Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big Tree, Small Chiristmas

This year, we have decided early on that we are celebrating Christmas small. Not that we were ever in a financial state to have elaborate Christmases before, but we did spend a good portion of money on gifts. However, I noticed this pattern of having this empty "This is it?" feeling the evening of Christmas day. The disappointment was in no way to refer to the lack of gifts got in return, but that the month long hassle of gift, decoration and clothes choosing and shopping were all because of one day; no, more like a few minutes of that day. Instead, this year we want to celebrate the season and really take the time to reflect on the significance that the birth of Christ has in our lives.   We also want to focus on spending time together as a family going places and doing things instead of me being gone for hours at the time navigating through crowded malls.

A couple of months ago, I asked my children if for Christmas, they wanted gifts or to go places as a family. They all said they wanted to go places as a family.  Their answer was surprising but pleasing to us.  One of the places we love a lot is the Great Wolf Lodge.     The place had a special promotion going on so I solicited several families to join us there.    This will probably be the largest thing we do this season. Other activities will be free or cost little.  Yesterday, for example we took them to the Grotto's Festival of Lights.  I got a great deal through a timely Groupon (again) so a family admission with three hot chocolates cost us $18.

Waiting for a puppet show. 

 Babe chasing goats.  The sugar from the hot chocolate kicked in right about here.  He was attempting to catch and kiss every goat that would let him. 

Doing fun things for less is that much more enjoyable.

Some other things we want to do this year is take kids to a famous street in an established neighborhood where every house is lit up every Christmas.  We will probably do the Follow the Star again this year with them.  The kids love it every year.  This place makes Christmas come alive for them.  Both of these activities are free.  We also want to make it to a couple of Christmas concerts.  We really loved The Singing Christmas Tree a couple of years ago before we had the boys,  but having 5 attendees now might be a bit spendy.  We could probably do it if we sit in less than desirable seats, but then the kids would probably not see the stage well.  Besides these activities I want to make and decorate sugar cookies and drink many hot chocolates all while listening to as much Christmas music as I am able to tolerate.  Singing carols and watching Its a Wonderful Life is also on the list. 

And finally, we want to start a few new family traditions.  We had our first attempt last Friday.  We had a clever idea to drive to a national forest and choose our own tree.  This action was the result of last year's disappointing tree my kids and husband brought home  which they chose in the dark.  It looked hideously small and sorry in our high ceiling living room as few honest relatives cared to comment.  I couldn't wait until Jan. 1 when I almost independently dragged it outside to the curb.  This year, besides many obstacles such as forgetting our warm clothes in a bag in the driveway (don't ask how we managed to do that), getting there when the ranger station was closed for lunch, driving a truck which kept on dying on stops, and then getting all soaked as it was raining, we got our tree.   Keeping all these things in mind, it is understandable why we hurried up and got ourselves this:

Notice the humble gifts below made by our daughter. 

We think the tree is cute and worth the $5 permit we paid for cutting it.   The honest loved ones who did not go through the pain of getting this thing in to our living room called it less desirable names. 
But everyone agrees that it is way better than this:

 Portlanders, what are you doing this Christmas season? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You might have seen this before....

I showed this clip yet again to my students during the last few minutes of class as I've done the last 5 years I've worked there. Some get the humor and some don't. I show it anyway.

Have a great giving THANKS time with your friends and family!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Power of Crowds

Hey, whatcha doing this Friday?  Waking up at wee hours, perhaps, to get great rip offs?  Last year at around this time, I have articulated my best Black Friday tip here.  Basically, I don't do Black Fridays.  There is something about that good ol' saying that says "Best fish swim upstream" that appeals to me especially on this day.

This year, my belief was further confirmed by this article which talks about some Black Friday myths.  With all the buzzz in the media around this day, it is hard not to feel pressured into checking out whats out there.  Everyone seems convinced that if they don't go they will miss out on something major.    Ahhhh, the power of crowds!

But hey, I know of a place where the power of crowds works for good!   If you haven't yet discovered Groupon, you might be missing out on some REAL deals.  Kid you not!  This year, I've used a Groupon to get an awesome deal for a pumpkin patch and have another Groupon waiting for us to use at the Aviation Museum. I have been tempted to buy more than twice, but in the interest of trying to be good  was able to resist the  temptation just fine!   The savings here are real with no strings attached. They have various deals on spas, restaurants, museums, various stores and many other places.  The deals are all local as you give them your zip code and they customize the deals for you.   Right now, they are having a Groupon for Nordstrom Rack.   $25 gets you $50 to spend at any Nordsrom Rack in the United States by December 31, 2010.    So, if you like this place and plan to shop there for the things you or someone you know NEEDs, click on the link above and sign up!  Note that the deals usually expire within 24-72 hours.  So go do it now!  Or not :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vintage Me?

Because it usually takes me a list a couple of years to get "in the loop" of whats in, I think that I have finally begun to appreciate vintage inspired clothes, accessories and other things.   I have discovered Ruche, an online vintage style boutique and am really liking their stuff.  Right now, I have my eye on:

I usually ignore Black Fridays, but this time I might just take another peak at this website and buy something as the stuff there will be a whopping 15% off with a promo code.  Out of the three things I posted, which would you buy if you were me?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Those of you who belong to any kind of social networking site should get a kick out of this song I heard while listening to the Prairie Home Companion on NPR yesterday. I am still not sure about how I feel this program but this song definitely shines some light on the ridiculousness of some of the uses of those sites. The audio link below plays the entire program, but this song is the first one they play.

I've been unwanted before it's true
And uninvited a time or two
Today I'm feeling unusually blue
I've been unfriended by you

The hourly updates on your activities
Your joys, your pain, your sensitivities
All of the parties you have attended
No, I've been unfriended

I had twenty-nine friends, an old high school buddy,
A couple of guys from Adult Bible Study,
Neighbors, and cousins, a high school classmate,
And then one morning I had sixty-eight.

The list of your friends: 3000 and growing
Three thousand folks who think you're worth knowing
You're a popular person, you don't need me
You've got Carla and Nicholas Sarkozy

Unfriended, where can I go?
Back to the people I used to know.
The women at church, the guys at the bar,
They could try to unfriend me but I know where they are.

I offered you friendship when I saw you online
I thought you'd become a true friend of mine
You posted a comment, I thought we were close
But now I am toast.

I feel like I'm back in my high school cafeteria
And I get the cold shoulder and I'm sent to Siberia
And no one will talk to me, nobody, none,
I once was befriended but now I am Un.

How could you do it, just delete my name?
I'm not a left-winger, nor an old flame,
I'm not a stalker and you're not a star,
But now I'll expose you for the jerk that you are.

You know it's inevitable that we will meet
In real time on an actual street
I'll be so cool — OMG — how sweet.
And I'll look away as I press delete.

Unfriended, boogers on you
You and all the friends you knew
Have just been unfriended too

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Travels in Siberia

What do you know about Siberia?  That it is a distant land where dissidents and convicts were sent to and that it is famous for its prisons and sub zero temperatures? Oh ye and where polar bears roam free from shore to mid continent of Asia.  Hmmmm. And that the place is barely noticeable on a world map.  Yep, a tiny little region that is hardly known to anyone younger than age 50.

My faithful readers, please don't feel bad if you nodded to all of those statements.  I was born in Siberia but know so little.  But...

I want to tell you about a book that I had whole  fourteen days (thanks to the limit of days put on by local library) to read.  I first read about it in Reader's Diagest magazine and couldn't wait for my library to buy a copy.   When it arrived I was the rightful first borrower and really enjoyed the first 90 pages that I was able to get through before returning it.  I really really enjoyed reading this book.  Not only because Ian Frazier talks about his travels in a land I was born in, but because he also writes about Siberia's history, natural resources, current events all from a perspective of a foreigner with a sense of humor.  

While my short description of its content might sound dry to someone, I guarantee you that it is not at all boring or over descriptive.  It is descriptive enough that I imagined my self right there traveling with him (although I doubt I would ever have enough courage to travel to Siberia's s far Far East to the land of Chukotka or eat fried seal liver). 

Again, I enjoyed reading this book even at the expense of not staying up on my reading the textbooks.  I AM growing tired of textbook reading  and even if reading this feeeeels wrong, the Siberian in me says that it is definitely worth my time!  So, to Barnes and Noble I go where it is on sale now as by the amount of holds my library has on this book it is evident that I might not get the book back in one piece.  Heather, Juliya, Luba, other book worms let me know what you think of this book if you ever get your hands on it!