Christmas Countdown

Now that Eddie is old enough to properly anticipate Christmas, but not old enough to understand how long it is until Christmas is actually here, I decided it would be best to do a more extensive Christmas countdown. Last year, we did a book advent, where we unwrapped a different Christmas story each night leading up to reading the story of Christ's birth from Luke 2 on Christmas Eve.

This year, I intend to do the same thing, though I have extended it to include 24 books in all, one for every day leading up to Christmas. We will start on Saturday, the 1st. Last year I bought several Christmas books, but most of them are borrowed from the library. If you do this, just make sure that you plan the books to be opened before they need to be returned. Here is a list of the books we'll be reading this year, in the order we will open them:

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry
The First Night by Barbara G. Hennessy
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Olive, The Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh
Russell's Christmas Magic by Rob Scotton
Elton the Elf by Lisa Mallen
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff
Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autry
Sad Santa by Tad Carpenter
The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry
Oh, What a Christmas by Michael Garland
Sharing Christmas by Kate Westerlund
The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer
Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki
Together at Christmas by Eileen Spinelli
Mickey's Christmas Carol
Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Beuhner
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

I tried to coordinate some of the books with some of the holiday activities we have planned. For example, on the day we plan to go to the Festival of Trees, we will read Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree and on the day we visit Temple Square, we will read Santa's Favorite Story (which is about Santa telling the Nativity story).

That brings me to the other Christmas countdown activities we plan to do. I made a list of various holiday events going on in the Salt Lake area, then put them all in a calendar so that we have at least one holiday thing to do each day during December. Some of the things we plan to do are going to holiday story times at nearby libraries, making cookies, watching classic Christmas movies when they are on TV, family game night, seeing the elves at Gardner Village, meeting Santa, taking a drive to see Christmas lights, etc. The point is that we don't spend so much time irritating each other in the house, but we plan outings in advance to (hopefully) reduce the stress such things involve for me.

I am excited for December so that we can get started. Leave comments telling me what you do to countdown to Christmas with your kids.


The Great Northwest, Pt. 2

Since I had to stick pretty closely to Portland to be available for my various press checks thoughout the week, Kristen and I spent quite a bit of time wandering in various parts of the city, checking out quirky little shops, art galleries, etc.

Hmm, I wonder what this place sells. 

This doorway on Mississippi Avenue caught my eye, not long before we filled our bellies with heavenly ice cream sandwiches at Ruby Jewel.

Kristen visited the International Rose Test Garden while I was working, though I was able to meet her there when I was finished. It wasn't peak rose season or anything, but still a pleasant place to visit.

I had seen the food cart, Big-A** Sandwiches, featured on Adam Richman's show Best Sandwich in America, so we decided to check it out one day for lunch. Their namesake features roast beef, french fries, and melted cheese (plus a little horseradish) piled high on a ciabatta roll. Kristen and I split one so we wouldn't have to locate a "Portland Loo" nearby.

On one of my free afternoons, we drove to Sauvie Island along the Columbia River. It was interesting how after venturing just a half hour north of Portland, all the quirkiness and snark of the city all but vanished. We enjoyed the scenic drive past pumpkin patches, orchards, and wide open spaces, then stopped at a farmer market to chomp on corn on the cob and handpick some apples.

After my last morning working, we drove out to the coast. Our first stop was Newport, where we dined on fresh seafood before visiting the Yaquina Bay lighthouse. We were also sorely disappointed to learn that Newport's "Deco District" consisted of a mere two buildings.

A little ways up the coast, we also check out the Yaquina Head lighthouse. I really thought it would be bigger.

Another cool stairwell for your viewing pleasure. It was either this or a photo of the volunteer in the old timey maritime garb. But he was much too busy chatting us up about the thickness of the window wells.

We stopped for the night in Lincoln City, highlighted by a chilly stroll along the beach at dusk. We got back to Portland the next morning just in time to spend 10 whole minutes at the famous Saturday Market before going to the airport to catch our flight home.