Archive | December, 2011

The BEST Christmas gift…ever!

23 Dec

With Christmas just around the corner, literally, the stores are filled with last minute shoppers.  This year why not get the kids in your life the gift “that keeps on giving the whole year?”  A gift that doesn’t require batteries, won’t be outdated in six months and will never wind up in the land of forgotten toys.  What am I talking about?

Why, a Book of course!

Now, it’s no secret that I love books.  To me, the smell of a new book is right up there with the scent of a newborn baby, the ‘new car’ smell and the fresh ocean breeze.  A good picture book can capture the wonder of your childhood between its pages, becoming a sort of time machine back to when you were young.  Because let’s face it, as adults…we change.  We see less, we laugh less and we think we know everything.  We lose our sense of wonder.  But between those pages of our past we can go back to a time where each day was new and everything was possible.

So, I have compiled a list of my favorite little time machines.  I’ll spare you the classics like “Goodnight Moon” and “Dr. Seuss” and focus on the gems I’ve stumbled upon through my journey with my boys and the lesser known ones I remember from my past:

 The Water Hole by Graeme Base – Follow the animal kingdom as they drink from the waterhole until the   very last drop.  Each page is full of hidden creatures for little readers to find in the most breathtaking illustrations you’ll ever see.  The bonus of this book is the hidden meaning of how connected we really are to one another.

 One by Kathryn Otoshi– Every once in a while a book comes along and steals your breath away.  This book does just that.  Its drawings are simple, as is the story, yet there is something there that opens your mind to something greater.

 

 When I was a Boy I Dreamed by Justin Matott– A young boy describes all the wonderful things he wanted to be when he grew up.  From a great explorer to a dragon slayer, the illustrations by Mark Ludy include a mouse to find on every page.  Also check out When I was Girl I Dreamed.

 

 

 Where’s the Dragon? By Jason Hook– A grandfather goes on a dragon hunting quest with his grandson.  See what they don’t see in this dragon filled book.  Beautifully illustrated and creative story.

 

 

 Have you Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud– All about happiness and others, this book explains how easy it is to bring someone up as well as tear someone down.  A must have for all humans in my opinion.  I love this one so much, I developed a project at home for my boys based around it.

I Love you Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt– A story about how unconditional a mother’s love is.  Funny text and illustrations, this one keeps little ones interests the whole way through.

 

 The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds– The perfect gift for any graduate, this book tackles the difficult journey of life through simple text and illustrations.  I love this story for its subtle way of guiding the reader on their own path.

 

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein– I couldn’t go without mentioning the book of poems that trapped my laughter within it’s pages.  Shel Silverstein has that magical way of remembering the thoughts of children and drawing them out in silly images and poems to match.  My favorite was The Crocodile Dentist, though my brothers favorite was Sister for Sale!

There are of course hundreds more I could go on about, but I’ll leave you to discover those on your own.  I hope you find the magic on the pages as I did with my boys.  Happy Reading!  Merry Christmas!  And may your childhood always be just a page turn away!

Let me know any of your favorite childhood books so I can share them with my kids.

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Christmas Destinations!

6 Dec

It’s Christmas in the Pacific Northwest!  And what better place to celebrate Christmas than the land of Christmas tree farms and…well, more Christmas tree farms.  Where the air is crisp, the horizon is clear and the lights are strung the day after Thanksgiving.  We may not have the classic white winter, but what we lack in snow we make up in festive activities.  This year, thanks to my Mother-in-law and my Mom, I heard about a little place called Alpenrose Dairy (and when I say little I mean enormous).  For any of you milk drinkers out there you may have heard of them, but what you haven’t heard is that every Christmas they turn their old west town into a Christmas Village.  So off we went on another adventure.

About a twenty five minute drive from Vancouver, Alpenrose Dairy sits just outside of Portland.  We were welcomed by a friendly old man wearing a Santa hat and the kind of sincere smile you only find on the farm.  The village was a vision straight off a holiday postcard.  Each building designed from the old west days with a wooden sidewalk and old signs reading General Store and Ice Cream Parlor was decorated with holiday lights and snowy windows.  Our first stop was the old theatre, where an army band was playing Christmas tunes on their instruments atop the stage.  The theatre alone was worth the drive.  Delicately decorated with soft yellow lights from the top of the old balconies to the pillars of the stage, one could practically smell the Christmas ghosts no doubt lingering in the seats.  After that it was off to explore, peering in windows and taking pictures by the many decorations. 

One of the boy’s favorite stops was a wonderful little train shop where the trains ran on their own through a tiny little village made by grown men wearing what else, conductor hats.  They had a Santa on site for those itching to get a jump start on their lists, but we bypassed that as we have a favorite Santa we visit each year.  The hot chocolate and coffee were just what we needed on the cold stroll through the village, where it seemed every detail was put into place.  The last stop on our journey was Storybook Lane.  An old barn transformed into a winter wonderland, where the smell of Christmas hung in the air and instantly brought you back to those mornings as a kid.  Each display offered a different story with live farm animals to pet and adore.  From the Three Billy Goats Gruff, with actual pigmy goats to the Three Little Pigs with a live pig snorting around his house.  I won’t spoil the rest, for it truly is a creative masterpiece.

While I’m sure by now you have one foot out the door headed to this enchanting Christmas getaway, wait, I haven’t even told you the best part.  The entire day (aside from the drinks) was FREE.  And don’t be scared off by the farm atmosphere, the whole town was paved so no need to break out your overalls and work boots.  So if you’re in the mood for a fun, family adventure with a hint of Christmas, check it out.  I’m sure it will become a staple in your holiday season.

Other Holiday things to do:

Zoo Lights:  A bit expensive if you aren’t a member, but if you’ve never been, worth the money.

Christmas Ships:  Check the web site for the schedule.  You can enjoy them from the restaurants on the water or do what we do, brew up a thermos of hot chocolate and find a good parking spot with a view of the river.  Bring a blanket and just wait.

Winter Wonderland:  $16.00 a car.  Enjoy the lights at a slow driving pace.  Worth the price if you’ve never been.

Let me know of your holiday favorites.  I’m always on the lookout for fun family ideas.