Coffee Shops & Restaurants, Holiday

Tea’s Me- Hillsboro, Oregon

Tea parties are such a fun pretend play activity for both little girls and little boys.  If you have littles, I am sure you have been served many a cup of tea by a beaming child with a questionably clean pretend cup (or real, if you’re particularly brave).  Chicken was not a huge tea party girl, but once Nugget came along, he embraced the concept and led many a tea party on our living room floor.

However, as Chicken got older, she became increasingly curious about the real deal.  So I started searching the area and stumbled across Tea’s Me.   We took the plunge for Chicken’s 5th birthday- a tea party at Tea’s Me followed by a showing of the Lion King downtown.  Although not a dress-up kind of girl, she proudly put on a new dress, shiny shoes, and pranced into the tea house.  It is still a treasured memory.

We both fell in love.  Tea’s Me is housed in a small building not far off of a main road in the area.  But it is very easy to pass by if you do not know it is there.  The owner serves a variety of high teas, from simple tea and scones to the classic three tiered delight.  We, of course, went all in.  It is simply decorated but comfortable, and has a small gift area with tea related gifts as well as packages of their tea blends and other food items.

Service starts with homemade sorbet- a different flavor each time.  Now that we have been several times, we each look forward to the flavor of the day.  Our favorite has been prickly pear, which Chicken excitedly said she had always wanted to try since they talk about it all the time on the Food Network.  There is also soup (always yummy), house made scones (always a plain and one with additions like blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips, etc.), finger sandwiches, phyllo dough purses, a pastry cup with cream cheese and pepper jelly, other savory treats, and a variety of bite sized desserts at the top.  It is all served with sides of jam, clotted cream, and lemon curd.

The tea menu is extensive and includes a variety of teas as well as non caffeinated teas.  Many of the teas can be served hot or iced and the staff is great about making recommendations.  You can also have tea refills and even change the type of tea.  Not, Chicken, though.  It is a solid eight cups of blueberry tea for her.

Tea’s Me does offer a “Princess Tea”- smaller amounts of food with foods that are considered more kid friendly- a heart shaped peanut butter and jelly, fancy pigs in a blanket, etc.  That, Chicken was not impressed with.  She is a total foodie and wants the grown up food.  So now we order her the smaller full tea service and she gobbles it all up.  So there are options to please the kiddos if yours aren’t very adventurous eaters.

Half the fun of going here is watching Chicken eat.  She oohs and aahs, proudly pours her own blueberry tea from her own tea pot, moans and groans in foodie heaven (I have to reign her in so it doesn’t become too When Harry Met Sally), and informs the waitress that the food they make there is divine.  We have now gone several times for special occasions like her birthday, Mother’s day, a date with a friend she hadn’t seen in a long time, and most recently, for their Chinese New Year tea.  The first time we went, she asked if she could have her wedding there, so I think she was impressed.

It is also a great place for a mom’s day out.  A group of friends I have had since high school (some of them since elementary school) have made a tradition for the past several years of going here around the holidays.  It is a wonderful place to relax, feel taken care of, and feel like you are doing something special with a group of people you care about.  I look forward to it every year.

Tea’s Me also does some special events.  They have done Red Hat teas, Mother’s Day teas, as well as event for Valentines Day.  As I mentioned, Chicken and I went to the recent Chinese New Year tea and it was great.  The tea service was mostly the same as the typical tea with a couple of Chinese influenced dishes.  There were Chinese New Year’s decorations, Chinese zodiac placemats, periodic sharing of information, and raffle give aways.  Chicken and I both won!  While there, they indicated they would also be doing events around the Queen’s birthday and would be doing a “baby shower” for the upcoming royal babies.

This is not a place for our tiniest friends.  All dishes on the table are breakable and service takes about two hours.  Each time we have gone she has been the only child, although I once saw another child there when I went with some grown-up friends.  But for the right child, it can be a wonderful outing and a delicious meal. You’ll be surprised how full you are at the end!

What it Is: a delightful tea house, a great place for a special treat with your child or friends, delicious food, a place where your child can feel like a grown up in a fun and wholesome way, a place to celebrate moments, a bit on the pricey side (although not out of line if viewed as a special occasion), cash only, reservation only

What it’s Not: meant for tiny people who may struggle to sit still for a two hour meal, a place catering to children (they are welcome but I wouldn’t describe it as a children’s restaurant at all)

Tea’s Me’s location, menu, and pricing can be found at http://www.teasme.com/

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!

Books, Fun Gift Ideas, Holiday

Little Bookish Wardrobe- one of Nugget’s Favorite New Things

Nugget loves a good dress-up day. Like every day. He lived in his Hamilton costume for a solid 6 months and I bought him a George Washington costume so that the Hamilton costume could get washed with a bit more frequency. We love going to plays and he routinely comes home to sing the songs, make costumes out of paper, rearrange our furniture to look like the set, and make posters advertising his version of the play. He started kindergarten this year and having to wear a school uniform has been killing him. I had to present it as his “school costume” to get him to buy in.

So I knew when I was looking for Christmas inspiration this year that I had struck gold with Little Bookish Wardrobe. It has been so much fun for both of us!

It is a subscription box that you can get on a regular basis or just pick one box as a gift. Each month you get a hardcover children’s book, a related costume and accessories, a card with reading comprehension/discussion questions and suggested play activities, as well as a simple craft that goes with the story. Most months seem to have a boy and girl option, while some months are more gender neutral. You can choose to be surprised or take a look at the monthly hint to make sure it is something you think your child will enjoy. It all comes in an adorable box that immediately gives you a sense of the whimsical nature of the company. Nugget loves the boxes and has been saving them to keep his costumes in.

I initially ordered just one box as a gift in order to try it out. Then I ordered two more. Then I broke down and subscribed. It is just too much cuteness!

Our first box came with a book about penguins arguing about who was the true star of the story, only to be partially erased by the illustrator when they couldn’t get along. When Nugget saw the accompanying penguin costume, complete with penguin feet, he literally gasped in amazed happiness. He immediately put on the costume, crawled into my bed, and asked me to read the story. He wore it all day, and even practiced his waddle while singing songs from Mary Poppins. Because, you know, the penguin song. The pinecone penguin craft was also adorable.

The next box we opened had a book called Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. I wouldn’t say this was Nugget’s favorite book, but he LOVED the dracula costume. It came with a cape, fake teeth, a bat, black pants, and the ever popular cravat, all of which he immediately began styling in attempt to make it look like Jefferson from Hamilton. He has a bit of a Hamilton obsession. I’m good with that.

Next was a book about all the things Santa does other than deliver presents. It came with cream tights (we re-named them leggings as he was concerned tights may turn him into a ballerina), and a soft sleeveless reindeer vest that zipped up the front and had a reindeer face and antlers on his hood. It even had a red nose! So of course he had to wear that to the optometrist. What? That isn’t what you wear to the eye doctor? You should try it some time. You get a lot of smiles and compliments that make you prance like Rudolph himself. Especially if you are belting out Hamildolph. (Google it. It’s Rudolph’s story set to music from Hamilton. It’s amazing!).

Our most recent box came this week. It contained a book called Big Whoop and I think it was our favorite book so far. A cranky fox has two friends who come up with increasingly wild stories and finally a gift in a effort to make their fox friend smile. It came with a a full body fox costume, complete with a fox head on the hood! Nugget immediately dropped trow to put it on and even wore it to soccer. We haven’t done the moon rock craft yet, but he is excited to do so.

All of the books have been high quality, simple but entertaining stories with beautiful pictures. They aren’t necessarily newly published books, so it has been fun to discover books we may not have otherwise found. The crafts have been simple and fun. The costumes are adorable. They have varied from somewhat better than Halloween costume quality to very nice. Nugget is already debating which one will make the best Halloween costume and has several times said “I wish we could wear costumes to school,” with a long, loud, longing sigh.

Little Bookish Wardrobe has been a treasure find. It allows us to build upon our two favorite things- books and costumes. It has facilitated creative play, snuggle time, extra story time at bedtime, and lots of smiles and excitement. For us as well as the general public. 🙂 I have reached out to the company owner with questions and she has been nothing but prompt and friendly in her replies.

What it is: fun, creative, supportive of literacy and imaginative play, a great gift, a good value for what you get, perfect for the child who loves to dress up, good for the younger child, a learning and conversation tool, a friendly and accessible small business

What it is not: for kids probably over 7 or 8

Would we recommend it? 1000%! It is such a fun subscription box. I only wish we had found it sooner!

You can find out more information at: https://www.littlebookishwardrobe.com/

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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Holiday, Winter Activities

Oregon Zoo Lights

We do lots of things. And I jam as much holiday fun in as we can. Yet I have avoided zoo lights like the plague. We went when Chicken was probably around 1. Almost an hour just to find parking, leading to a hungry and screeching Chicken in the back seat. Freezing cold and rain. So stinking crowded you couldn’t see the lights. I was traumatized and never looked back.

Until this year. Grandpa has a zoo membership and asked if we wanted to go. Chicken and Nugget immediately accepted the invitation and I couldn’t bring myself to be the evil villain who rained on their holiday parade. I mean, that was going to happen at zoo lights anyway, right?

I am now a more experienced mom. I packed my bag full of snacks. We took the Max. I put them in their warmest coats and brought along the hats, scarves, and gloves. We were ready for zoo lights battle. I was feeling pretty good about myself and was ready to kick some butt.

We went on the very last day of zoo lights, so I was ready to deal with all the other zoo lights stragglers. Of which there were essentially none. We disembarked from the Max to find a pretty empty parking lot. There was no line to get in. No line for the zoo train. No line at the bathrooms. No line for food. There were other people, but it was in no way crowded. It didn’t rain and it wasn’t even cold. My preparation turned me into a pack mule as I lugged around the unneeded gear.

It was completely great. We got there before dark and the majority of the animals were out. We got to see several animals close up that we often struggle to find. We could see all the lights, take pictures without a bunch of people we didn’t know in them, and could move about freely as we pleased rather than being pushed along by the masses. We wound up staying about four hours, which prompted us to grab a quick bite at the AfriCafe, which we shared with about three other people. It was fantastic.

I have no idea what the difference was. Was it because it was after Christmas? Because Portland Public Schools was already back in session? Because literally everyone else in Portland had already gone? I have no clue. But we were all thrilled.

Nugget said his favorite part was the giraffes and the zoo lights train. Chicken liked just about everything.

The Good: beautiful lights, a way to mix things up at the zoo, fun holiday tradition

The Not Great: it’s a zoo, which has its own set of ethical dilemmas, it can be waaaaaaaay more crowded than it was today

Would we recommend it? On a day like today- absolutely! On a day like last time- never in a million years. The gamble is yours, my friends!

 

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/

Camps and Classes, Holiday, Theater

Mary Poppins at North West Children’s Theater

This weekend we had the pleasure of meeting some friends at Northwest Children’s Theater for their holiday show- Mary Poppins! The day was fantastic for many reasons.

Chicken participated in their Girl Scouts workshop before the show. It was such a fun experience for her! There were four teachers, some of whom she recognized from other shows we have gone to. I mean, she got to hang out with Donkey from Shrek the Musical! That alone made her day. They played acting games, saw backstage, and explored the costume area. They even learned one of the songs and a bit of the choreography. She had so many things to share with us when it was over.

While she did that, Nugget and I headed to Starbucks to meet some special people in our lives and play Uno. A win for all! Well, me. I crushed him. No mercy, mamas! Then it was time to wander back over to the theater.

The look on his face when he saw his little buddy and the hug they gave each other made my eyes fill with tears. They were so excited to see each other and to see the play!

The opening set was beautiful. Light was used to portray smoke rising from chimneys, which fascinated both boys. All of the sets were beautiful and changed frequently. The kid actors were adorable and Mary Poppins herself was spot on. All of classic songs are there, along with some not found in the movie. Mary Poppins did her flying with an umbrella thing, which was a huge highlight for all the kids. Choreography seemed like it was in slow motion, but the kids seemed to like it because it made it easier for them to mimic later. Actors frequently used the aisle, and Nugget did not ask even once if they were there to eat him.

As we left the show, our little 5-year-old buddy said “that was awesome!” as Nugget proudly sached down the aisle singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite. The girls were a little deeper in their thoughts and had lots of good things to say.

As always, the kids had fun getting their programs signed and their pictures taken. As usual, Nugget refused to go near any of the girls. He is so weird.

Once we got home, they played the soundtrack on our Alexa and Nugget even put on a penguin costume to act out the penguin scene from the movie (the song is in the play but is sadly penguin free).

So….

What it is: a fun family holiday show, full of music and beautiful sets, engaging, perfectly time for those dying to see the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns movie (me! me!), a great date afternoon for the family.

What it is not: Short! It ran about 3 hours with the intermission so may not be the best choice for very young children who aren’t used to theater

Would we recommend it? Yes! Completely! It is running through January 6th and tickets, or what is left of them, can be found here:

https://nwcts.org/

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!