Winter Relaxation: Survival Guide

13 Secrets of Winter Relaxation Every Portlander Must Know

From cheap massages to board games to cuddly kitties, here’s how to survive the season.

By Eden Dawn, Fiona McCann, Rebecca Jacobson, Tuck Woodstock, Amy Martin, and Kelly Clarke December 20, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Jack Dylan

Heavy Petting

Want face time with furballs with names like Brando or Babie? NE MLK’s Purringtons Cat Lounge is a Wi-Fi and coffee haven that hosts shelter kitties. The $8 entrance fee covers the feeding and housing costs for the rotating felines provided by the Cat Adoption Team, and stressed-out students, military personnel, and senior citizens always get half price. String chasing: free. —Eden Dawn

Face the Future

Winter’s switch-hitting between cold winds and cranked-up heaters leaves skin dry and dull. Santé Aesthetics & Wellness replenishes dry cells by giving clients access to a miniature Roman spa, complete with a crystal-clear hot tub below an open-sky light display, a small but powerful steam room, and a cold plunge pool. A UV light room with a heated floor replicates the vitamin D bomb of a sunny beach. After achieving Roman Zen (if that’s a thing), lie in a whisper-quiet room while an esthetician buffs, extracts, and rubs your face until you glow like the star you are. —ED

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Image: Jack Dylan

Bundle Up

Portland’s designer scene ranges from athletic to bridal. But we owe seasonal blessings to a tiny sect keeping it as old-school as possible. Morph Knitwear and Piper Dalton embrace classic knitting methods stretching back as far as ancient Egypt, turning local handspun yarn into rows of soft wool and cashmere patterned into every layering piece imaginable, from skirts to sweaters to bodysuits. —ED

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Image: Jack Dylan

Couch, Meet Cage

Netflix’s Luke Cage, unveiled just in time for rainy-season binge-watching, owes more than a little to Portland’s Brian Michael Bendis. The comic book writer redeemed the Marvel character from also-ran status and gave him a central place in the New Avengers lineup. Now Luke’s got his own series, with Mike Colter playing the reluctant strongman wounded by his past. Fear not, sloths: he overcomes his reticence to throw some bad guys around. —Fiona McCann

Curl Up & Read

Fire up mind and heart with our literary matriarch, Ursula K. Le Guin, whose collection of essays, lectures, and reviews Words Are My Matter includes a piece on her own abortion in pre-Roe America. For revealing, gutsy writing on musical legend Paul Simon, crack Peter Ames Carlin’s Homeward Bound. Three works of Oregon-crafted fiction worth stacking by your bedside: Gina Ochsner’s magical The Hidden Letters of Velta B.; Brian Doyle’s lyrical paean to Chicago; and the intentionally odd City of Weird, containing 30 stories themed around Portland's wondrous strangeness. Finally, Chuck Palahniuk’s latest short story collection, Bait: Off-Color Stories for You to Color promises a mind-clearing bonus: lined illustrations by famed comics artists. —FM

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Image: Jack Dylan

The PDX Winter Soundtrack

Post-election, post-holiday, post-every-damn-thing blues? Cue up the smooth, jazzy vocals of The Last Artful, Dodgr to relocate your happy place. A good spot to start is the Rare Treat EP, recorded with Myke Bogan, a textured collaboration that dropped last summer and will carry you through to the next one, one woozy beat at a time. Keep things positive with Y La Bamba’s Ojos del Sol, a warm, melodic Portland production with a Mexican flavor—sunnier climes from the comfort of your chrysalis. If, however, you’re determined to embrace the melancholy, Blind Pilot’s lush, layered latest offering, And Then Like Lions, should do it for you. —FM 

Dirt-Cheap Massage

In a zero-frills strip mall, $25 (cash only) at Healthy Foot Reflexology (8230 SE Harrison St, #325, 503-488-0489) will get you a foot soak and a fully clothed hour-long massage. Expect your back to crack like kindling as the reflexologist gets all up in your meridians. I made an appointment 15 minutes in advance, and spent my savings on dumplings next door at Chongqing Huo Guo. —Amy Martin

Quietly Absorb

The idea verges on radical: gather adults at a bar, mix cocktails, hit “play” on Brian Eno or Philip Glass, and ask people to read. Quietly. For two hours. That’s the boiled-down directive of Portland’s Silent Reading Party, a monthly-ish attempt to reclaim time for literary serenity. The perusing usually goes down on Sunday afternoons at Beech Street Parlor, a Northeast house-turned-bar with Victorian-style couches and flocked wallpaper. The tunes are lyric-free and the cocktails bookishly named (like an orange gin-spiked “All Quiet on the Western Front”). Dog-ear the next date: 3–5 p.m. Sunday, January 29, at Beech Street. —Rebecca Jacobson

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Wine Bars x 3

Carmella’s Wines (1320 SE Water Ave) unites a trio of gloom tamers: a global roster of fine wines, housemade truffles, and a roaring fireplace. // Nothing lifts the spirits faster than a flight of sparkling wines at Ambonnay (107 SE Washington St, #167), sommelier David Speer’s tidy haunt for “bubble addicts.” Bonus: it’s across the hallway from Olympia Provisions' charcuterie wonderland. // Location is key at Park Avenue Fine Wines/Bardot wine bar (626 SW Park Ave), which revived the Brasserie Montmarte space with an expansive, eclectic drink list (Northwest pinots and orange wines to sake, cider, and sherries) and ample elbow room at the long bar. —Kelly Clarke

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Image: Jack Dylan

Board Game On

Know what’s better than zoning out to streaming media? Dominating your friends on a board game battlefield. For a quick, easy adventure, Josh Davies of The Portland Game Store is all about vibrantly illustrated card game Vye ($24.95), which challenges players to protect fledgling kingdoms. Raucous groups dig word game Codenames ($20), wherein rival spymasters use one-word clue cards (or pictures) to contact secret agents. World-building board game Carcassonne ($35) is already game night royalty; Carcassonne Big Box ($74.99) expands the landscape with sets including Inns & Cathedrals and Hills & Sheep. Ready to level up? Hard-core table gamers swoon for Fantasy Flight’s heady A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition ($59.95). “There’s all the great game mechanics from Risk, Scrabble, and Cribbage in one game,” says Davies. —KC

Order a Massage

Starting at $99, rival apps Soothe and Zeel now let Portlanders order a full slate of in-home massage services straight from their phones, with as little as one hour’s notice. Granted, you’ll need a living space with a clear six-by-10-foot area for the massage table. And depending on your house’s configuration, you’ll need to abide with people who could survive the awkwardness of walking in on your massage. —Molly Woodstock

Ride the Light

Next time you’re shivering with a winter chill, treat yourself to a private full-spectrum infrared sauna session at Northwest Portland’s Aloe Wellness + Spa. Rather than heating the air around you, this system uses infrared light waves to heat your body directly—avoiding that choking, claustrophobic feeling that some folks feel in traditional saunas. The technology has been used to help with everything from chronic fatigue and mild depression to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So grab a rosewater-infused towel and step into your private sauna suite—if nothing else, it will reassure you that yes, it is possible to feel warm and dry in the middle of a Portland winter. —MW

Get the Kure

Don’t let the fungi scare you away—Kure Juice Bar’s Golden Mushroom Elixir is a perfectly delicious, pseudohealthy alternative to hot chocolate. The warming beverage boasts funky ingredients like reishi (a mushroom) and ashwagandha (an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine), but the real appeal is the gold-hued steamed almond milk sweetly spiked with honey, coconut, and turmeric. —MW

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