82 posts categorized "Holiday"

Know of any Caroling Groups?

December 16, 2009

When I was growing up, caroling was a big part of the holiday season.  We would practice for a few weeks leading up to the holiday week, then showcase our pieces at a few homes who would invite us to sing for them.

I would love to go Christmas caroling this year with my 5 year old daughter.  I have tried unsuccessfully to gather a group of friends/family to join us.  We are not really a part of a church or other community who is planning anything like this.   Any leads on caroling groups or community Christmas sing-a-longs we could hook up with?

Did you grow up caroling?  Is spreading holiday cheer through song something you do with your children?

Car-free Peacock Lane tonight

December 14, 2009

Peacock_lane_jonathan

The Peacock Lane lights display is a favorite from as far back in my childhood as I can remember. It's only the second year, however, that the event has had an official car-free night; the evening before "opening day" is reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists (and rollerbladers, skateboarders, or other modes of transport without engines).

This year, it won't be nearly as frigid as last year and I'm hoping I'll convince my boyfolk to go. It starts at 6 p.m. tonight and goes through 11 (as if any parents stay up that late on a school night! ;)... will you be there? My advice, if you go: bring a thermos of hot cocoa and perhaps a few home-baked cookies. And if you're not on bikes, Trimet is very convenient; one year we got off at one end, walked the length of the lane, and got back on the bus at the other end. Like a limo, but cheaper...

Nutcracker Round-Up 2009

December 03, 2009

It's that time of year again.  For many families, watching a Nutcracker production is part of the holiday ritual.  The Oregon Ballet Theatre, of course, offers the premier show in town, but ticket prices are at a premium.  OBT's proudction runs throughout the season, from December 12 through the 27th, with shows on Thursdays (shows at 7:30), Fridays (shows at 7:30), Saturdays (shows at 2pm and 7:30pm), and Sundays (shows at 1pm and 5:30pm).  From what we can tell, tickets run from $17 to $130.  This year, OBT is offering the opportunity to sponsor a child and send him/her to see the show for $15.

How about some other productions and dance companies?  Here is what we've found so far.  Feel free to add others we missed and check out last year's round up, too.

  • Columbia Dance performs December 18 through the 20th with shows at 7pm (Friday), 2pm and 7pm (Saturday), and 1pm and 5pm (Sunday).  Peformance to be held at the Royal Durst Theatre in Vancouver, WA; tickets are $15 (adults) and $10 (children under 12).  12/18 thru 20. Vancouver
  • Vancouver Dance Theatre performs this weekend, December 4 through the 6th with shows at 7pm (Friday, and Sunday) and 2pm (Saturday and Sunday).  Performance to be held at Fort Vancouver High School; tickets are $15 (adults) and $10 (children under 18).  They even have a discount coupon on the website!
  • Classical Balley Academy performs this weekend also, December 5 and 6 with shows at 2:30pm (Sat and Sun) and 7pm (Saturday only).  Performance to be held at St. Mary's Academy (downtown PDX); tickets are $17 (adults) and $12 (children under 9).
  • NW Dance Theatre presents the "Nutcracker Tea" December 18 through 20 with sows at 7pm (Friday and Saturday), 1pm (Sunday), 2 (Saturday), and 5PM (Sunday).  Performance to be held at PCC Sylvania; tickets range from $10 to $26.   Complimentary refreshments to be served!

Favorite Winter-Themed Books?

The_lemon_sisters_page
The sun may be shining, but we are definitely approaching the heart of wintertime.  As the seasons change, so may our books to resonate with the world around us.  An urbanMama recently emailed to see if you could recommend a few seasonal reads:

Hi mamas, I am hoping you will post something to get us talking about our favorite winter books. I am trying to build our collection and am looking for ideas. On my list to buy this year are The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren and Snow by Uri Shulevitz. Favorites from my childhood are The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keatz and Father Christmas goes on Holiday by Raymond Briggs.

Image from cafemama's favorite winter book, The Lemon Sisters by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss.

Happy Veterans Day: One mama's story of her service

November 11, 2009

Leading up to today's holiday, I have been telling my girls of the service that both of my grandfathers had provided for our country.  My grandfathers risked so much - their lives, their families, their wives, their children.  Some of their stories not only bring tears to my eyes, but they also make tears flow from my eyes.  Flipping through the latest status updates on Facebook, one of our mama friends said that she:
went to the Veterans Day Assembly at [my daughter's] school today...and cried like a baby. ha! So proud of my baby girl singing her heart out...and she was so proud to tell her teacher her mommy was a Veteran. So sweet.
 
I asked if she would share her story of her service with us, and she writes:
 
I joined the Air Force right out of High School. I wanted to go to college, but my family couldn’t afford it. The Air Force seemed like a good way for me to a.) get the heck out of my small Missouri town and b.) go to college. I was a Personnel Specialist in the Air Force—which in civilian terms is kind of like a Human Resource Specialist. After Basic Training , where I learned how to fold t-shirts and underwear into precise, perfect squares(even using tweezers to make sure all corners were “flushed”), I moved on to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS for my job training. I then received my assignment to Beale AFB in Northern CA, where I would spend four years. It was my first time being on my own and I was thrown into life. I loved it! I made friends for life there and that, in itself, I am truly grateful for. I was a member of the Base Honor Guard and got to perform at a lot of the Base Functions and I also participated in many many funerals. I was one of the service women who stood on the sidelines at Veteran funerals and paid tribute with the 21-gun salute and would help fold the flag and present it to the next of kin. I silently cried every single time. Those were amazing experiences for me.

My goal of going to college didn’t happen in those first four years…so I decided to re-enlist and make going to college a priority during my second enlistment. I received orders to Okinawa Japan and served my remaining four years there. The island of Okinawa is so beautiful and it was so awesome living among the people there. I worked in the Special Operations Squadron there and really enjoyed my job. The good thing about my job, is that it was pretty 9 – 5ish. There were a few times I had to be away for deployments—I spent some time in Guam as well as Hawaii—but for the most part, it was kind of like a normal job. The whole time I was in Okinawa, I worked during the day and went to school in the evenings. The University of Maryland had a campus there and would take over the on- base schools in the evening and offer classes to Military personnel. After my four years there I was able to complete my BS degree from the University of Maryland. I decided then to separate from the military and move on with my life.

I didn’t have children while I was in the Air Force, but so many of my friends did. I remember the sacrifices that they had to go through when having to be away from their families. In the military, you get 6 weeks of maternity leave…I think about that now and can’t even imagine only having 6 weeks with a newborn before having to go back to work full time, sometimes twelve hours a day. It truly is a sacrifice that these men and women make .

I still have so many friends who are still serving this great country of ours. To be honest, there are days where I miss the “family” feeling of being in the Air Force. If I would have stayed in, I could retire next year. Ha! It was truly an amazing experience for me and I look back at that time with so much pride and gratitude.
To the mamas, papas, grandpas, and grandmas among us who have served or who do serve our country, we thank you.  We welcome you to share the stories of your loved ones who have contributed in this way.

Halloween 2009: What's your plan?

October 23, 2009

This year, Halloween is on a Saturday!  What could be more fun than to spend the ENTIRE day in costume?  What are some fun events or activities for the kids this upcoming Halloween?  It's an open thread; feel free to share goings on & post a link if you've got one!

The Big Bang: Celebrating the 4th with Fireworks

July 01, 2009

Growing up, our backyard featured a great view of our neighborhood's fireworks extravaganza.  We'd have a bbq every year and set out lawn chairs.  Everyone would 'ooooh' and 'aaaahhh' over every bang.  Nowadays, with our kids, I feel a bit less enthusiastic about watching firework shows on the 4th of July.  In fact, fireworks give me great anxiety, but that's a whole other story.

Do you, as a family, do the fireworks thing on the 4th?  If you do, where do you go?  An urbanMama recently facebooked us:

Where do you go to watch fireworks?  We have a 5-year old, and 2 year old twins. We were wanting to go downtown and thinking of taking the MAX, but really don't want to have to go into the large group with all the kiddies.  Any other ideas?

Happy Father's Day! Celebrate with kids, or without?

June 21, 2009

Dads_fathers_day On Mother's Day, I scored a few hours alone to go to the farmer's market, and as I wandered around shopping on my own, I watched other pregnant women and women who looked vaguely mama-ish, wondering: would we rather be with our kids, or alone, on this day that celebrates us? I already missed my kids, especially on this day, when having them along would prove that I was one of the laud-ees. (Why I need to prove that, I can't explain.) I decided I'd rather be around them, and hurried home to hang out with my sweet boys and eat market goodies.

Today is Father's Day, and someone on my Twitter stream was musing about whether she or her husband deserved the day off; June 21 is her birthday. I immediately thought, neither, isn't celebrating with family what these days are all about? but held my tongue (or fingers); maybe she just meant "day off of cleaning the dishes."

Another dad I follow, though, said he thought Father's Day was a day for dads to spend with their kids. I began to reflect that it's far more common to give mom a day alone on her day, whereas it's more common to have dad+kid activities on dad's day. Given the long experience in our culture of domestic/career divisions with its conventionally-assumed distribution:mom's making breakfast and folding laundry, dad's putting on his tie and readying for a commute; these days have traditionally sought to change that dynamic for 24 hours.

But in our progressive 21st century culture, the facts have changed... right? Dad's doing laundry, mom's often commuting, but most of us still spend Mother's and Father's Days the same as when we called our parents "mother" and "father" (at least on TV). How is it in your house? Does dad celebrate by going on kid-tastic adventures, or does he go out and hang with his daddy friends? Or is it a big family barbecue -- and does dad man the grill or sit back and drink rootbeer floats (my own dad's fave)?

For the record: today, we're making one of my husband's favorite breakfasts, huevos rancheros burritos, and later we'll all be going on what I think is the best Pedalpalooza ride of all: the Unimproved Ride Road. How about you?

Make your favorite mom(s) laugh this Mother's Day...

May 05, 2009

I don't know about you, but my inbox is already overflowing with Mother's Day greetings from a wide variety of opportunists.  So this mama ain't opening any more of 'em till after the big day. 

With one exception. 

This hilarious "Mom of the Year" (who me?) video from Moms Rising.org, which reminds me of that very funny, viral Obama video from way back in elections season (remember that?).  If you didn't get that one, now's your chance.  And if you did get that one, you can do it all over again - on a lighter topic! 

If you don't know about Moms Rising.org yet, they're a kick-_ _ _ organization run by some savvy women committed to making this country (and Oregon) a more family forward place.  So this mother's day, make a few moms smile, while also raising awareness about an organization that works hard on behalf of all mothers.

Ready?  Set.  Send it!

Unwanted Christmas Gifts - What to do?

January 12, 2009

Whether or not we send out wish lists, we are certain we aren't the only ones whose kids receive gifts that we consider excessive, unwanted, inappropriate, or down-right annoying.  With many of us trying to start the New Year right with an organized and purged household, how would you handle some of those Christmas gifts that you just don't want?  An urbanMama emails:

My three year old daughter recieved a "computer" for Christmas.  It takes batteries, beeps and talks, etc.  We've worked pretty hard to keep battery operated toys our of our house.  It was easy when she was younger.  We'd say thanks (and mean it, of course. We're always grateful for the thought) and then we'd pass it on to Goodwill.  She never knew the difference  But she's three now.   She opened the package and knows what she got.  She's "playing" with it every day.  To make matters worse it was, in my opinion, mislabeled as appropriate for a 3 year old. Primarily because all of its games rest on the theory that she can recognize the numbers and letters on the keypad-- which she can't and results in added frustration for her (although she continues to play with it -- a lot.)  Do I snatch it? Take the batteries out? Relax and let her have it?  Anyone? Anyone?

Celebrating New Year's with Kids: How do you do it?

December 31, 2008

2367562501_e963219e3d_m Many of us are pretty ready for 2009.  As a society, we like the idea of this annual opportunity to start again, do it better, do it different, and I'm right in there.  Among other things, I plan to learn to make my own yogurt, read some fiction (even if it's just short stories), stop working so much at night, try pilates (fix those stomach muscles!), and the list goes on...and on... and on.  Do you make such lists?  Or think the whole artificial timeline for personal betterment is silly? 

Another part of the new year is celebrating it, regardless of the whole resolution thing.  Since having kids I'm not sure we've even been up at midnight on new year's.  You?  Instead we celebrate at noon on new year's day with the kids, blowers, noise makers, and all. Sparkling apple cider all around! 

So do tell: what happens at your house tonight & tomorrow??  Quiet evening at home or black tie and babysitters?  However you do it, may 2009 be a good year for your family and all the families of the world.

The Favorite Gift: What was it?

December 25, 2008

Volcano kit

I never can tell what will be the absolute favorite gift from year to year.  This year Grandma hit the nail on the head with a volcano kit for our almost 6 year-old son.   Despite my handy efforts at handmade (not surprisingly, some still unfinished!), this was definitely store bought but fun enough to inspire a break in gift opening.  Now that's a good one. 

Goopy mummy-like wrapping is required and you gotta do it with a parent.  Then it erupts.  What's not to like?    What was the favorite kid gift in your house?

Merry Christmas, all! 

Will they *ever* go back to school?

December 16, 2008

Truman_in_snow

It wasn't even midnight before day one of snow days when I looked at the forecast for the week and had to ask: will they have any school before January? Portland Public Schools isn't known for making children and staff get to school when there is any ice on the roads or sidewalks, and I know from long experience that snow + frozen temperatures + Portland, Oregon means zero relief from icy conditions. (I am just old enough to remember the great ice storm of 1979, which kept my Taylor Street home sparkly and slick and kept me home -- though my elementary school was only a block-and-a-half away).

So I worried over the forecast, freezing temperatures all week, more snow on Wednesday and Thursday, and expect that our kids won't go back to school until school's out for the holiday. This had me frantic with rather inconsequential anxiety. What about those last-week-before-Christmas craft fairs and art projects and holiday concerts? How will I get the teachers the brilliant gifts I'd planned? (A few tokens for the Portland Farmer's Market along with a card listing my favorite vendors and the schedule for 2009.) Will the last farmer's market of the year even happen? (I know, nothing to do with school, but it's my fear nonetheless.)

Then last night, a surprise: the east-siders were going to school today, so my little one was packed off on his very early bus (no west-siders to pick up). Of course, my teacher gifts weren't yet ready so I'm now hoping for beautiful (cold) weather on Friday. [Update: PPS announced no school tomorrow, Wednesday, December 17.] One of the teachers on my Twitter stream announced only about half of her students were in class today; so many parents are calling this week a snow week, regardless of PPS openings. Do you dread or yearn for an extra whole week of vacation? What do you think of the east side / west side division (as if we weren't already divided enough)? What silly anxieties are you harboring? And are you as tired of bundling and un-bundling as me? (I have a blog post going on about that topic in my head...)

Getting your tree: Where is it coming from this year?

December 15, 2008

Noble_fir_tree
I'm working on a project doing some freelance writing for a yet-to-be-launched green site, and I've been learning way too much about the environmental impact of everything I do (as if it wasn't already enough!). One thing I've discovered recently is that Christmas trees are often grown with lots of pesticides. I mean, I'm not eating the tree, but it's likely that my 17-month-old, Monroe, is getting his fair share of pine needle ingestion.

So I thought more about where to get my tree this year. In last year's discussion about Christmas trees, we noted a lot selling organic, "local" Christmas trees on 25th and SE Division (it's still there this year). I asked friends to recommend organic tree sellers and was advised to just buy anywhere -- after all, Christmas trees are a huge industry in Oregon (so not getting a local tree would be ridiculous) and they "grow like weeds" so very few pesticides are needed. On the other hand, this article points to widespread herbicide and fungicide use to obtain "perfect" trees.

I decided that we would get it through Cafe au Play, who's selling trees to raise funds to help open the planned family-friendly coffee shop and community center at 58th and SE Division. The trees are from Timber Ridge Tree Farm in Molalla and were very well-priced -- we paid $20 for a very lovely, big grand fir. I was unable to find out whether or not Timber Ridge used many pesticides; maybe next year we'll use capella's great idea: buying a new potted tree every year and plant it; after a few years we can start cutting the older trees down (and buying a new one to replace it) for our *own* Christmas tree farm. That sounds wonderfully "green." Where did you get your tree? Was its green-ness a factor in your decision?

Nutcracker 2008: are you going?

December 09, 2008

For me, watching the Nutcracker was always such a special treat during the holiday season.  Tickets to my local production (San Francisco Ballet) were always so expensive, so - from the time I was about 13 onward - I would volunteer as an usher for the free ticket to the show.

Now, I have two girls, and I am sad to say that I have never brought them both to a Nutcracker production, something I had enjoyed so much when I was younger.  In years past, we've done a little research on more affordable alternatives to the traditional Oregon Ballet Theater production.  This year, we decided to see the Portland Festival Ballet rendition where group tickets ran $17 a piece.  I've just heard about another great opportunity to see the OBT production (thanks to an urbanMama friend on Facebook).  Want to see the OBT Nutcracker for $25?  Find $25 tickets here!

Is seeing the Nutcraker part of your holiday tradition?

Putting our dollars to work: Giving Back 2008

December 02, 2008

Some of us may be buying less this holiday, but it sounds like all of us will still be doing some level of gift giving this year.  Looking for ways to spend our dollars in a way that could also help a great cause?  Consider these options:

  • Our Children's Store.  An annual favorite whose location has found itself in different spots through the years.  This year, the store is at the Lloyd Center Mall again.  The store sells products that have been donated outright.  Previous years, we've bought Baby Legs, Groovy Girls, or other items we would have otherwise bought elsewhere.  Why not buy at Our Children's Store, where 100% of the proceeds go to supporting 25 local children's charities?
  • CHAP Holiday Bizarre.  CHAP sets up shop in the 937 Condos from now through Christmas Eve.  All proceeds benefits the Children's Healing Art Project.  Columbia Sportwear donated tons of gear for sale, but most of the store is dedicated to art-making: crafting ornaments or silkscreening tees.  Be sure to check out the full calendar of events including workshops, dance, music, and art performances. 
  • Ten Thousand Villages.  Also an all-time favorite, this national nonprofit sells handrafted products made by more than "130 artisan groups in 36 countries".  You'll find tons of high-quality crafts - jewelry, furniture, household goods, toys, and artwork.
  • Willamette Week's Give! Guide 2008.  Maybe you care to just give a gift to one of 55 worthy organizations in the name of your friend or family member?  The neat thing about giving through WW's program is that you get a heap of swag for any gift over $25.

There have got to be more ways to give back while you shop.  Your top choices for spending a buck for a good cause?  We're always looking for more thoughts and suggestions.

Seeking Black Santa

December 01, 2008

We believe that Santa can come in different forms and colors.  We all know, though, that the darker-skinned Santas are few and far between.  Have you come across one?  urbanMamas want to know!

I heard that there is a chocolate Santa some where in Portland during the month of December. I would way prefer to take my son to an unconventional Santa. Anyone know where he is?

Buying Less This Holiday??

November 26, 2008

Many of us have been talking about cutting back lately.  Either because of the economic situation, or because of the environmental impacts of consumption, or because we're concerned about what might be in the things we buy

As the holidays approach I find myself thinking about establishing some new traditions.  I come from a family that went all out for Christmas. We got (literally) piles of gifts, aided by my dad's small yearly bonus.  In my parents' defense, they wrapped everything (underwear, socks, soap, you name it), and we didn't get much else during the rest of the year, but Christmas was definitely a big deal.  My husband, on the other hand, comes from more of a one-good-gift and a stocking household, something he hopes to continue.  So I guess you could say our ideas of Christmas morning are...different.

I don't want my kids' Christmas memories to be like mine mostly because it sends the wrong message about consumerism and materialism to open a big pile of presents, one that contradicts what we try to teach the rest of the year.  And, not to sound too cliche, but the holidays should be more about giving than getting piles of crap, right?

Ideas?  As I look for some ideas on scaling back I'm wondering: what do you do? Something from Mom/Dad?  Something from Santa?  Both?  Neither?  Any special gift-giving traditions in your house?

Or are you vowing to spend less this year? Shop local?  Shop "green"? Go plastic-freeBuy Handmade only?  Make your own gifts?

(Photo Credit: Andrew Eick, Flickr Creative Commons)

Craft Ideas for Holiday Gifts?

November 22, 2008

We are crafty folk and take pride in our creations.  What are ideas for easy homemade items that the kids can use as gifts?

We are hoping to find a great craft idea for the kids to use as holiday gifts for relatives. Last year we bought thrift store wool sweaters, washed and dried them on hot so they wouldn't unravel and then cut them into 4x4 squares. The kids used embroidery thread and big needles to sew the squares into long scarves. They were a hit! Anyone have any ideas to share?

Halloween treats: Who do you trust?

October 31, 2008

Baking_peanutbutter_cookies
Do you mind if I have a bit of a rant?

As the news rolls in about melamine in children's candy and I prepare to write a book about "inconvenient food," I consider our society on Halloween. We talked last week about all the ideas for what to give away on Halloween, some of us bemoaned the problem of not being able to hand out homemade treats because of scares (for the record, I heard a piece on NPR in the last few years about how there had been maybe two cases in all of history of people getting poisoned/hurt from Halloween treats -- less than chances that a hurricane will rip through our city).

I've given up sugar and am trying to greatly reduce my children's intake, though I let them eat whatever they get given (within reason) by teachers, relatives, friends. But really, my values these days are "prepare food with love" and I can see no love for anything but profit in the contents of the candy aisle (or the cereal aisle, or most of the aisles in the grocery store). My go-to treats are honey lavender shortbread, hazelnut butter cookies, apple pie (sweetened with maple syrup), sourdough carrot cake, and the standby: homemade oatmeal whole wheat bread with lots and lots of butter and honey. Why would I go to the store, buy something I don't believe in that very well could poison you (if the sugar isn't poison enough -- now that I've given it up even a "fun size" bar would give me a two-day headache), just because my neighbors can't trust ME?

I start to wonder if the proscription against homebaked food has gone on long enough. How did our society become this insane place where we trust a corporation unquestioningly but we don't trust our neighbors? How is it that we have grown so ill-confident of our kitchen skills that we don't even dare challenge rules against bringing homemade food to public school? (Let's leave aside allergies for the moment -- that's not the reason schools banned baking.) Damn it, I trust you to know enough about cleanliness not to get my food all poopy!

So I'm going to hand out lavendar shortbread cookies for Halloween today. I'll have an alternative (we have leftover candy on a high, high shelf) because I haven't yet gotten to the place where I want to force my neighbors to trust me. Next year maybe.

Trick or Treat: What are you handing out for Halloween?

October 21, 2008

An urbanMama regular over on Facebook started the conversation and we'd love to hear how some of you are handling the treats on Halloween.  Even though we're a bunch of high-fructose-corn-syrup-phobes, will you be handing out candy?  A bouncy ball?  Maybe organic raisins?  How about some homemade lip balm in a resuable container?  The ideas are endless!  Pray tell: what will you be handing out when the kids come knocking?

Old enough for fireworks?

July 03, 2008

Fireworks Okay, I admit it, I really want to take my kids to see fireworks tomorrow.  I love them (fireworks, that is!) and I know they would too (right?).  But with a 5 year old who wakes up at the crack of dawn regardless of what time he goes to bed and a 3 year old who is transitioning (and not so smoothly) out of naps, sleep in our household is a precious commodity these days, and not just for the parents.   Are you taking your kids to see any big bang fireworks?  Any concerns about the super late bedtime or tricks for making up the lost sleep?

Mother's Day 2008

April 27, 2008

Among us are mamas who are celebrating their first mother's day as a mama this year.  Among us are also mamas who are celebrating their umpteenth mother's day as a mama this year.  I get a bit wistful re-reading about our Mother's Day thoughts and celebrations from yesteryear, from Mother's Day 2007 to the uber urbanMamas Day in 2006.  Year after year, there are plenty of great mama's day thoughts to go around.

As Mother's Day approaches this year (Sunday, May 11th, for those of us who aren't counting...), is there something special that you are determined to do for your day?  Have you planned out activities for yourself or have you left all the planning to someone else?  Are there traditions that are emerging, something you and your family may do each year?  Will this be your first Mother's Day as a mama?  What about your own mama or mama-figures?  How are you celebrating her?

Easter Festivities, 2008?

March 17, 2008

Wow, is Easter less than a week away?  Do you have plans for egg hunting or brunch?  Melissa emails:

We are taking my in-laws out for Easter Brunch, with my 2 year old. Whats good?  How much does it cost?  Does anyone have any good Easter Egg Hunt recommendations while we're at it?

Happy Heart Day, Mamas!

February 14, 2008

Back in the day, I think I hated Valentine's Day.  A day for Hallmark to capitalize on all of America!  A day for overpriced chocolate and roses!  A day that had been bastardized as time had gone by, symbolized by this completely symmetrical figure that had little resemblance to a real human heart.  Did anyone tell Hallmark that a human heart wasn't symmetrical?

That was then, this is now.  My husband and I now have two little people who symbolize our love for one another.  We love to celebrate this holiday of love.

We know that not all of us will be celebrating anything special today.  But, if you are -- We urbanMamas want to know how you are hearting all those loved ones around you.  What does your day entail today?

Valentine's Day Suggestions

January 29, 2008

It has been 2 years since we talked Valentine.  The holiday is coming up again, and -- if an urbanPapa asked for ideas to celebrate with his beloved -- what would you suggest?  An urbanPapa emails:

I have known my lovely, wonderful wife for almost ten years, this means ten years of birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, and...wait for it....Valentine's Day. Over the years, I have tried to stay away from more routine ideas on these days - giving flowers and chocolates for instance. Coming up with new and unique ways to show my adoration was pretty easy in the early years, became harder once children arrived on the scene, and now I find myself a little tapped out on ideas. So please help me urbanMamas! I need some creative ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day.

C'mon urbanMamas, help an urbanPapa out....

Is anyone traveling?

December 20, 2007

Have you noticed that many of us here at urbanMamas have been busy?  A few of us are busy getting the families ready for travels to see family over the winter break.  We know quite a few families who are packing up their things, getting ready to go.  We also know quite a few families who are staying local, or perhaps renting a cabin up in the snow for a night or two.

We thought it'd be a good time to highlight a few travel posts that could be handy for the traveling folk:

For those who are staying closer to home, perhaps we can share some snowy fun ideas?

So, will your family be stay close to Portland for the winter break?  Are you heading out of town to visit with family and friends, or have you already gone?  Do share!  We'd love to hear what you are up to....

Your gifting strategy this season?

December 14, 2007

We're in full swing now in our assorted holiday seasons.  However we celebrate, gifts around this time are common and abundant.  What are some ideas to put more meaning into the stuff we give?  Make it local!  Make it green!

Eco-Mama does a nice little run-down on gifting green and features some great (new) local merchants that now takes Chinook Book coupons.  Serena posted some great ideas last year in "A tightwad shops local."  Or, maybe make a donation to the Environmental Working Group of at least $135 and get a great gift bag that includes a shopping bag, a cast-iron pan, a Klean Kanteen water bottle, recycled paper note pad, organic chocoate and more....

One of our personal favorite spots for getting gifts, year after year, is at Our Children's Store.  Formerly at the Galleria Mall downton and now at the Lloyd Center, "100% of the profits from sales are distributed to over 40 local children's organizations."  Its a great concept and we always find plenty of unique gifts there.

We'd love to hear more about gifting strategy this season.  Are you baking or knitting or making?  Are you shopping online?  Visiting local shops on some of our favorite retail strips like NW 23rd, Hawthorne, NE Alberta, or N Mississippi?

Is the Santa secret safe?

December 11, 2007

We're all about chatting about the holidays of late, and this household has been wondering: (for those of us whose children believe in Santa) how long does the magic of Santa last?  When does the secret get spoiled?

We have made up all sorts of stories about how there's only one Santa, and how all the other ones are just elves dressed up as the jolly old fellow so they can spread the cheer more efficiently.  We have also told tales of a helipad on top of the downtown Nordstrom where the sleigh parks with all the raindeer waiting.  We write letters and Santa is always sure to leave a note back along with a couple of treats.  We are sure to only use special Santa wrapping paper (and never the same paper we wrap our other gifts with!).

Do you play out the Santa fantasy in your household?  Is the Santa secret still safe?

Holiday Cards: What's Your Tradition?

December 10, 2007

FamilyphotoIn previous years, I would coerce my husband into making the hike out to some spot up in the mountains to snap a picture of our family.  As the family photographer and videographer, we've got plenty of pictures of the kids, solo, with each other, with each parent, with other families and friends.  However, in the mix of the hundreds of pictures we take over the year, we can never get it together to take a picture of our family.  And if we do, inevitably, somebody is caught not looking, with their eyes closed, or not smiling.  The first year, when my son was about 9 months old, we spent Thanksgiving in the Wallowa Mountains.  We trekked our way on snowshoes into some remote area of "Little Switzerland" and somehow as our digital camera teetered precariously on some rock, we managed to capture this fantastic photo.  This year, we decided to go the route to get some professional help from Dimples Photography.  Though the pictures turned out fantastic, we have probably missed our deadline to send out holiday cards by the end of the year! Oh well, but as I reminisce on our little adventure to Eastern Oregon, I am inspired to DIY a good family picture in the new year for the next holiday season.  Do you partake in the holiday card sending / giving tradition? Do you do-it-yourself, or do use the services of a professional photographer?  I'm also curious if anyone sends out electronic holiday cards, or is that too impersonal?

Holiday Cookies: Share Some of Your Favorites

December 07, 2007

ExchangeThe other day, my husband gently nudged me to host a cookie exchange so he could dust off his rolling pin.  When we would spend the holidays with our families in the Midwest, we would indulge in the once-a-year favorites such as Baklava and Banket. I'm not sure of the tradition of baklava, but Banket is one of those tasty Dutch pastries that my mother-in-law loves to bake.  His grandparents were Dutch immigrants.  It was also that time of the year to make Peanut Butter Kisses, Sugar Cookies, and of course the Gingerbread People

Since I'm right on schedule (sent out the email invite four days ago, and the exchange is tomorrow) I need some ideas on some great holiday cookies.  I got the ix-nay on the Pecan Sandies - they didn't quite meet holiday muster according to the resident cookie authority. Biscotti was also met with a lukewarm response.  Do you have suggestions for terrific holiday cookies that would pass the scrutiny of our family cookie-snob?  Do you have any family favorites and ethnic cookie recipes?  Lastly, as I'm always looking for ways to streamline the cookie exchange, how do you go about hosting yours?

Where's Your Tree?

November 27, 2007

Every year, there's lots of options for Christmas trees from fake, going to your neighborhood lot, to the "living tree" option to getting a permit to cut down one in the woods or at a tree farm.  Debi has a specific request for suggestions on farms.  But where you typically get yours?  Do you make it a tradition and go back to the same place each year?

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My family and I want to go to a Christmas tree farm this year where we can pick out and cut our tree. We live in NE Portland/almost Gresham and would like to know if anyone knows of a good place to go for this. I figure we might have to go out to outer Gresham, Boring or Sandy but would love any suggestions.