Blog :: 10-2015

5 Questions on Friday with Joe Streckert

This week we sat down with Joe Streckert, an independent Portland-based journalist and the host of Interesting Times, a podcast on XRay FM and

Question 1: Why do you like Portland? Do you have a favorite neighborhood or pocket in the city?

I'm from here, so I'm a bit biased, and while I grew up in Northeast Portland I think I've been won over by Southeast at this point. The quadrant certainly has its share of trendy and popular destinations, but what I really appreciate about it is that, in multiple sections of Southeast, there's always some kind of main drag or central area nearby with cafes, bars, restaurants, etc. I live in Foster-Powell and am within walking distance of a pretty good cafe, an excellent bagel place, a geeky game store, a dive bar, and the amazing Foster Burger. That walkability and accessibility informs a lot of Portland neighborhoods, but I think it's especially on display here with Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, and (yes) SE 82nd. Having access to things even outside of the main downtown is important.

Question 2: Do you ride a bike? Go running? Climb at a rock climbing gym? What Pacific NW activity are you interested in trying? Share a little bit about your Pacific NW activities.

I do ride a bike with some frequency and, while I do run, I don't do it nearly as often as I should. In the past year I've gotten into bouldering and really like The Circuit as a gym. Earlier this summer I did the Warrior Dash, one of those mud runs, and it was a lot of gross fun but not super demanding.

Question 3: What's the last book you read?

The Martian. It was great. I loved how comprehensive it was about what it would take to get to, survive on, and get off Mars.JoeStreckertHeadshot

Question 4: How did you start writing about Portland?

The first thing I ever published was a short list on the McSweeney's website. It wasn't terribly long or even all that funny, but it was published work and McSweeney's is a name that a lot of people respect. With that single clip under my belt, I was able to get a few freelance gigs with outlets like Not For Tourists and Nerve. Eventually I got a regular blogging job with Portland's Daily Journal of Commerce, writing about construction, architecture, and the built environment downtown. The DJC was not in a good way, though, and they had to cut me and their other regular freelancers.

I got my start with Portland history through my day job as a tour guide. I'd been teaching for Kaplan, the test prep company, and they laid me off, but tour guiding was similar to teaching, and I eased into it pretty well. Working for a company called Portland Walking Tours, I learned more local history than I ever thought I would, and, freshly cut from the DJC, I started pitching to the Portland Mercury. They were into doing a few features on local history, and since then I've written things about the Vanport flood, Portland's urban planning history, and where this city is going. I've also done a lot of miscellaneous work for them, which is always fun. Everything from TV recaps to cocktail reviews to election coverage. They're great to work with.

On top of that, I'm also part of a history collective called Stumptown Stories which does local history lectures on the second Tuesday of every month at the Jack London Bar (I'll be talking about the 1905 Lewis and Clark Expo on November 10th at 7:30), I write for Comic Book Resources, and I have a history podcast called Interesting Times which also airs on Portland's XRay FM. I love it. All of it. Creating things is consistently rewarding, and I never want to be in a place where I'm not writing. Weirdly, I owe it all to that silly McSweeney's list that I published years ago. If I hadn't gotten that one clip out there from a notable literary mag, then I probably wouldn't have a lot of the gigs I have now.

Question 5: Where do you think the current real estate market is going?

I recently wrote a whole feature for the Mercury on this. I think it's safe to say that the population is going to grow, the demand is going to continue to increase. That means more density. This will probably be a good thing. There are a few patches of the city that have never really been all that vibrant and now we see them flourishing a bit more. For example the Lloyd District has been a dead zone for a long time, but now there are actual apartments going up there, and the South Waterfront used to be a huge boondoggle, but now real activity is going on. I do hope that people don't get displaced, though. I know a few folks who have had to move because of rising house prices, and that's not good. Hopefully we can have development that accommodates the maximum amount of people possible.

Five Questions on Friday with Joe Ruppa of Eastside Woodworks

This week we sat down with Joseph Ruppa from Eastside Woodworks; we were excited to learn more about the craftsmanship of woodworking! Logowhite

Joe, where are you from?

I was born and raised in southeast Portland, and I'm a product of our excellent public school system!

Do you have a favorite neighborhood or pocket in the city?

I love Ladd's Addition. Cars tend to avoid its maze-like layout, giving it a quiet, almost lazy atmosphere, it is filled with big, beautiful houses, the rose gardens are lovely, and the giant elms are a pleasure to observe through the seasons.

Do you ride a bike? Go running? Climb at a rock climbing gym? What Pacific NW activity are you interested in trying? 

I often ride a bike to work- I love mixing up my route and seeing new things, and the benefits of the exercise and the avoiding traffic are undeniable. For fun, I try to get to the climbing gym from time to time, I'm a lifelong skier, and I recently began riding my bicycle on long road rides with friends.

The Pacific NW activity I'd be most interested in trying is climbing Mount Hood! I've been up Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens, but I'm still looking for the right partners and the time to get up our majestic peak.

What's the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is estimating the time it will take to do specific tasks, and also to complete whole projects. The goal is to provide myself with a consistent flow of work, to meet my clients' and my expectations, but there are always unexpected delays or distractions, so accomplishing that goal a work in progress.

What are you optimistic about?

I'm optimistic about the population of Portland continuing to be appreciative of carefully considered, high quality custom cabinetry and furniture. I get the sense that compared to many other parts of the country, an unusually large portion of our population understands the value of, and are happy to pay for the kind of work that I do. I like building things that will last families through generations, and folks here seem to want that.

How long do projects usually take? How much do they cost? And what kind of wood do you like to work with?

It is very difficult to generalize about project duration (see "challenges" above), since each project brings with it a unique set of challenges, but folks thinking about a kitchen, a built-in or a piece of furniture would be wise to get in touch with me a few months in advance. In general, the bigger the project, and the more components (electrical, plumbing, etc), the longer it can be expected to take. It takes time to do things right!

As with the duration of a project, the nature of a custom business is such that I wind up using all sorts of wood. However, I find myself being drawn back again and again to Oregon white oak and Oregon black walnut for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the wood is beautiful. Oregon white oak is set apart from the red oak we are all used to seeing in mass-produced furniture by its color, as well as the sinuous quality of its grain, and a rusticity that can take a simple kitchen or a piece of furniture to the next level. Oregon black walnut has a depth and range of browns to purples that is irresistible. It is not uncommon to find really beautiful figures in Oregon black walnut as well, which lends a fantastic three-dimensionality to its surfaces.

In addition to their unique look, many of these trees are harvested from old farms and ranches right here in the Willamette Valley!  These trees grow to be enormous here. The milling operations tend to be family run, and on a small scale, so the lumber from an individual tree is often dried and sold together. This allows woodworkers such as myself to select sequential, matching boards to work with, and many times, the boards may even carry their specific history with them. I like that the story of a wood product can stretch back before my role in building it, as well as into the future. I find that this story and connection to place can add a real richness to my process, and to the final product.


  1. Mark Aalto on

    This is a cool idea. You are such a smarty

    Five Questions on Friday with Clint Elliott

    This week for Five Questions on Friday we sat down with Clint Elliott, a Private Mortgage Banker from Willamette Valley Bank.

    Question 1: Getting to know you; where are you from? What do you miss about your home town?  Why do you like Portland?

    I'm from Tucson, Arizona. I miss the Mexican food! I love Portland because of all the little villages in different nwvbeighborhoods. I live in and love NE. There is a great diversity of people and the changes that are happening in every neighborhood are incredible!

    Question 2: What are you most proud of? And what do you like to do in your spare time? 

    My three beautiful children; I try to spend as much time with my family as possible, we love to camp, and spend Sunday mornings soaking at the Kennedy School. I'd like to take more time to travel with my family, sometimes I forget that life is about experiences.

    Question 3: What are you most excited about in a house? And what would you be willing to compromise on with a house?

    I love old houses, it is fun to walk through a home and try to imagine how the people who were there before you,  lived. Size, I am always willing to trade charm for size. It's not always "the bigger, the better" for me. It has to feel right, and sometimes smaller feels better.

    Question 4: What is the hardest thing to explain to a client?

    The hardest thing to explain to a client is how much the mortgage industry has changed. A lot of clients are surprised by the amount of information that is needed to secure a loan in this day and age. It is much different than it was even just a few years ago, most of the changes are truly for the better to insure that people who can afford homes get them.

    Question 5: What are you optimistic about?

    I am optimistic about the growth that Portland is seeing. It is exciting to see so many people gravitating toward the culture and vibe of our amazing city!

    Five Questions on Friday - Portland Edible Gardens


    We sat down with Ian Wilson from Portland Edible Gardens for our first Five Questions on Friday; here's what he had to say!

    Question 1: Where are you from?

    I grew up right here in Portland!  I went to Chapman Elementary School which is now most famous for the Chimney Swifts that visit every September.  Portland has changed a lot since my elementary school days, but despite incredible growth, Portland maintains its distinctive and beloved character.  I wouldn't leave Portland for anything  ...What a place to call home!

    Question 2: Favorite Restaurant?

    Unfair question in Portland, But... a long time favorite is Cafe Mingo on NW 21st Avenue.  Its another place that has been incredibly consistent through a lot of change.  Incredible food, unpretentious, authentic Italian, with the freshest ingredients. Yum.

    Question 3:  How did Portland Edible Gardens start? What kind of services do you offer?

    I started Portland Edible Gardens after working on and managing organic vegetable farms for many years.  I came to realize that even though Portland loves food and organic vegetables and gardening, aspiring home gardeners didn't have many options when it came to personal and professional support in growing their own food at their homes!  Growing food has brought so much satisfaction, joy, and delciousness into my life, and I wanted more Portlanders to have the opportunity to grow their own!!  So I dropped everything and started PEG.

    Portland Edible Gardens builds Cedar raised garden beds, creates seasonal planting plans, plants fruit trees and berries, and works with people one on one throughout the year planting their gardens and teaching them how to do it!  We take the time to learn about what our clients are interested in, what their goals are, and then craft a plan and cater our services to meet their needs.

    Question 4. Fall is here! What can we do for our gardens and our soil to prepare for next spring?

    Fall is a great time to give back to our gardens that have given us so much throughout the year!  There are several ways to care for your soil in the Fall and Winter so it is ready to provide in the year to come.  One option is to grow a "cover crop", a planting that offers nutrients, insulation and protection to your soil.  Another option is to cover your bare soil with a straw mulch to protect it from winter rains, compaction, and erosion.

    If you want to learn more about these soil saving methods or for more Portland based edible gardening advice throughout the year, check out my Blog!!!

    Questions 5. When is the best time to build a new garden bed?

    Now!  The truth is, any time is a good time to establish your garden beds.  The most important thing is to make it happen whenever you can and to be ready for the growing season in early Spring.  I plant my sugar snap peas in mid-February, so that's when it all begins for me.  But even planting a garden as late as June can bring a serious bounty to your kitchen.

    If you are interested in learning more about Portland Edible Gardens, check out their website and sign up for an initial consultation to get your edible garden started today!


    1. Mark Aalto on

      Cool stuff!