Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Ships #inPDX

One of our Advent Calendar family activities was to watch to the “Christmas Ships” on the Willamette River. I have very few free evenings this time of year – between ZooLights and Brian’s pool night, and holiday parties and school meetings – so I was glad that my one free night last week coincided with the ships parading near us. Here’s what the website says:

Tuesday, Dec. 13th – OMSI to Fremont Bridge
At 7:00PM, the Willamette Fleet assembles in front of Riverplace Marina, (1750 SW Harbor Way, Portland). The parade will begin across the river in front of OMSI and travel downriver to area of the Fremont Bridge  The fleet will go under the bridge and then turns to return to Riverplace Marina. The fleet will be out for about two hours. Restaurant and hotel links, outdoor viewing location and further details

Eric loved that these boats were decorated as a fire truck and an airplane

We bundled up in coats, scarves, hats & mittens, with my favorite little cashmere hand warmers from Restoration Hardware. We raced to get near the start of the parade by 7 pm, not wanting to miss it. We parked ourselves on the beach under the Hawthorne Bridge, where Brian and I used to go to watch fireworks. It’s nice to be so close to the water, and not many people go down there. Anna was terribly worried that perhaps we weren’t supposed to be there, actually refusing to come with us at first. But Brian explained, “This is our city, and we are allowed to be here in our city.” That finally convinced her. I’m so glad she’s so concerned about doing the right thing!

The colorfully lit & decorated ships circled in front of us (okay, technically in front of Riverplace Marina) for a good 40 minutes. The kids enjoyed talking about the lights on each one. We were wondering why it took so long to get started with the actual “parade,” but once it finally started, it was kind of anticlimactic. The circling & assembling brought the boats fairly close to us on the east side of the river, but once they started their promenade, they were close to the west shore, and very small to us!

Santa's sleigh. Sorry so fuzzy from my phone!

Next time, we’ll just count on watching the assembling & circling. If we want to watch the parade part, we’ll find a spot at Waterfront Park on the west side of the river to hunker down. I think we’ll bring hot chocolate in a thermos, as well, along with the real camera! My phone takes some great photos, but it wasn’t quite up to this challenge.

Both the Willamette and Columbia River fleets parade together each night starting the weekend of the 17th, so it should be much more spectacular with more boats. Here’s the rest of the schedule, below, and details here:

Wednesday, Dec. 14th – Riverplace Marina to Milwaukie Boat Ramp • 7 pm

Thursday, Dec. 15th – OMSI to Fremont Bridge • 7 pm

Friday, Dec. 16th – Riverplace Marina to Milwaukie Boat Ramp • 7 pm (loops by Oaks Park)

Saturday, Dec. 17th – Riverplace Marina to Lake Oswego • 5 pm

Sunday, Dec. 18th –  Riverplace Marina to St John’s area, continuing on to Columbia River • 5 pm

Monday, Dec. 19th – James M Gleason Boat Ramp, WA Shores, Wintler Park, I-5 Bridge (Columbia) • 7 pm
Tuesday, Dec. 20th – I-5 Bridge/Hayden Bay (Columbia) • 7 pm
Happy holidays,

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Snowflake

Swarovski Snowflake Star, the 2005 version on my tree last year.

I splurged on a beautiful crystal star ornament the year Brian and I got married. It cost $50, which seemed like a fortune at the time, but it was so beautiful, and had a little silver tag that read, “2001.” I wanted it as a keepsake from the year we got married. The next year, the price had gone up to $55, but I decided to get the 2002 version anyway. Now of course, I have to get one every year! I’m stuck!

Dayl got in to the tradition as well, and together we would visit the Swarovski store in Downtown Portland and buy our annual ornaments. A couple years ago, though, Dayl discovered something: the very same ornaments are available on Amazon fro $10-30 less than in the store!

I protested at first, “But Dayl, it’s so much fun to go to the store together and buy our ornaments!”

Her wise response: “Yes, but is is $30 worth of fun?”

Yeah, not so much.

The 2011 snowflake looks GORGEOUS, and of course it’s my 10th Christmas being married to Brian. The kids love looking at each year of the Swarovski Snowflake, and we discuss significant things that happened each year. Anna got a little annoyed last year that I wouldn’t actually let her put them on the tree, maybe I’ll let her help with them this year.

On Amazon, it’s $60. In stores, it’s $75. I for one can spend that $15 on some other things!

What special splurges or traditions do you do for the holidays each year?

Happy holidays,


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The Advent of Anna’s Birthday, and also… Advent.

My poor little Anna has been obsessing about her birthday since September.

When will it be my birthday?
Why is my brother’s birthday before mine, but I’m older than him?
I can’t wait for it to be my birthday!

I was worried that she would spend so much energy worrying about this one day, that it would come and go and then she’d be disappointed.

I made a 3-month calendar for her to check off the days, and that kind of worked for a while, but I wanted something more special. Not that I want to indulge her every five-year-old whim, but I see value in helping her enjoy the anticipation of the whole experience, not just the day itself.

I’ve been looking at a lot of different Advent calendars, with the plan of making the first 11 days of December be all about Anna’s birthday. I saw a lot that were adorable and many that were complicated, and some that seem to take over a whole room. Since I’m trying to simplify, not complicate my life and living space, I rejected most of them.

My cousin Jackie, proprietress of Brow Betty – check it out, you’ll be glad you did! – posted this pic on Facebook, and I was hooked. How cute and simple!

Each one is a matchbook, filled with a message promising family activities or treats. Love it!

So we copied Jackie to a certain extent, and made Anna boxes to lead up to December 11:

December 1-11, ready to be lined up on the piano

And then made Christmas boxes for December 12-25:

We lined the Advent of Christmas boxes along the mirror on the mantel. I’ve filled some of them with activities or treats, but I need to get the others filled quickly! The advent of Anna’s birthday boxes were lined up on the piano, and the completed days went back in to the silver snowflake bowl.

It's easy to count down the days, because the kids can clearly see how many boxes are left!

I bought the matches at Winco in packs of 10 for only 50¢ each, and now we have a ton of matches…

That’s alright, I like to light candles.

Most of the papers we already had on hand. I bought a few sheets of number stickers at Michael’s for $3 each, and a few extra sheets of paper at 4/$1. I think we spent a grand total of $9.50 on this activity. Of course we already had tape, glue and fancy scissors.

What do you think? I’m kind of loving it!

Happy holidays,

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My Christmas tree is not perfect, but it’s perfect.

It’s a new phenomenon for me to share Christmas tree decorating duties with anyone. I used to be really picky about how it all went together. I would spend hours as a child re-arranging the family tree, and have really enjoyed having my own tree as an adult. The kids were mildly interested in helping me last year, but I did most of it without them, then let them add a few ornaments around the bottom at the end. They were fine with that, I think. To be honest, in the past I didn’t really care if they were fine with it!

This year, we did the whole thing together, and WOW, was that ever fun.
They were so enamored with the process; delighted to look at each ornament and find the perfect spot for each one. Anna said to me several times, “Mama! This is SO MUCH FUN!”
I agree, Darling.
Louie was quick to inhabit empty ornament boxes!
A sad moment for me came when I pulled out this rottweiler ornament. Our friends Pete & Karen gave it to Brian and I the Christmas after Kato died. It looks a lot like Kato, in fact.
The weird thing about that ornament is how the front leg broke off. The same front leg that Sancho lost when he first got bone cancer. So now the rottweiler ornament is a tribute to both K-Doggy and Sancho. Sweet memories.
Eric, being three, got tired and crashed on Brian before too long. As did Louie, but Louie will take any opportunity to crash on Brian.
 Anna was with me until the very end. She had a little melt-down when I wouldn’t let her put up my Swarovski Snowflake Ornament. I’ve been buying one each year since Brian and I got married. They are very expensive, and very special. As a compromise, I laid them all out and we talked about each one. Important things that happened each year, what the snowflakes represent. Even why 2001, 2002 & 2003 are each a little bit broken because Sancho knocked over the Christmas tree in 2003. She was especially interested in 2005 and 2007, as those were the years she and her brother were born. (I’m kicking myself now for not buying an extra one those years so they could each have the one from their birth year!) I finally agreed to allow her to hand me the snowflakes, one at a time, and I put them on the tree. It seemed like a good compromise to both of us.

Swarovski Snowflake Star, the 2005 version

It was so much more fun for me to share this experience with the kids, and I couldn’t be happier with the final result.
I love that the ribbons we use as garlands are unevenly clumped together. I love that Eric wanted to place all the animal ornaments, and Anna only wanted to place “The Pretty Things.”
It’s not perfect, but Wow, is it ever PERFECT.
And we only broke three bulbs.

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