Zoo Lights at The Oregon Zoo

Zoo Lights at The Oregon Zoo
Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo

Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo is one of the holiday activities we’ve always meant to do, but never managed to actually attend.  In Portland, the holiday season is so packed with holiday fairs, parties, and related activities, it’s easy to put off going to things like Zoo Lights or Peacock Lane until it’s too late.  This year we had the opportunity to make it to the Zoo Lights earlier in their run.  Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the massive crowds and bitter cold that we experienced at the Oregon Zoo.

Books Family

Hot Cocoa with Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee

Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee House
Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee

Here’s something that is uniquely Portland. Tessy and Tab Reading Club, a twice per month subscription by mail ‘magazine’ for early readers (aged 2-6) is located on the east side of Portland.  One afternoon late last year, magazine publisher Judy MacDonald Johnston followed her love for coffee to the newly opened  Heart Coffee on  NE 22nd and Burnside.  She was so taken with the coffee shop that she decided to make it the subject of the an issue of Tessy and Tab.

The result is a pairing of two fantastic local craft businesses, each with a strong vision and passion for doing something unique.

Tessy and Tab Reading Club is a breath of fresh air in a market where even 2 year olds are heavily marketed to. Focused on developing early readers, it delivers two printed booklet-like magazines per month via mail.  The club helps instill the the love, passion and skills for early readers. It provides an exceptional ‘marketing free’ environment for kids to learn to read. We’ve been subscribers to the club for many years and have given subscriptions as gifts. It’s a truly exceptional publication and it’s located right here in Portland.

Heart Coffee is a relatively new coffee house and roaster (run by notable snowboarder Willi Yli-Luma). Featuring one of the simplest and most straightforward menus I’ve seen in a coffee shop, Heart Coffee has an extremely myopic focus on servering the absolute best coffee you can get in a cup.  While I was there for the “Cocoa with Tessy and Tab” event they were roasting beans. You’d think that they were conducting a science experiment.  I’ve seen beans roasted in many places in town, but never with such intense focus and attention.  The coffee served at Heart is out of this world and is in the league with some of the very best coffee in Portland.

Since the issue of Tessy and Tab takes place at Heart Coffee, the owners of both companies invited local subscribers to come to Heart Coffee to share some hot cocoa and meet the reading club creators.  The baristas from Heart Coffee drew elaborate pictures in the foam of the hot cocoas and the kids colored in pictures of the barista’s animal alter egos from the latest issue. It was a fantastic pairing of two local businesses following their hearts and doing something special.

For More info:

Events Family Green Living

Sunday Parkways in Portland

Sunday Parkways Aug 16
Sunday Parkways Aug 16

I’ve lived in Portland for seventeen years, and of all the events, activities and festivals I’ve attended in the city, one of my absolute favorite is Sunday Parkways. The event is extraordinarily simple: several miles of urban roads are closed to cars and become the playground for bikes, pedestrians, strollers, roller bladers, unicyclists, anything BUT motorized vehicles.  This year the Portland Office of Transportation in conjunction with ORBike and Metro have set three Sunday Parkways in three different neighborhoods of Portland. I missed the first one on June 21st in North Portland (and am now kicking myself for missing it), but did manage to attend the one on July 19th in North East Portland and it was exceptional.

In addition to over 7 miles of closed streets the Sunday Parkways also features mini park fests along the way with food, entertainment, activities and free bike servicing.  The third and final Sunday Parkways of the year takes place in Southeast Portland on Sunday August 16th from 9am to 4pm.  Unlike other cycling events in Portland (like Providence Bridge Pedal) the Sunday Parkways event is completely free.

The Southeast route is by far the best of the three parkways with a 9 mile closed course which includes a “5 mile relatively flat loop through portions of the Buckman, Kerns, Laurelhurst, Richmond, Sunnyside neighborhoods.” and it connects to a ” second, more challenging, 4-mile Mt Tabor loop will be optional to summit the only volcano in the City limits. The route will also cross the SE Hawthorne, Division and Belmont business areas”

There is not start or finish spot for the event. You can join in at any intersection and loop in either direction.  A detailed map of the Southeast Sunday Parkways can be found here. There’s also a complete breakdown of all the vendors and events at each Sunday Parkways park (the main park stops are: Laurelhurst Park, Mt. Tabor Park, Colonel Summers Park and Sunny Side Park).  The Southeast Sunday Parkway also intersects the Hawthorne Street Fair creating one of the most unbeatable combinations of events I’ve seen in Portland.

Not only is this event free, it features a ton of goods and services which are offered free, including:  Bike Empowered complimentary bike safety checks and repairs, BTA/Safe Route To Schools kids bike fitting and training  (both at Colonel Summers Park), REI free climbing Wall and Portland Wheelman flat tire repair classes (at Laurelhurst Park).

I’m hard pressed to come up with a better example of an event that illustrates why Portland is such an amazing city, it’s absolutely not to be missed. So do yourself a favor and make your way on Sunday to this amazing event.

For more information on Sunday Parkways:

Family Movies Music

Girls Rock The Movie – Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls on DVD

Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27
Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27

Portland is home to the internationally renowned Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.  Each summer, groups of girls come together in the camp’s North Portland facility and form rock bands. Over the course of a week they learn, write, practice and perfect their songs. The finale of the week long camp is a performance in front of over 700 people at the Bagdad Theater.

This Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls experience was captured in the documentary Girls Rock! The Movie which follows a group of girls through a week at the camp in 2007. What’s so amazing about the documentary (and the camp) is how transformed the campers are after just one week.  On day one there are girls who you never could imagine getting up in front of anyone to sing who belt it out in front of hundreds of fans.

I was fortunate enough to see Girls Rock! The Movie during its festival run with my daughter. It made such a huge impression on her, she applied to the next session of Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls (their application goes online each year at 12:01 new years eve, a new family new years tradition).

My daughter attended the camp camp in 2008 and had a blast. Her band The Lightening Girls, made a huge impression on her and boosted her self confidence immeasurably. She also came away from the camp knowing how to defend herself as the camp spends an entire afternoon dealing with self defense.  She’s already signed up to come back for the summer of 2009.

Girls Rock! The Movie is an exceptional documentary about an extraordinary place.  If you weren’t aware of the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls you’ll be amazed that such a phenomenal organization is right here in your back yard.

Buy Girls Rock! The Movie on DVD and pply to attend Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.


Children’s Healing Art Project Holiday Bizarre

Childhood Healing Art Project Holiday Bazarre
Children's Healing Art Project Holiday Bazarre

This past weekend we made our way down to The Pearl for ‘The Big Reveal‘. The idea was a great one, several Pearl merchants would reveal special holiday windows all at once in a grand event. The unfortunate thing was it was a complete non-event. The only real saving grace was that we stumbled upon CHAP’s (Children’s Healing Art Project) Holiday Bizarre (which runs till the 24th of December).

Located at 937 NW Glisan St, this special holiday bizarre features a number of DIY crafts and activities for kids. While we were there they had a woman working with the kids to make little pocket pals for $1.50! Talk about a great stalking stuffer.   In addition to pocket plas there are worskops for: animation, screen printing, clay critters, orgami, collage and more (see the complete schedule of workshops).

The Holiday Bizarre also features a huge collection of samples from Columbia Sportswear. Many of the samples are one of a kind. Prices ranged from $5 to $40 with some incredibly good bargains for quality clothing (some of the clothes has ‘sample’ written on them, so pick carefully).

The bizarre is not only a great spot for kids activities and an opportunity to pick up a steal of a deal on some sportswear, the CHAP’s Holiday Bizarre supports a very good cause. So if for no other reason than to support a fantastic local cause, I recommend visiting this bizarre!

Here’s another picture from the bizarre:

Columbia Sportswear at CHAP's Holiday Bizarre
Columbia Sportswear at CHAP

Tessy and Tab meet Clark The Baby Shark

Showing off the new Clark The Baby Shark
Showing off the new Clark The Baby Shark

This past Sunday, Blue Lake Children’s Publishing, publisher of the educational reading program Tessy & Tab, opened its doors to its young Portland readers to celebrate the upcoming holidays and unveil their newest project.

Tessy & Tab Early reading program is a subscription based service that delivers a new magazine to children 24 times a year. Targeted to children aged 2-6, Tessy & Tab is an integrated learning system that empowers kids to learn to read through self direction and discovery.  Each issue tackles a different theme, concept or activity that kids easily relate to and it’s often accompanied with related activities you can print out from the Tessy and Tab web site.

We’ve had a subscription to Tessy & Tab for my son for many years and although he just turned seven (and has technically ‘aged out’ of it), he still adores the publication and expresses the same level of excitement and enthusiasm as when we first started receiving it.

At their open house the Blue Lake Children’s Publishing unveiled Clark The Baby Shark, a new subscription program aimed at children 9-24 months. Clark is delivered in a special casing to enable toddlers to easily hold and look at the magazine. More importantly the magazine was designed with pages that won’t tear (a serious issue when giving books and magazines to toddlers). My youngest daughter absolutely loved Clark The Baby Shark and so when it’s available later this year we plan on picking up a subscription.

When I talk to other parents of young kids I’m surprised that more of them aren’t aware of Tessy & Tab. Not only is this local company producing the single best early reader product on the market but they’re doing it here in Portland.  The Tessy & Tab team are also amazingly receptive, every email suggestion or comment we’ve sent has received an immediate response.

Clark The Baby Shark subscriptions can be found on the Clark The Baby Shark site. Also be be sure to check out the sample Tessy & Tab issue which is online.

Family Food

Birthday Brunch at Beulahland

Reason #412 why I am madly in love with Portland. Today is my wife’s 36th birthday and so rather than go through the regular breakfast routine we decided to go down to NE 28th and catch a bite at Beulahland.

Even though the skies were foreboding we decided to walk down to Beulahland (and we were rewarded with a nice break in the clouds).

Beulahland for Brunch is an experience in simple perfection.  We had their basic brekky (done vegan) with piping hot stumptown coffee and a Manchester United game on their big screen (they beat Blackburn 2-0). Service was fast, friendly and our coffee cups were never devoid of steaming hot coffee.

I’ve traveled quite a bit and the experience at Beulahland for brunch reminds me of some of the best pub breakfasts I’ve had around the world.  It’s a simple gem and it’s right here in our back yard.