Adventure Box, Coffee Shops & Restaurants

Slappy Cakes

Today we had some of the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  It was our first trip to Slappy Cakes and we are officially hooked!  For those of you who, like us, have never visited before, Slappy Cakes is an incredibly popular breakfast spot in southeast Portland.  The idea is to select a pancake batter, things to mix in, and toppings for serving.  There are nonstick griddles built into the tables and you are free to let your food creativity flow!

We chose chocolate batter and traditional buttermilk.  Chicken and Nugget talked me into chocolate chips, whipped cream, and strawberries.  How do you say no to that?!?  Examples of other options include blueberries, bacon, candied bacon, nuts, coconut, lemon curd, bananas, lavender honey, etc.

Chicken and Nugget had a blast drawing pictures with the batter, trying out different combinations, attempting to flip the pancakes, and eating the fruits of their labor.  Nugget cheered for me every time I successfully flipped a pancake, so that was an added bonus that put a little pep in my step.  We may not be pancake Picassos, but we had fun- and that seems like the point, doesn’t it? And the pancakes were seriously delicious.  I don’t know how they did it.

Like I mentioned, this place is popular.  We got there around 9:30 and were told the wait would be an hour.  Luckily they use a texting system, so we headed out to explore the area, finding and adorable hat boutique.  We wound up waiting about 30 minutes.

Once we were seated, service was incredibly quick.  Since we only ordered pancakes, they have all the batters already in bottles and the toppings already prepared, so the wait time is minimal.

If you don’t feel like going to a restaurant and still cooking your own food, they do have a traditional breakfast menu.  We didn’t try any of it, but many people around us did.  The servings were huge and it all looked really good.

Batters were about $8 a bottle, and toppings/mix ins were $2-3.  Maple syrup was available on the table for no additional charge.  The waitress said each bottle would make about 3 pancakes the size of their serving plate.  That seems about right.  Our two bottles of batter and three toppings, two of which we had refilled (which they charge for), ran about $30.  We ate it all and the three of us left full but not stuffed.  Well, Nugget was stuffed.  Chicken and I had a bit more self restraint.  You could get away with spending less, or spending quite a bit more.  Depending how many things you add in, you could wind up with some pretty pricey pancakes.  Just be mindful, and you should be fine.

Overall, Slappy Cakes was a huge hit and we will definitely be going back!

What it is: a fun, family friendly restaurant, design-your-own pancakes, delicious, interactive, a mix of communal and stand alone tables, quick service once seated

What it’s not: a short wait

Would we recommend it?  Totally!  Chicken and Nugget were trying to talk me into another visit before we even finished eating!  As they were getting ready for bed later in the evening, I heard Chicken say “Slappy Cakes was really good, wasn’t it?”  Nugget answered “Yeah.  I wish we could live there.”

More information about Slappy Cakes can be found here:  https://www.slappycakes.com/portland

 

 

Adventure Box, Day Trips, Parks, Spring and Summer Activities, Vacations

Wildlife Safari- Winston, Oregon

Nugget got licked by a giraffe!  No, really!  I was so excited!  Him, not so much.  Turns out his obsession with, adoration of, and fascination with all things giraffes does not extend to their slobber.  You win some, you lose some.

The highlight of our spring break was their adventure box gift that included a day trip to Wildlife Safari.  We had gone a couple of summers ago and all had a blast, so this time I added a cheetah encounter and a giraffe encounter to add to the magic.  It was totally worth it!

We began by leaving the Portland area bright and early and treating the kids to hot chocolate.  That’s code for “mom’s going to need coffee if she is going to make it through this day.”  Once caffeinated and sugared up, we were really on our way.  Wildlife Safari is in Winston, Oregon, near Roseburg, about 3 hours from Portland.  But armed with musical soundtracks, coloring books, and story prompt cards, it really wasn’t that bad.  It’s just a few minutes off of I-5, making it a perfect way to break up a long road trip.

When we got there, I checked us in for both encounters, which was a quick and painless process.  Then we spent some time checking out the Children’s Zoo.  I tried to convince Chicken and Nugget that meant it was a zoo where the children were kept, but they didn’t buy it.  This area has goats, donkeys, jack rabbits, animals like that.  You can buy cups of feed for $.25 for a little added fun.   Outside of the Children’s zoo, there are flamingos, reptiles, little tiny monkeys, and a bald eagle.  There is also currently an exhibit with a baby cheetah and his puppy buddy.  Except for the feed, all of these areas are free and you can visit without entry to the driving portion of the park.  Parking is also free.  There is also the requisite gift shop (which doubles as guest services and the place where you check in for encounters), snack stand, and cafeteria.

Then it was time to head to our first encounter- the cheetahs.  We were loaded onto a school bus and driven to the cheetah area.  After unloading we were lead to a grassy field.  Staff members brought out a portion of a cheetah pelt since you aren’t allowed to actually touch the cheetah.  Another staff member gave an informational presentation about cheetah’s and the cheetah program.  Then each family was pulled aside to have their picture take with the cheetah.  You are required to give the cheetah a ten foot radius.  You can pay extra to get prints of the pictures the staff member takes, or they are happy to use your own camera or cell phone.  After everyone has their turn, there is more time for questions.  They also have the cheetah lay down for you to see and take additional pictures of before loading back on the bus and returning to the drop off point.

We enjoyed the experience.  Cheetah’s are Chicken’s favorite animals and I was able to find a Groupon for half off.  The staff were very knowledgeable.  However, I think if we had paid full price and if Chicken wasn’t so into cheetah’s we may have been a bit disappointed by the level of interaction.  The group was also much larger than I had been told the max group size was.  I don’t think it really negatively impacted the experience, but just be forewarned that can apparently happen.

After the cheetah encounter, we stopped for lunch at the cafe.  It has the typical park fare- burgers, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, veggie burgers, and the like.  Prices are comparable to what you would expect for the type of location, and while the food was nothing to write home about, it was adequate.  Since we were there right at lunch time, the lines were pretty long.  We began to get nervous that we were not going to get the food in time for the next encounter, but it all worked out in the end.  Yay!

And off we went to the giraffe encounter.  This time we rode in a vehicle that reminded me a of a hay bale ride at the pumpkin patch.  Except instead of hay bales it has bench seats.  The driver takes you through a portion of the park, which is an added bonus.  Once we arrived where the giraffes were, the giraffes immediately saw us and headed toward the truck, clearly in hopes of a snack.  We were given information about each giraffe, Erin, Maya, and 1-year-old Sally.  And may I just say, baby giraffes are adorable.  We were instructed on how to feed the giraffes and what to do if the giraffes became overly enthusiastic in their search for snack.

We formed a line and took turns feeding the giraffes until all of the food was gone.  The giraffes were calm, friendly, and stunning.  Of course, in a moment of parenting failure, right before it was Nuggets turn, I reached to put my hand on his shoulder and accidentally scratched his neck.  It scared him and he cried, missing one of his turns.  Sigh.  But we all rallied and he was finally up.  He was wide eyed and stunned as he got his chance.  It was so adorable.  And then the giraffe licked him.  He was not impressed.  Despite all his drama, he loved it and it fulfilled a lifelong dream.

The giraffe encounter was 100% worth it.  You get extra time in the park, and couldn’t get any closer to the giraffes.  They are incredible and majestic creatures, and having interaction with them felt like a once in a lifetime moment.  We didn’t feel rushed and we would absolutely do it again the next time we go.

After a quick snack, it was time to enter the drive through portion.  The idea of Wildlife Safari is that you are enclosed and the animals roam free.  Basically this means you stay in your car and the animals wander around.  It take an hour to an hour and a half to make your way through the park.  Along the way you will see zebras, elephants, tigers, bears, turkeys, buffalos, giraffes, dear, ostriches, and many others.  It’s truly amazing.  The animals are not afraid and often come quite close to the vehicles.

Near the end of the driving loop, you have the option of buying a cup of animal feed for $5.  Should you choose to do so, you will be incredibly popular with the deer, ostriches, and other animals in the area.  We bought one cup for the kids to share, and it it kept them plenty busy and definitely felt like enough.  Beware the ostrich- they can be a bit aggressive!

All in all, it was a wonderful day.  We arrived at the park at 10 in the morning, and left around 3.  We were busy the whole time and probably could have stayed longer if we weren’t facing the drive home.

Admission to each encounter and to the driving portion is by person and can add up pretty quickly.  Luckily, Groupon regularly has deals for admission, the cheetah encounter, and the elephant encounter (which is on our to-do list for next time), dropping the cost by about half.  So always check there first!  If you are lucky, you can sometime catch an additional discount if Groupon is running a special on Local Deals.

What it is: a drive through zoo, beautiful, a unique opportunity to see animals close-up in a setting closer to their natural habitat than a zoo, fun, a perfect stop to break up the drive from northern Oregon to southern Oregon or California

What it’s not: cheap, close to the Portland area

Do we recommend it? The park itself and the giraffe encounter- whole heartedly!!  The cheetah encounter- if cheetahs are totally your thing and you have ample budget, go for it.  Otherwise, I would save your money for one of the other opportunities.

More information about the park, encounters, events, and everything else can be found here:  https://wildlifesafari.net/

 

 

Adventure Box, Cultural Activities, Holiday, Winter Activities

Chinese New Year in Portland

Chicken and Nugget are part Vietnamese, and one of their favorite things about being Vietnamese, apart from the food, is celebrating Chinese New Year.  It means a feast and games with family, parades, lion dances, and dragon dances.  Nugget in particular is all in when it comes to the celebration.  He even has his own kid sized lion dance costume, which I must say he looks adorable in.

Portland actually has a variety of Chinese New Year celebrations if you know where to look.  So far this year we participated in two events.  Chinese New Year is technically over, but we have one more thing to do this weekend!  Maybe these activities will prompt you to seek out some celebratory adventures next year.

This year I took Nugget downtown for the Chinese New Year opening parade.  We got there really early- like first-ones-there early.  This was good because we got to spend time picking out the prime location.  Nugget changed his mind about where this might be about eight times, but we really did wind up in the perfect spot!

The celebration starts in front of the Siren theater, off 3rd and Davis.  People used bamboo fishing poles to lower down fire crackers that were set off in metal baskets.  Then came the dragon, lion dancers, and what Nugget refers to as the “fat baby” accompanied by a live drummer.  After the initial performance is over, you are invited to follow the lions as the visit local Asian merchants to wish them a prosperous new year.  Nugget was thrilled to be up close and personal with the lion and giggled as the “lions” were fed lettuce that they “accidentally” tossed into the audience.  The whole thing ends in off Burnside near the Chinese Garden.  You have the option of entering the Chinese Garden (paid admission) for even more activities.

I believe this was the 4th year that this parade has taken place, and hopefully it will happen for many years to come.  It is a fun, family friendly parade that provides a glimpse into some of the fun traditions associated with Chinese New Year.  It is important to note that the firecrackers and drumming are quite loud, which may be disconcerting to some littles who are not used to the sound.  Even Nugget, now 6, a child who has seen these things many, many, times, proudly stated “I didn’t even cover my ears or cry this time!”  And he LOVES it.

Nugget then accompanied his dad to the Chinese Lantern Lighting at Lan Su Chinese Garden as one of his “tickets” from the adventure box the kiddos got for Christmas.  This is a closing celebration that takes place over a few days at the Chinese Garden.  The garden is lit up with beautiful traditional lanterns and the pond his home to a glowing 20 foot dragon.  There are more lion dances, music, dance performances, and activities.  Nugget came home as happy as a little clam.  He thought the lion dances were fantastic, and he was very proud of the paper lantern he made as well as the paper he brought home that had Chinese calligraphy on it.

Tickets to this event, which can be purchased on Lan Su’s website, did sell out for all dates a couple of weeks before the event, so don’t procrastinate!  Adults were $45 and children were $15.  Hot cider was provided, and additional food and beverages were available for purchase.  It is an outdoor event on a February evening, so make sure and dress warm!

Adventure Box, Day Trips, Fun Gift Ideas, Holiday, Winter Activities

Cinnamon Bear Cruise- Portland Spirit Holiday Fun

This was our fifth year doing the Cinnamon Bear Cruise. So the kids clearly like it. Each year they have opted to have tickets be their gift from their grandpa in lieu of toys, so you know it’s a hit.

So what is the Cinnamon Bear Cruise? It’s based on a radio program from before the days of TV. There is also a book you can check out from the library to give your littles some context. It’s cute, but not one of our go to stories. Even if your kids don’t know the story and the characters, there is a good chance they will enjoy the novelty of the experience.

Then there’s the cruise. It lasts about 2 hours and departs from downtown Portland. There are light snacks- fruit, scones, coffee, hot chocolate, yogurt, that kind of thing. Boarding is a simple process and is facilitated by characters in costume. You even get to take a boarding photo with Captain Taffy, which you can later purchase for $10.

There are several activities that involve characters from the story- story time with Queen Melissa, singing carols with the fairies, pictures with Crazy Quilt Dragon, learning to be a pirate with Captain Taffy, a magic show with Presto the Magician, pictures with the Cinnamon bear (a copy of which is included in the price of the cruise), etc. And it is always fun to sit sipping coffee or hot chocolate and watch the city go by. Chicken and Nugget are always excited to spot OMSI and Oaks Park. One year we even spotted Santa paddle boarding down the river!

It took Nugget a couple years to warm up the the Cinnamon Bear in vivo character. Now he is a pro. This year he put on his pirate costume, complete with pirate booty, and was ready to go. He even got character signatures just like he does at plays. Chicken is more subtle and looks forward to the magic show every year. And the melon. Always the melon.

I don’t know how much longer Chicken will want to do it- I think she is getting close to the upper age that would find it interesting. But as long as they still think it’s fun, we will keep going. It has become a family holiday tradition that we all look forward to for the whole year.

The good: fun, unique, great holiday tradition, snacks and Cinnamon Bear photo are included, the magic show is pretty funny

The not great: For a large family it can get rather expensive, certain dates can be rather crowded

The cruises usually start around Thanksgiving and run until around Christmas time. You can find more information and buy tickets on their website: http://cinnamonbearcruise.com/

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Adventure Box, Holiday, Theater

Wizard of Oz- Portland Panto Players

Portland Panto Players. Oh my! This was one of the first “tickets” the kiddos found in their new Christmas Mailbox. Portland Panto Players is a group that formed in 2017 to perform panto plays around the holidays. If you are new to pantos, like me, here is the scoop. (Thank you, Google!) Apparently Brits have developed this style of theater and it is a typical holiday family outing. A traditional panto takes a well known story, in this case Wizard of Oz, and tweaks it. Like, a lot. Every panto has a villian, a dame (an older female character played by a man), and incorporates modern music, pop culture references, adds new characters, and takes liberties with the story line.

In this case, Auntie was played by a man with a beard parted into pigtails. Beardtails? I don’t know. The flying monkeys rapped Ice, Ice, Baby. For reals. Glenda sang Popular (yay!), and Dorothy’s sister Hannah sang a line from Book of Mormon when knocking on the Wicked Witch’s door. We Are Family and The Lion Sleeps Tonight also made enthusiastic appearances. The Tin Man was still in search of his heart, but had been gifted a pair of silver balls on a string that he was told was his dingaling. Which resulted in the cast singing about how they want to play with My Dingaling. Yes, you read that right.

There is a lot more audience interaction than is typical of theater, which was a lot of fun. Characters spoke directly to audience members and incorporated the comments little kids couldn’t keep inside. You are encouraged to boo the villain (which Nugget did with gusto) and shout out warnings to the cast when the bad guys are approaching. Humor was over the top and very heavy on the puns. The set was simple but effective, and a video screen with prerecorded pieces was used when certain staging couldn’t be accomplished. The cast was clearly having fun and were decent singers and actors, although not necessarily professional caliber. Most of it was family friendly even if the humor went over the kids’ heads a lot of the time. There was plenty of funny in there for them, too. Depending on your sense of humor and propriety, the whole Dingaling song could have crossed a line for some. Chicken and Nugget knew they were missing out on something critical and spent a good bit of time this afternoon discussing what exactly it could be referring to.

I can honestly say I have never been to anything quite like it. Did I like it? I have no idea. I want to say no, but I laughed out loud multiple times so I must have, right?

Chicken loved it and said she would go to every single one they ever do. Nugget was a bit gobsmacked. I’m not sure he knows what just happened to him. I am pretty much in his camp.

Portland Panto Players indicated they are aiming to make this a yearly tradition and they are planning on putting on a 2019 show. Will we be there? Maybe. We will see how the mood strikes us and what else we have going on.

Tickets ran $8 to $12. More information on their shows and panto in general can be found here: https://portlandpantoplayers.com/

Adventure Box, Fun Gift Ideas, Holiday

Adventure Box- Christmas Done Differently

Does anyone else get tired of the piles of toys that never get played with? Tired of putting toys away or nagging the kiddos to do it themselves? I do. Chicken and Nugget each have a handful of favorite toys they play with a lot- soccer balls, drums, and a couple special stuffed animals for Nugget and Legos and figurines for Chicken. Other than that, they really aren’t “toy kids.” Which makes me very happy. And yet, the masses of stuff continue to accrue.

So this year I am taking a risk and doing Christmas differently. They will each have a couple of presents under the tree- a Lego set and special book for Chicken, and a fancy soccer ball and a game for Nugget. Other than that, I am building up an adventure box for each of them.

Adventure box is probably the wrong name. It’s not actually going to be in a box. But I don’t know what else to call it. Ideas? The general idea is that each month, I will surprise the kids with a fun activity or day trip.

I bought a metal winter themed mailbox from from a local craft store when it was 70% off, and it’s already in our living room to get the kids used to seeing it there so they won’t be overly curious and ruin any upcoming surprises. I also got small decorative gift bags- the solid paper kind, not the see through plastic ones, that are about 3.5 inches wide and 6.75 inches long. I got editable “Christmas coupons” off of Etsy- there are a wide variety of designs and coupon ideas on that sight. Then I started making a list of ideas.

The development of the idea list has been a lot of fun! Of course, since I am planning for a whole year, it will be a work in progress. But it has been a fun excuse to look into upcoming events in our area. The idea is that once a month, I will tell them to go look in the mailbox in our living room. Inside, they will find one of the treat bags. I put gift tags on their bags with their names on them. Inside the envelope, they will find a “ticket” or “coupon” for some fun activity we will be doing.

I have a letter prepared for them that will be inside the mailbox on Christmas along with their first envelope. It explains the idea and lays out the parameters- how often, when, that sometimes they will do the same thing, sometimes different things, some months will be something big, something small, etc.

Examples of things that I have planned include movie dates for movies I know they will want to see, train rides, rail riding, breakfast at a fun local restaurant they haven’t been to followed by mini golf, bowling, tea parties, tickets to a local sports game, a day trip to the mountain, holiday and cultural events, a day trip with their grandpa, things like that.

I have a few pros I am using to justify this idea in my head. It means less stuff to deal with! Yay! As a mom, I love the idea of getting to build all of these memories with the kids. I know they are definitely more meaningful to me as a mom than a pile of toys, and I hope to the kids will view it that way as well, especially as they get older. Financially, I will be able to buy tickets for things as time gets closer. While I have a feeling I will wind up spending more than I would have on pure toys, I will be able to spread the cost out over the course of the year with less impact just at the holiday time. Another bonus is that I can count things we would likely have done anyway as Christmas presents and now it is more exciting because they get to look in the mailbox and open a cute envelope with their name on it. I mean, let’s be honest. We are going to Mary Poppins Returns no matter what. But now it’s a Christmas present! Now they’ll probably get popcorn out of the deal, so it’s a win win!

I acknowledge a few cons. It’s going to take a lot of planning. But I am nothing if not a planner, so I’m ok with that. They may not like it. I have a feeling they will, but you never know. And they way I plan on doing it could get costly, even though the cost will get spread out. But since it is all surprises, I can change my plans as needed for any reason, and the kids will never know.

I think this concept has the potential to work for a lot of scenarios- birthdays, Hanukkah, Easter, ect. It could also be modified to meet the needs or interests of any family. Don’t want to commit to planning for a whole year? Do it for a couple of months. Or pick a handful of activities and tell your kids about all of them on Christmas Eve/Day. Worried they will miss getting toys? Incorporate a toy or gift card as the surprise for some of the months. Or give a small gift card to different places they like each month. Worried about the cost? Simplify things. Go for ice cream, give a coupon for them to pick a movie to rent, make one of the surprises an afternoon of baking cookies with you. There are endless ways you could tweak this, and I might wind up making changes along the way based on how Chicken and Nugget are responding.

I have hopes they will think this is a great idea. They love going and doing things. They have asked for tickets to a local holiday event (more on that in a separate upcoming post)as their only gift from their grandpa for the last four years. Or this could be a total dud. You could read a future posts from me, head hanging in shame, telling you to never, ever, do this. But I sure hope not!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this, especially if you ever implement something similar with your family!