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Tessy and Tab meet Clark The Baby Shark

November 17, 2008 2 comments
Showing off the new Clark The Baby Shark

Showing off the new Clark The Baby Shark

This past Sunday, Blue Lake Children’s Publishing, publisher of the educational reading program Tessy & Tab, opened its doors to its young Portland readers to celebrate the upcoming holidays and unveil their newest project.

Tessy & Tab Early reading program is a subscription based service that delivers a new magazine to children 24 times a year. Targeted to children aged 2-6, Tessy & Tab is an integrated learning system that empowers kids to learn to read through self direction and discovery.  Each issue tackles a different theme, concept or activity that kids easily relate to and it’s often accompanied with related activities you can print out from the Tessy and Tab web site.

We’ve had a subscription to Tessy & Tab for my son for many years and although he just turned seven (and has technically ‘aged out’ of it), he still adores the publication and expresses the same level of excitement and enthusiasm as when we first started receiving it.

At their open house the Blue Lake Children’s Publishing unveiled Clark The Baby Shark, a new subscription program aimed at children 9-24 months. Clark is delivered in a special casing to enable toddlers to easily hold and look at the magazine. More importantly the magazine was designed with pages that won’t tear (a serious issue when giving books and magazines to toddlers). My youngest daughter absolutely loved Clark The Baby Shark and so when it’s available later this year we plan on picking up a subscription.

When I talk to other parents of young kids I’m surprised that more of them aren’t aware of Tessy & Tab. Not only is this local company producing the single best early reader product on the market but they’re doing it here in Portland.  The Tessy & Tab team are also amazingly receptive, every email suggestion or comment we’ve sent has received an immediate response.

Clark The Baby Shark subscriptions can be found on the Clark The Baby Shark site. Also be be sure to check out the sample Tessy & Tab issue which is online.

Categories: Family Tags: ,

Nutshell Restaurant Has Closed

November 16, 2008 3 comments
Where Will Bigfoot Eat Now

Where Will Bigfoot Eat Now

It comes as little surprise the news that Nutshell Vegan Restaurant has closed. In September I wrote the piece In A Nutshell – They’re Screwed that took a look at how Nutshell had gone from Portland darling to a restaurant precariously on the edge of the “Portland Restaurant Dead Pool”.

That hypothesis became a reality this week when Nutshell threw in the towel and closed their doors.  Perhaps the final nail in Nutshell’s coffin came from Alison Hallett who wrote a sharp criticism of Nutshell in the Portland Mercury review: Cracked Up – Nutshell’s Unsuccessful Revisioning.

Nutshell’s closing is either vindication for chef Sean Coryell (who left the sinking ship) or a sharp condemnation of the owners of Tabla (who also run Ten01, a restaurant which had its own near death experience last year).

To be fair 2008 has proven to be one of the toughest years for Portland restaurants yet.  With a growing list of restaurants closing because of the brutal economy including: Rocket, Kalga Cafe, Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, Genoa, and Carboni’s, the BBQ/wood-fire pizza. We expect at least five more Portland restaurants to join this list befor the year’s end. So if there’s a local Portland restaurant you don’t want to see added to the list, I highly recommend you make sure you dine there a few times before the end of the year, it does really matter.

Categories: Food, Vegan Tags: , ,

10 Karaoke Commandments – from Ignite Portland 4

10 Karaoke Commandments

10 Karaoke Commandments

I got a lot of emails from Portland Karaoke lovers to post the 10 Karaoke Commandments from Ignite Portland 4Alex Williams‘ entire Ignite Portland presentation can be seen online at Youtube.

So here are the 10 Karaoke Commandments (by Alex Williams)

First know: failure at Karaoke is being totally ignored.

  1. Karaoke is not a singing contest
    No text message voting, no record contracts, you won’t win any awards
  2. Leave it all on the stage
    Don’t just stand there, get up and do some moves. Just perform, don’t have any regrets.
  3. Use a fake name
    Create a persona, it’s not you, it’s that other person
  4. No groups – 2 people at most
    There are only 2 microphones so if you’re not holding a microphone, you’re irrelevant and get off the stage
  5. Know your range
    Know what type of voice you have, if you can’t sing Don’t Stop Believing, stop believing you can sing it. Sweet Home Alabama is a great song to sing, not too high not too low. Don’t be a hero.
  6. Pick a song you would play at a party
    The party test: A song you’d play at a packed party, if you wouldn’t do that, don’t do it in karaoke. Do not pick the Beatles because you’ll never sound as good or better than them.
  7. Know the verses of the song
    If you don’t know the verses of a rap song, don’t do it.
  8. Musical measures are the enemy
    A long guitar solo is a long you solo
  9. Karaoke DJ is The Soup Nazi
    Hand them your slip, a tip and walk away (they’ll never be your friend)
  10. Adapt to your Audience
    Pick something the audience would like, not just something you want to sing.

Most importantly – Have Fun!

Here’s a list of my favorite Portland Karaoke bars & lounges : Voicebox Karaoke Lounge, Chopsticks II, The Boiler Room, Galaxy Restaurant and Lounge, The Alibi Restaurant and Lounge.

Categories: Karaoke Tags: ,

Storm Surge – Storm Large's Next Chapter

November 15, 2008 Comments off
Storm Large Sings at The Selfless Afterparty

Storm Large Sings at The Selfless After Party

Storm Large has had a number of phases of her career: local lounge buzz singer, international television superstar (on Rock Star: Supernova),  and local celebrity.  Recently Storm has opened a new chapter to her career, almost literally.  With a novel in the works, a successful run in Cabaret and an upcoming one woman show entitled Crazy Enough Storm Large is expanding her universe and redefining herself as a performer.

Last week Storm appeared as a surprise guest in the much talked about Super Project Lab. She treated the crowd to renditions songs which artists had asked McCain to stop using in his campaign. It was a buzz worthy performance that snagged her another spot in the Super Project Lab November 22nd show.

On Thursday Storm played at the Pander Brothers’s Selfless after party. Storm appears on the Selfless soundtrack, a film which won top honors at this year’s Bend Film Festival.  Dressed in a long skin tight black dress, Storm sang soulfully with a depth of emotion and sophistication that counterpoints her often in-your-face larger than life style.

I spoke to Storm about her new direction and upcoming one woman show Crazy Enough. “I really hope people connect with it,” commented Storm, “there’s a lot of really dark and personal stuff in the show, and I don’t want people to just feel sorry for me.”

Last fall Storm played Sally Bowles in the Portland Center Stage production of Cabaret. “Researching the play and its context historically really impacted me, I was surprised how deep I got into the role,” Storm recalls, “and it popped my theater cherry and set me up for my show.”

In addition to preparing the show, Storm is also working on a novel. “I started blogging around all the election stuff, and it got me my first death threat…from a guy in Gresham!” explained Storm, “but I found that I loved writing, and there have been a number of authors who are really pushing me to write.”

Crazy Enough is set for Portland Center Stage 3/31/09 and will run 3 months. In the mean time Storm is singing up a storm, appearing at many key Portland events as well as providing the entertainment for private functions.

Storm’s single Ladylike made it all the way to  #5 on the Billboard charts, and so now the big questions is will Crazy Enough land her on Broadway?

Categories: Events, Music Tags:

Ignite Portland 4 Hits but KGW has an Epic FAIL

November 14, 2008 12 comments
Ignite Portland 4

Ignite Portland 4

Last night the Legion of Tech delivered another successful installment of Ignite Portland. If you’re not familiar with the event it’s an evening of presentations from people who are passionate about their topic, any topic. Presenters are given a set amount of time to talk with a predetermined number of slides which advance automatically as they speak.

Ignite typically hits a wide range of topics and subjects and is often peppered with Top 5 ways to do this, or the 10 commandments of that. Ignite moves along so swiftly it’s like watching  a stand up comedian telling spitfire jokes, some of them are sure to hit and make you forget about the ones that don’t.

The highlights of Ignite Portland Were:

The biggest failure of the evening was KGW’s reporting.  KGW has been getting its toes wet with social networking and so they decided to try to get involved by covering the event. While it’s easy to forgive Stephanie Stricklen for not knowing how to use the @Reply function on Twitter, Joe Smith’s coverage of Ignite Portland is almost unforgiveable. In some of the worst bumbling reporting on Portland Television so far this year, Joe Smith clearly had no idea where he was or what he was sent to cover. The reporting was so bad, no words can really do it justice, it really just speaks for itself. (View KGW’s reporting of Ignite Portland).

Ignite Portland 5 is scheduled for Feburary 19 and submissions are open now for talks. I’d really like to see the event reach out deeper into the Portland creative community and have a stronger representation from outside the close nit Portland Tech Community.

Categories: Events, Karaoke Tags: ,

Slaying The Green Dragon

November 13, 2008 4 comments
The Green Dragon Portland

The Green Dragon Portland

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about restaurants closing due to a dramatic drop in business (including the sad news that one of my favorite Portland restaurants Kalga Kafe closed).

This week we received news of an entirely different sort:

The Green Dragon, an extremely popular watering hole for Portland’s tech set, and the standing location for the ever growing Beer & Blog has been set to be sold to Rogue on Friday November 14th.

Initial response has been overwhelming negative to word of the buy out with some pretty harsh comments posted over the news the popular brewpub may be transformed into a Rogue Taproom.

The Green Dragon has made its name for the ever changing wide variety of brews on tap, regular ‘meet the brewer’ events and as the destination of choice for many Portland tech events.

To commemorate the slaying of the Green Dragon Beer & Blog will be holding a final sendoff for the beloved brewpub on Friday (reportedly the last day for the dragon).

The sale of The Green Dragon in such a challenging economic environment lends great weight to the view that the area surround The Green Dragon, Grand Central Bowl and Holocene is destined to be Portland’s next big hot spot

The Green Dragon will be missed. We hope other beer bars like The Horse Brass, Belmont Station, Bye and Bye will step up to fill the gap created by the sale of the Green Dragon.

Ed note: Read the good follow up piece in Draft Magazine about the Rogue purchase of the Green Dragon

Categories: Beer, Books, Food, Interview Tags: ,

Portland Milk Premiere with Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn and James Franco

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Sean Penn in Milk - Portland Premiere =

Sean Penn in Milk - Portland Premiere

This Friday, Hollywood comes to Portland with a red carpet premiere of Gus Van Sant’s latest film Milk.  The event will be held at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (1037 SW Broadway) as a benefit and celebration of the 40th anniversary of Outside In (a local charity which serves homeless youth and low-income adults)

As with any red carpet premier the list of people expected to attend can change, but early word is that Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn and James Franco are all expected to be there. PDXPipeline is reporting that Mayor-elect Sam Adams and The March Forth Marching Band are also expected to be in attendance.

Milk is one of Gus Van Sant’s highest profile films in years and it tells the story of prominent gay activist and San Francisco city politician Harvey Milk during the years leading up to his assassination in 1978.  Early buzz from some select critics who have seen the film is very very good, and this is a fantastic opportunity to see the film early and support a really worthy cause.

Tickets for the Milk red carpet debut are available for purchase online (via Ticketmaster) and at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA) box office (1111 SW Broadway). Prices range from $37.75 – $71.75. The event starts at 8:30 pm.


Here is the Milk Trailer:


Categories: Events Tags: ,

Portland Family Adventures – Interview

November 12, 2008 2 comments

portland family adventuresFor On Portland’s inaugural interview we decided to talk to Portland Family Adventurer Vince Schreck about his experiences running his site and dragging his family to the ends of the area in search of the next great adventure.

When, How and Why did you first start Portland Family Adventures?

In November of 2007, after getting a very expensive quote from a web development company, I decided to create Portland Family Adventures myself. In about 2 weeks, I had the website setup and ready  – I did about 90% of the work myself WordPress. I always thought the difficult part would be getting the site built; however, I quickly learned that the real challenges are:

  1. continually updating it with quality content
  2. site monetization
  3. search engine optimization.

Why did I build it? At the time, I was having a mid-life-crisis about my career that has me in front of a computer all day long. A friend asked me, “What would you be doing if money didn’t matter?” I didn’t need to think about that at all – I quickly replied, “I would spend as much time with my son (and family) having adventures all over Portland.” I love activities that kids enjoy. I thought this would become my new career – that is my ultimate goal. Also, and even more importantly, I think there was a need for this type of site. There are plenty of family websites in Portland, but they don’t provide the detailed information, pictures and videos that parents want.

Is there something unique to Portland that makes a site like yours possible?

Absolutely yes! I don’t think the correlation between “Portland” and “Family Fun” is a big secret. I’ve seen Portland mentioned in many different articles as being one of the best places to raise a family. Running my site – experiencing adventures then writing about them – has given me a laboratory- for measuring that correlation. I’ve literally been to almost every park, playground, pool, indoor playpark, bike path, etc., in Portland.

I can say with confidence that parents here care deeply about the quality-of-life their kids experience. They care more about the food they eat and where it comes from, they care about pesticides in parks, they care about keeping parks clean, they want to ride bikes and walk to minimize car usage, and there is a strong connection to political and social awareness. It appears to me that parents want to play and be active with their kids, and want as much information possible about how to make these things tangible possibilities. My site provides that type of access, and I think that’s why my site has been a success.

How has the site impacted your life?

It has been an incredible journey. One of the best benefits of having the site is that I’ve created a permanent archive for my kids. Photo albums often get put on a shelf and collect dust. My kids will always be able to reference our adventures through my narrative, pictures and video! It’s almost like we’re creating a family legacy and sharing that beyond the scope of our immediate family. This has been such a positive – it’s a constant reminder that engaging with our children has the potential to make us better parents, and it’s good for kids too. The site is a sort of validation process that my hard work is paying off!

On the negative side, because I put so much into each article they take at least 2-3 hours of computer time to publish. Although I wanted to leave the computer behind, it has followed me into this new venture. I’m constantly checking the site statistics, emailing with sponsors, cruising the Internet for possible trips, editing or posting material. Maintaining the site is an incredible amount of work!

Top Adventure Great Wolf Lodge

Top Adventure Great Wolf Lodge

How has the site changed over the past year?

For the most part, I had a good plan right from the start; thus, the mission and guiding principles haven’t changed at all. There are definitely quantifiable changes that have occurred – over a 3 month period, my site visits went up 2500%, which was a direct result of changing the emphasis from “parenting” to “relocation/adventure travel.” I had no idea that so many people would start referencing the site from outside the Portland area. I get a lot of traffic from parents who want to move to Portland, or who will be visiting the area soon.

I didn’t think I would highlight as many businesses. However, many businesses are so family-oriented that it’s been hard to ignore them. For example “The Great Wolf Lodge,” which is a giant, indoor waterpark 90 miles north, had our family up for a visit this past summer. We had such a great time there! We are going to be visiting Timberline Lodge in December, Leavenworth, WA in January, Mt. Bachelor in February, and Sun River Resort during early summer ’09. One marketing person said to me, “We always welcome travel writers.” I never considered myself a travel writer, but in a sense, that’s exactly what I’m doing at times.

What’s the most interesting comment you’ve gotten from a reader?

The Oregon Zoo sent me some information in support of their recent ballot measure and wanted me to post it on my site. Because I supported the measure, I felt like I should post the information for them. When I did that, I entered the realm of “political blogging,” which isn’t in my mission or guiding principles.

A reader sent a pretty aggressive comment aimed at the Oregon Zoo. The message accused them of animal cruelty and much more. In some ways, I felt the reader had some valid arguments; however, the tone of the message was so political that I could not post it. I knew I made a mistake by taking a political position on a site that’s all about family fun. I took down the Zoo’s leaflet, and told the reader I couldn’t post their message on my site and why. I referred them to the Oregon Zoo directly.

What types of adventures are the most popular with your readers?

Surprisingly, by far the most popular article on my site is the North Clackamas Aquatic Center. I don’t know what it is, but Portlander’s love that wave pool! I think so much of the year parents are looking for indoor activities to escape the rain. Even if I take a closer look, inflatable jumping venues and indoor playparks do very well with traffic.

If there is a break in the weather, my site gets more active around hikes, parks and playgrounds. I did a piece on “Portland’s Best Parks,” and to the shock of many, a park in Wilsonville got the nod as “best overall.” Memorial Park is definitely my most popular article when it comes to outdoor destinations. It’s worth the trip to Wilsonville.

Winner of Best Portland Park

Winner of Best Portland Park

Of all the places you’ve discovered through running the site, Which have been your favorite?

My favorites always happen when my expectations are low, but the destination proves to be stellar! Many Portlanders don’t even want to entertain the notion that there is something fun for their family in say…Beaverton, Hillsboro or Wilsonville. These towns may as well be on another planet for most southeasterners. However, many of these towns have a pretty hefty tax-base, and they pour a lot of money into their trail systems and green spaces. Again, if you want to really get blown away by a park, visit Memorial Park in Wilsonville. It’s beautiful! I was also shocked and awed by the Fanno Creek trail for biking with kids. Letterboxing is also a fun activity. It’s like a treasure hunt with rubber stamps. We visited several parks to hunt for these hidden treasures.

I thought the Great Wolf Lodge would be okay…it seemed sort of weird to me…an indoor waterpark. It was so much fun that we didn’t even mind being inside for 3 days straight while the weather was so nice outside! It’s definitely been our favorite trip.

What are some of the challenges of trying to run a site based around your families activities?

I think the biggest challenge for me is, “Are people getting sick of hearing about my family?” Am I bothering them with this stuff? I try to keep the focus on the adventure, but inevitably, my family adds a compelling piece. There are also plenty of pictures and videos of my son, and I don’t always think it’s the best idea to put him out there like that. I definitely have struggled with his inclusion in pictures and videos.

My son is also getting pretty frustrated with the constant “video clips.” In some clips, you can even hear him in the background, “Dad! Put the camera away and stop talking.” It’s pretty funny, but I know where he’s coming from. It’s a bit much for him to have to constantly deal with the pictures and video.

Also, we’re certainly less spontaneous these days. We often go places just because I’ve yet to document the adventure.

What are some of the adventures you have planned for the future?

There are still some very common adventures I’ve yet to document. Since many of my readers are looking at Portland for relocation or travel, I want to make sure to get the “greatest hits.” For example, I don’t even have Powell’s books, which can be a lot of fun for a family who likes to read. So, my priority right now is to make sure I have the “blatantly obvious” adventures done!

In my second year, I want to expand the focus beyond Portland, but still remain within a 5 hour drive. We hope to explore more of the coast and also, I’d like to start to focus more on the “adventure” side. A family trip to Powell’s doesn’t seem to be much of an “adventure.” I want to get more trips like rafting, kite boarding, rock climbing, biking, backpacking, etc. As my kids get older, we’ll be engaging in more of these activities.

Visit Portland Family Adventures.

Categories: Interview Tags: ,

Last Call for Fresh Hop Beer

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Fresh Mt. Hood Hops

Fresh Mt. Hood Hops

2008 has been an unprecedented year for fresh hop beer. In October I attended the Oregon Brewers Guild The Fresh Hop Beer Tastivals at Hopworks Urban Brewery, there were so many people I had flashbacks to the Portland Summer Beer Fest.

Sadly, with the leaves now more on the ground than in the trees and the rains blanketing Portland, the time for these first fall harvest fresh hop beers is coming to an end. While many of the great fresh hop beers are tapped out, you can still find a few around town.

Your best bet right now is to pick up a few bottles of Deschutes Hop Trip.  I’ve seen bottles at New Seasons and the Deschutes Bewpub (210 NW 11th Avenue ) still has it on tap and has a few cases to sell.  Of all the fresh hop beers this year the Hop Trip is my absolute favorite. The beer is a beautiful blend of sweet, bitter and smooth, it’s magic in a pint glass.

Also on Wednesday, November 19th Belmont Station will be doing a “Last of The Fresh Hops Night” with a keg of Sierra Nevada’s Harvest Fresh Hop Ale alongside a cellared keg of Southern Hemishere Fresh Hop Ale. I can’t think of a more perfect way to close out the fresh hop season.

Categories: Beer Tags: , ,

Sip – One of Portland's Best Food Carts

November 11, 2008 7 comments
Sip's Owner Brian Serving Amazing Stuff

Sip at People's Food Coop

Despite our sometimes inclimate weather, Portland has a pretty phenomenal food cart scene. While many focus on fairly traditional food cart fair, a handful have unique offerings and are destinations for more than just a main meal.

Of all these food carts Sip is my absolute favorite. Located in the courtyard of the People’s Food Coop (3029 SE 21st Ave), Sip is a small airstream trailer transformed into one of the best fresh juice bars in the entire city. Opened at the start of the summer, Sip made its name by offering devilshly delicious vegan milkshakes, so rich and tasty that even non-vegans could be seen licking their cups. In addition to its indulgent delights, Sip also offers a nice range of fresh and organic juices and smoothies.  On a recent trip I had a tropical green smoothie which is by far the single best smoothie I’ve ever had, anywhere.

With the turn of seasons Sip transitioned its offerings away from milkshakes and on more wintery offerings including hot soups and specialty drinks like milled cider, chai and hot coco. Recent soups have included Thai Red Curry, Vegan “Beef” Stew and Potato Leek.

Sip is a prime example of perfect simplicity, it’s the kind of place you can go, order anything, and know that it’s going to be fresh, organic and delicious.  There are rumblings that Sip’s owner is looking to expand and open a cafe in Portland, an extremely exciting prospect.

Here’s a copy of Sip’s Menu. Some extremely yummy drinks from one of my favorite Portland Food Cart:

Sip Portland Menu

Sip Portland Menu

Categories: Food Tags: , ,