Stanton & Williams
I don’t wanna wait–for our lives to be over . . .

McCoy Park Fountain
McCoy Park, N. Trenton & Newman Ave

Suburbs

Beaverton City Fountain Park
12500 SW 4th St, Beaverton, OR 97005
Oh, this fountain is a lot of fun. The streams of water are so high! Plus it’s right across the street from the library.

Lake at the Commons Interactive Fountain
8325 SW Nyberg St, Tualatin, OR 97062
Full disclosure–I grew up in Tualatin, and they built the Tualatin Commons–referred to by my brother and me as the “fake lake”–while we were in high school, closing a major road and screwing up traffic. All for a lake you were not allowed to swim in, ringed by restaurants that would open with great aplomb and then slowly wither on the vine, quickly replaced with other venues that would soon do the same, mostly because–they closed the damn road and no one could see them while driving by! Ahem. The fountain was still pretty fun. Also, I think the wine bar finally stuck.

Tualatin Commons Fountain

Tualatin Commons Fountain. The only good picture I could find (from Wikimapia) was apparently taken on a cold, rainy day. Typical!

Movies

I’ve always loved the idea of Portland’s free movies in the park. Movies under the stars, where I can cuddle up to my husband and bring a lavish picnic! I think I’ve been to exactly two, and one was an accident. But I am determined to go at least once this summer. Depending on the location (either public park or private business), there’s usually pre-movie entertainment, and the films start at dusk (around 9 pm).

Here’s the full schedule from Thrillist, with my picks below.

August 3:
Office Space
Pix Patisserie / Bar Vivant (2225 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214)
This isn’t exactly free, as you will not be able to resist Pix’s exquisite desserts or excellent selection of wine. Mike Judge’s genius ode to passive-aggressive (leading to aggressive-aggressive) ins and outs office life, starring Ron Livingston. Opens at 7 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 6:
The Goonies
Wilkes Park (NE 154th & Beech)
You’re not too cool for this movie. Go see the source material for Netflix’s Stranger Things. Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 14:
Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
April Hill Park (SW 58th & Miles)
I’m going to this one, by hook or by crook! Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 18:
Jaws
Elizabeth Caruthers Park (SW Moody & Gaines)
True story: I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, where this movie was filmed, for several years. Pretty much every middle-aged denizen of the Rock was an extra in this movie! Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 20:
Best in Show
Sewallcrest Park (SE 31st & Market)
This movie gives me life! If for some reason you haven’t seen it, click the title for the trailer (I linked to all the trailers in the titles). Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 31:
Rocky
Pix Patisserie / Bar Vivant (2225 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214)
ADRIAN! Opens at 7 pm; movie starts at dusk.

Multnomah County Library Locations and Events

I renewed my relationship last year with the Multnomah County Library last year after almost 20 years, and I’m so glad I did! There are 20 branches in the Portland area, and they’re all full of wonderful things for you–and the vast majority are free.

Did you know that you can put a hold on any book, DVD, or most any other library material online, and they will deliver it to your local branch? It’s amazing. Do that.

There’s still time to complete your Summer Reading game board, open to babies, children, and teens! There’s even a Bingo version for adults. Win prizes and read amazing books for free!

The storytimes at the library are wonderful–much better than the weak “singalong” class I paid for through Portland Parks & Recreation. There are events for babies, toddlers, young children, and families!

Want to brush up on your computer skills or get tech help with a device? Get it for free at the Multnomah County Library’s computer and technology classes.

Need your resume polished? The library has you covered.

Other events (and I’m just scratching the surface): arts and crafts classes that include making seed balls and an “all-you-can-make” art bar, book clubs, citizenship classes, and lectures and author talks that include a one-hour cheese class, a talk on Vanport, earthquake preparedness, Etsy basics, free-range poetry, and much more!

There are literally dozens of other fascinating events at the Multnomah County Library, see all of their events here!

Phew! I feel much more in control of my life with this list. What other free things have I forgotten? Post them below!

Celebrate GeekCraft Expo PDX at Bridge City Comics 6/10

Hey guys! Here’s an update on GeekCraft Expo PDX, which I am helping to coordinate. We’re throwing a party Friday, June 10 with free food and beer and prizes! Come on out and have a fun evening at Bridge City Comics.

GeekCraftPartyWhat: GeekCraft Expo PDX Kick-Off Party
Where: Bridge City Comics, 3725 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227
When: June 10, 2016 from 6 to 9 pm
RSVP on Facebook

GeekCraft Expo founder and comic book writer Daniel Way (Deadpool, Wolverine: Origins) invites you to celebrate the debut of GeekCraft Expo PDX, Portland’s nerdiest craft fair, at a special kick-off party at Bridge City Comics June 10! This epic bash will feature free beer from Hop Valley Brewing Co. (for those 21+ with valid ID) and complimentary snacks, as well as music by sci-fi DJ Kielen King. In addition, every attendee will take a spin on the prize wheel, loaded with goodies from Dark Horse Comics, Hollywood Theatre, Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade, Guardian Games, Bridge City Comics, and Portland Retro Gaming Expo—while supplies last! This is an all-ages event.

“This being my first ‘official’ visit to Portland, I’m really looking forward to getting my nerd on with PDX’s legendary geek community,” said Daniel Way. “I can’t wait to open the doors on the inaugural GeekCraft Expo PDX!”

“I was intrigued when I first heard about GeekCraft Expo,” said Bridge City Comics owner Michael Ring. “Handmade geeky crafts? I love it! And I was especially honored when Bridge City Comics was asked to host the kick-off party. I jumped at the chance to work with this crew!”

GeekCraft Expo is an Etsy-Meets-Comic Con craft show that has traveled to 16 cities across the US and Canada. Its Portland debut, June 11-12 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland, is free to the public and will showcase local crafters and artisans who create jewelry, plushes, artwork, and more inspired by comics and pop culture. Interested in exhibiting? Apply by May 17. Interested in attending? RSVP on Facebook.

Who’s coming? I want to see your faces!

Craft Meetup in Portland

GeekCraft Expo Presents GeekCraftUp at Ground Kontrol!

Craft Meetup in PortlandCalling all geeky crafters: GeekCraft PDX is hosting a GeekCraftUp at Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade April 11 from 7 to 10 pm!

Bring your projects for a fun night of crafting with other nerdy folks, and the chance to win prizes from Rose City Comic Con, Portland’s largest comics and pop culture convention! This is a casual event open to anyone 21+—whether you’re planning to exhibit at GeekCraft Expo PDX, or just want to meet other crafty people in Portland.

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade is Portland’s premier video game and pinball paradise, with food and beverages available for purchase. Plus, they’ll have an ‘80s DJ starting at 8:00 pm. We’ll meet up at the lighted tables near the bar!

GeekCraft Expo PDX is a curated geeky craft market featuring handmade items by Portland’s local artisans. Make sure to go check it out June 11-12 at the DoubleTree. It’s free to the public, so mark your calendar now!

Zero Waste Peanut Butter Honey

[Updated 7/17] Zero Waste in Portland, Oregon: Where to Shop

Zero Waste Shopping

Shopping with my glass jars, using a wine carrier!

July 18, 2017–Hey guys! I’ve noticed that this zero waste post still gets a lot of traffic, so I wanted to update the grocery stores at the bottom. Happy researching!

As I’ve written many times before, I became interested in the zero waste philosophy last year after reading Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home, and have since found some wonderful blogs, including Zero Waste Chef and Trash Is for Tossers.

A quick definition for new readers:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

In practical terms, this led me to take a hard look at our consumption, and the resulting garbage and recycling we generated each week. While I’ve tried to implement this in several aspects of our life–cutting down on clothing shopping with a 10-Item Wardrobe and buying baby toys and furniture from Craigslist instead of new in the package, the most relevant area for us was food shopping. I love food–good food–and I love to cook, so this is where I could affect the biggest difference for our family.

These are the changes I made, in no particular order:

  • Monthly menu planning, to try to eliminate excessive food waste (I am 50/50 on this so far and plan to write more on this topic)
  • Saving vegetable scraps and bones to use for stock
  • Composting food waste (Portland offers a city-wide option)
  • Shopping from the bulk bins–no packaging if I use my own containers, and it’s usually cheaper
  • Using reusable shopping bags, as well as cloth bags for produce and bulk items like beans and pasta
  • Using glass jars and plastic bottles (where allowed) for wet bulk items like maple syrup, peanut butter, shampoo, and conditioner

I made the changes gradually, and now they feel completely normal–I just make sure to pop my bags and containers in the car. Since then, I’ve been a busy bee, exploring the many grocery stores here in Portland to try to figure out which stores will actually let me use my containers, which have the best selection, and which is most convenient.

Unfortunately, there is no “one-stop shopping” option that gives me everything I want, and driving around to two or three stores every week not only uses a lot of gas (which pretty much zeroes out my zero waste efforts), but it’s not always feasible with a baby in tow. However, by evaluating what each store has to offer, I’ve found that I can plan a monthly trip to a few and cover (most) of my bases.

Note: What I should say is, in a perfect world, I could plan out a monthly visit to two or three stores and get all of our groceries. In reality, life happens: I agree to make cake for 40 people, we have unexpected dinner guests, etc.

This is far from a complete list of grocery stores in the area, but these are where I go most often:

Sad but true–Kruger’s Farm Market closed in 2017, as yet another hulking apartment building will be constructed on its lot. I’m leaving this here for posterity–RIP!

Kruger’s Farm Market/Flying Fish Company
2310 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

Best for: Inexpensive produce (Kruger’s), glass bottle milk and cream, local seafood/meat and eggs (Flying Fish).
Doesn’t offer: Any other groceries.
Zero Waste: Can use own bags for produce. Unfortunately, the fish and meat are all pre-packaged in plastic in smaller (.5 to 1 pound) portions.

Kruger’s is a great local farm stand here in Portland, with Flying Fish housed in a little shack on site. The produce is often cheaper here than at the grocery store, and of high quality. Since it’s largely local produce, Kruger’s may sometimes be out of certain fruits and vegetables. While this is something you should expect when eating locally, it can be frustrating if you have your heart set on something specific. The seafood and meat at Flying Fish is spectacular, but they too can run out of items.

Fred Meyer
Multiple Locations (Oregon and Washington)

Best for: Practically coined the term “one-stop shopping” in Portland. In addition to groceries, Fred Meyer offers sporting and automotive goods, office supplies, gardening tools, toys, clothing, home decor, etc. etc.
Doesn’t offer: Most bulk wet goods, like oil, vinegar, honey, etc.
Zero Waste: You can use your own cloth bags for produce and bulk goods, but glass or plastic containers are not allowed. You can’t use your own containers for cheese or meat. Bulk section is somewhat limited: some types of pasta, a basic collection of baking supplies, nuts, granola, candy, etc.

Fred Meyer used to be my go-to, because they have everything, plus really good cheese and deli counters. I still go there if I have limited time (it’s close to my house) and need to know I can get everything on my list, but I wish the bulk section was more varied, and that I could use more of my own containers.

Bulk olive oil and maple syrup.

Olive oil and maple syrup in glass milk bottles look pretty, with zero waste!

People’s Co-Op
3029 SE 21st Ave Portland, OR 97202

Best for: Local produce, glass bottle dairy. Wet bulk goods–they have an amazing selection, including vinegars, soy sauce, honey, different types of oil, maple syrup, salsa, peanut butter, and much more. Their bulk spices and teas are also extensive, as are their grains, rice, etc. This is also where I can get items like shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap in bulk, as well as cleaning products like laundry detergent and dish soap (liquid and powder for both).
Doesn’t offer: Meat, many “typical” items like linguine. Limited selection of cheese/dairy.
Zero Waste: You’ve hit the jackpot, tiger! You can use cloth bags, of course, but also glass or plastic containers. They have scales where you can weigh your containers and mark the “tare” (weight) on them, so you’re not charged for the weight of your jars and bags.

People’s Co-Op goes far above and beyond letting people use their own containers: they’re committed to local, sustainable, ethically sourced foods. I love that I can get so many unusual items in bulk (sesame oil?!?). However, they don’t have what I consider more typical items like spaghetti, cocoa powder, etc., which can be frustrating. I mostly come here for wet bulk items.

Bulk and Cocoa Pebbles

Bulk white and wheat flour and granulated and powdered sugar, surrounding . . . Cocoa Pebbles?!?

WinCo Foods
Multiple Locations (Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington)

Best for: The best selection of bulk dry goods I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously. I can find Bob’s Red Mill flours, every kind of sugar, blocks of dark and milk chocolate, organic coconut flour, almost every pasta shape, grains, dried fruit, nuts, cereal, candy, pet food and treats–the list goes on and on. But WinCo is a huge grocery store–you can pretty much find everything you need, from packaged goods, meat, cheese, produce, bread, frozen foods, baby items, and more.
Zero Waste: You can use your own cloth bags for produce and bulk goods, but glass or plastic containers are not allowed. You can’t use your own containers for cheese or meat.
Doesn’t offer: Most wet bulk items (although they have honey), bulk shampoo or condition, bulk cleaning agents.

WinCo is where I do my major shopping these days, mostly because they have such an incredible bulk section, and because they’re the cheapest! If WinCo had the wet bulk selection of the People’s Co-Op and a better bread selection (and let me use my own glass or plastic containers), I would almost never shop anywhere else, frankly. While it is not as committed to sustainable and local food as the People’s Co-Op, it is employee owned.

I’m not reviewing New Seasons, because while they do let people use their own jars and containers, I find their bulk selection is limited, and something about that store just gets on my nerves (great cheese, though). If I’m going to Kruger’s, I’ll also stop by the nearby Grand Central Bakery to pick up bread. They offer a small discount if you bring your own bag–I just hand them one of my cloth ones and they’ll pop a loaf in, completely package free. And, of course, it’s amazing bread!

Because as I said above, I love good food. While I will make some concessions to cut down on trash (and we have, tremendously), none of the above measures would be sustainable for us if the food suffered. And it really hasn’t! Don’t be afraid of the bulk bins–especially at a busy store at WinCo with a high turnover rate.

So there you have it. In a perfect world, I would make my monthly grocery list, make one major trip to WinCo and the People’s Co-Op, and then visit Kruger’s or our local farmers market for weekly produce. Also, in a perfect world, I would be able to bring my own containers for cheese, meat, and deli items–will someone in Portland please make that happen? Because I have no delusions of veganism. It ain’t gonna happen.

So what do you say, Portland? Are there awesome, sustainable grocery options I’m missing here? Where do you shop? Also, while this list is Portland-centric, Zero Waste Home does offer a Bulk app to help you find options in your neighborhoodUpdate: Conscious by Chloé has a great map of zero waste resources in Portland!

Other Update Notes for 2017:

Bread Basket
While not zero waste, I’ve begun buying bread at our local Franz Bakery outlet store. Not only is it very cheap (they have a room in back where they offer three loaves for $5, plus cheap organic bread and bagels), but it’s local: made right here in Portland. The local grocery stores here accept the plastic bags for recycling.

Meat
I finally screwed up the courage to ask the butcher at Sheridan Fruit Co. to sell me sausages in my own bag and was denied–although he did package up different types together (and gave me the lowest price). Despite the name, Sheridan Fruit is renowned for its fantastic meat counter and knowledgable employees. Since it’s small and locally owned, I thought they’d be a good bet–but not so far. I may start asking other grocery stores, stay tuned!

Soda
I’m currently fermenting Zero Waste Chef’s Naturally Carbonated Lemonade in my pantry right now–it’s so good! You start by making a ginger bug and then add a little of that to homemade lemonade and wait a few days. It takes about a week to make, all told, but it’s fantastic, totally worth it, and zero waste.