field trip: PSU Farmers Market

basket of PSU Farmers Market produce, October 5, 2013

Fall's here. And though it used to be my favorite season, with the best, most romantic clothes and settings—tall boots, long scarves, pretty men in plaid, falling gold and scarlet leaves, crisp walks, fat pumpkins—since moving to the Northwest, it now just makes me want to hide under the covers and gorge on chocolate, anticipating all the months ahead (eight to be exact), of days like today: gray, chill, and rainy. Plus, this is now my second head cold in a month, thanks to the kids at school (whom I love and hate equally), despite vitamins, despite hand sanitizer, despite lots of sleep and vegetables. I was even all scheduled for a flu shot today when I woke up realizing I was sick and the immunization would have to wait. Boo!

I do have recent thrifting finds and more home décor projects to share, but for various reasons, those posts are on hold, too. So what's left to talk about? How about the farmers market? This morning, I just finished using the last of the half-pound shitake mushroom bag bought at a PSU Farmers Market mushroom booth a few weeks ago for $5. Though a bit shriveled, they still served their purpose in a nutrient-boosted miso soup made to help combat this head cold—that and hours of afternoon napping on the sofa with my cat on my lap, listening to French café jazz on low in the background.

I've had this review post written for a month and a half, awaiting return trips to collect photos. I still lack photos, but up it's going, anyway. You'll just have to head over to the South Park Blocks some Saturday morning and see the sights for yourself. I'm usually too busy dodging shoppers or talking to friends to take pictures myself, hence the measly shots of the backs of people and booths. (Sorry.) So I'm including some gratuitous summer flower shots off my phone camera to compensate.

backs of PSU Farmers Market booths, September 7, 2013

In early August, I finally made it to the PSU Farmers Market for the first time after meeting a friend for coffee. Her two-and-a-half-year-old was dancing (aka running back and forth) for us on a small platform to the beat of a jazz group nearby. (Other folk, alternative, and solo-drummer types were also strewn up and down the park.) After my friends left, I went in search of kale, walking the whole circuit about three times, scanning prices and checking out the offerings, ignoring the pricey prepared-food stands, many of which had long lines, it being lunchtime.

PSU Farmers Market, September 7, 2013

A few things stood out. It's certainly the biggest and noisiest market in town, crowded and jostling. One does a lot of dodging, and foot traffic tends to move in one direction, as if emulating all the one-way streets downtown. At this city-center market, a person tends to feel like a sheep being herded. Baaaa. But there's a lively energy, great for people watching. It felt as if everyone in town were here, see and be seen. This is the market to dress up for.

My friends had joked that carrying one of those round, often colorful, woven African baskets with the leather handles is a requirement for attendance at the PSU market, and I saw plenty. I actually already own one (seen in an old post here), though mine I got on deep sale out on Sauvie Island a couple years ago at a large farm stand, so I'll fit right in. It has a seat of honor on top of the fridge since my move, ready for Saturday mornings. But canvas bags also work just fine.

One great thing about the PSU Market is that it's open most of the year, from mid-March through mid-December, unlike all the other neighborhood farmers markets that open in early May and close in late October. What's on offer? Seasonal produce, animal products, baked goods, and flowers, of course!

June hydrangeas, Brooklyn neighborhood, Portland

Though the cheapest small bunch of flowers is $5, most bunches run from $15-20 and they're not huge ones like I've seen at farmers markets farther out. I definitely saw more $15-20 flowers than $5-10 ones. The cheaper flowers tend to be bunches of the same flower type, but those are my favorite arrangements anyway. One stand was selling a small posy of cultivated sweet peas in various shades for $5 each, and I smiled to myself thinking of all the hot-pink wild sweet peas I glean all summer for free.

gleaned June sweet peas

Of note, at least to self, at the bee products stand, a single pair of beeswax tapers was selling for $14 (!), when occasionally I can find a whole plastic-wrapped bundle of like-new beeswax tapers, their wicks still uncut and some even with their local hand-stamped tags, for just a few dollars at Goodwill. Such tapers make good gifts since the best gifts tend to be not decorative household objects or clothes which the giver can get horribly wrong but those that can be used up in temporary appreciation, things that people don't tend to buy for themselves but enjoy having as a special treat, like local handcrafted candles, natural soaps, or hand-dipped chocolates. The farmers market is perfect for such things, not cheap for regular personal use but good for gifts and splurges. (Myself, I'd still rather save money and wait to thrift such things when I come across them.)

local downtown Portland flora, July 2013

As for the kale, prices ranged from $2-3 a bunch, some organic, some not. I bought three bunches of curly kale for $5 at one stand and one hefty zucchini for 50 cents at a nearby stand. To get the best prices, walk around a while before buying, feel things out. Berries were selling for $3 a pint in August, but I'd been getting 16-ounce boxes of local blueberries at the grocery store for $5-6, so I skipped the market fruit. If you're flush, you can also buy duck eggs, salmon, goat cheese, fresh artisan breads and pastries—all the usual specialty bobo items most people can't afford to eat regularly (if at all).

orange cherry tomatoes & basil via PSU Farmers Market, September 2013

But the best thing to me about the PSU Farmers Market is that it's close and convenient, about eight blocks from my apartment, a quick walk or streetcar ride. At least the market will keep me in local squash, kale, pears, and apples all through fall up to the edge of winter, at which point I'll have to hit up the Shemanski Park Winter Market, which will be even closer, just four short blocks away. ¡Viva local produce and compact urban living!


field trip: The ReBuilding Center

white globe lights at the ReBuilding Center (minus the three biggest ones I bought)

Jeff and I hit the ReBuilding Center on North Mississippi Avenue Sunday afternoon before his kickball game, he in search of steel plumbing pipe and I in search of more hooks. (One can never have too many hooks.) He came up empty on metal pipe, but we did find several hooks for .25 each, though I missed out on a big cool yellow one I set down and forgot to pick up again.

mismatched hooks from the ReBuilding Center, .25 each

More surprisingly, I scored three—two medium and one large—white glass globe lights for a mere nine dollars. Granted, the large one is missing its electrical cord and wall plate, and one of the others has a rusty wall plate that will need to be sanded out and repainted, but still: three ceiling fixtures at that price is better than Goodwill. I may even have squealed.

ReBuilding Center: pile o' casters

Plus, the nice, apologetic cashier man threw in for free the four vintage matching wooden casters we'd snagged for some future reclamation project of Jeff's, simply because no one showed up to price my globe lights while Jeff and I were scrounging in the bins for hooks, so I had had to ask a second time for assistance. Lesson: patience and politeness pays.

They had a whole couple drawers of casters of varying ages and conditions, by the way, but most were on the small side and it was hard to find a set. I'll be returning in the future with an eye on sets for my filing cabinets. (FYI, there have been virtually zero casters at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore the times I've visited.)

ReBuilding Center: glass chandelier with prisms, $275

Back on the topic of lighting, part of me would like to install a large, classic glass chandelier in my main room for texture and reflection, all that tinkling, sparkling glass. (I could kick myself now for not buying that box of chandelier parts at Goodwill one day months ago after picking up a box depicting a children's toy from the 1980's and finding chandelier prisms inside. I could, for example, have repurposed something into a modern chandelier but my mind simply was not on lighting at the time, yet another reminder when thrifting to think ahead.) But elegant chandeliers one can't find for nine dollars—maybe if extremely lucky. Instead, one can easily find lots of ho-hum pieces from the 1980's to the present. But when decorating on a tight budget, that is where spray paint may come very much in handy.

ReBuilding Center: hanging light fixtures

Neither did we find the perfectly sized stone scrap slab I'm wanting to top said filing cabinets for that extra worktop I'm wanting for the kitchen. So I'm still on the hunt for scrap stone and may also try a stone discounter.

ReBuilding Center: scrap stone slabs

And now I will leave you with additional random shots of Portland's ReBuilding Center from which you may envision your own secondhand décor and repurposed reclamation projects—happy hunting!

ReBuilding Center: Tub Town Turnpike

ReBuilding Center: old kitchen sink with drainboards and white metal cupboards

ReBuilding Center: clawfoot tubs

ReBuilding Center: piles of tiles

ReBuilding Center: towers of doors

ReBuilding Center: walls of windows

ReBuilding Center: stacked wood

ReBuilding Center: services posters

ReBuilding Center: random pair of dirty women's ice skates


i heart downtown (Portland)

SW Yamhill Street graffiti: bunny love

Have I mentioned how much I love living downtown? I'm right on the streetcar line, a block from a large grocery store, five and six blocks from the transit mall buses and MAX, four blocks from the Central Library, eight blocks to the PSU Farmers Market, a twenty-minute walk up the hill to NW 21st and 23rd Avenues, a ten-minute walk to the new Waterfront Post Office, and a fifteen-minute walk to my credit union. I don't have to pull weeds anymore. I don't have to deal with driving and car expenses. I get more exercise. I've reduced my carbon footprint. My apartment is a cozy haven after a long workday.

I've been thinking a lot the last few months about how the easy thing is often not the best thing. Most good things in life are worth waiting for and working towards with a goal, a vision, and a big pinch of luck. (Now how can I apply that philosophy to my career?)

SW Yamhill Street graffiti: pink elephants on parade (self-portrait)

And moving downtown, I didn't even have to give up graffiti photography. Here are some street-art images from this weekend's walks: bunnies, elephants, hearts, pyramids, and faces, all shot on SW Yamhill and SW 11th Avenue—my summer valentine to downtown Portland. —xoxo

SW Yamhill Street graffiti: teal pyramid and crosses

SW 11th Avenue graffiti wall, left side: "yoke"

SW 11th Avenue graffiti wall, right side: "hella hotboy"

SW 11th Avenue graffiti box

SW 11th Avenue street sign (aka fun with stickers): Mr. T takes a fall


field trip: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Habitat for Humanity ReStore light fixtures

Project by project, week by week, slowly the apartment is coming together to look and feel like home, with most of the moving boxes gone and art and mirrors hung on the walls. To aid the process, Jeff and I made it over to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore a couple times in the last few weeks, now located out near Mall 205. Both times, I forgot to take exterior pictures of the building, but it's what's inside that counts, right? Honestly, we're lucky I remembered to take any photos at all, concentrated as we were on nosing around like hound dogs on the hunt.* (Thank goodness for camera phones.)

Habitat for Humanity ReStore hardware section

Habitat for Humanity ReStore tile and flooring sections

As mentioned in the Hippo Hardware post, the ReStore is an actual thrift store for building supplies, with some decorative and furniture odds and ends thrown in here and there. Overall, this place is cheap, but as with any thrift store, you won't always find what you're looking for; the search for project items usually takes patience, repeat trips, and a flexible imagination. For example, since I finally figured out where my two black metal filing cabinets should go—side by side in the weird gap between the tall prep counter and the gas wall heater in the kitchen—I've been looking for a scrap slab of stone in granite, marble, or quartz to make the file cabinets into an intentional prep space, something like this photo. Unfortunately, the stone scraps I've seen so far are all cut by the square foot, while each HON cabinet is 15 inches wide by 25 inches deep. I'd rather not pay to get a slab specially cut and I do want the slab to cover the entire top, so it'll take time and luck to find the right size for this project. And that's okay: I have more time than money.

(As a side note, it breaks my heart to think about all the beautiful polished stone slabs that used to be parts of mountains now gracing all the expensively remodeled McKitchens in America that will be solidly out of fashion within ten years and destined for the dump. Hello, people: once you cut down a mountain, it doesn't grow back.)

Habitat for Humanity Restore stone tiles and slabs for countertops

For his shop space, Jeff found a decent mid-century credenza with some chips out of its veneer (hard to fix), the top sliver of which can be seen in this post (scroll down)—and which (I'm editing to add), he just learned was rented out briefly from Hawthorne Vintage by the set designers of Portlandia, so we'll be playing Find-Jeff's-ReStore-Credenza when Season 4 comes out on Netflix. Another day, he picked up a vintage round diner tabletop with a burnt-orange Formica top and a metal rim that he's going to repurpose into a coffee table by attaching those four vintage Pendleton spindles bought in July.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore hooks and screws

I snagged a bunch of inexpensive hooks and screws, which Jeff drilled up for me this week in what I call my "garage," i.e., the long narrow closet parallel to my entryway storing my vacuum cleaner, ironing board, sleeping bag, a small box of Christmas decorations, and other odds and ends I can't seem to toss. Some of the hooks are obviously used and some are brand-new in their packaging, but all are secondhand discards, which is how things should be: using up what already exists rather than making more stuff, most of it now inferior, shoddy crap made over in China. (Trust me—I've spent enough time at thrift stores to track how globalizing mass production has dropped quality each decade in almost everything made.) The two-pronged orange hook is now holding cleaning implements up off the floor, while other hooks are holding my stepladder and other tools, the hooks all for about 25 cents each.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore pendant lights

I'm still waiting to thrift some large white glass ball pendants, but I'm patient. Till then, I'll console myself with unexpected treasures like the vintage chocolate-brown wood-handled Le Creuset saucepan—with lid!—sitting alone on a shelf I snatched up on the second trip and carried around the store with me in both arms like a baby, the first Le Creuset I've ever thrifted myself and, amazingly, just four dollars. Later, Jeff sanded the handle for me and then I finished the handle with spoon oil (recipe here via 3191 Miles Apart). Vintage. Solid. Made in France. Heirloom. Perfect.

vintage wood-handled brown Le Creuset saucepan, top view

vintage brown Le Creuset wood-handled saucepan with lid ($4 via Habitat for Humanity ReStore)

Note: Though it may be hard to believe, there were actually quite a few shoppers in the ReStore, but I framed them all out of the shots. (What can I say? I'm an introvert.)

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