Christmas in Dairyville

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas in Portland

Christmas in DairyvilleHo ho ho! As longtime readers know, I am a big fan of Christmas. The decorations! The family togetherness! The holiday china! Yes, I serve all of our meals on our Lenox Holiday china every day in December–otherwise it would just be silly to collect it, right?

But. There has been a bit of a shadow over this year. As someone who grew up in Portland in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there were some treasured, longstanding traditions that finally gave up the ghost in 2017: Meier & Frank’s (and later Macy’s) iconic Santaland, and the Meier & Frank (later My Macy’s) Holiday Parade.

Founded in 1857 right here in Portland, Meier & Frank was a titan, a chain of department stores whose expansion was inextricably entwined in the development of our very city. But, more importantly, Santaland was amazing. Situated on the 10th floor of the landmark downtown Meier & Frank building, Santaland was a winter wonderland filled with animatronic elves and reindeer, glittering Christmas trees, and gaily wrapped gifts leading to the real Santa (with a real beard) who “remembered” your name year after year. The whole thing was placed smack-dab in the middle of a huge selection of toys and ringed from above with a monorail that gave kids a birds’ eye view of the entire floor.

Meier & Frank Santaland

My brother and me at the Meier & Frank Santaland, 1980.

As the years went by, changes came: the toys thinned out (Toys R Us cornered the market), Meier & Frank was changed to Macy’s, and then when the building was remodeled, Santaland was relocated to the basement, requiring only one escalator instead of the 10 my brother and I scaled each year. The monorail was dismantled with the move, leaving only two stationary cars on the floor for kids to climb on.

But with sales slumping and real estate prices climbing, Macy’s parent company, the May Company, put the building up for sale last year, breaking up Santaland and ending the parade after nearly 20 years.

That was sad enough, but also, I had continued the tradition, bringing my kids there for pictures with Santa! So clearly, priority #1 this year was finding a new place to see Santa and rekindle the Christmas spirit! Here are my discoveries and experiences:

Christmas in Dairyville

Christmas in Dairyville: First off, I don’t know how I lived my life to this point without ever going here. Um, did everyone else know that Alpenrose has an entire “Western town” called Dairyville that includes an incredible “Storyville Lane” that’s like the Christmas equivalent of the Enchanted Forest? Because I did not. This is where we started our journey to make Christmas memories.

Pros:

  • Christmas in Dairyville is free to the public and huge!
  • Storyville Lane is pretty rad–flocked trees, little vintage Christmas houses, live animals.
  • They have face painting, ice cream (it was way too cold), food, and a gift shop.
  • Lots of cool historical exhibits, from vintage pianos (?) to classic old Alpenrose trucks and sleighs.

Cons:

  • We were there for about an hour and a half before we went to find Santa, and found that there was a two-hour wait. (We did not wait, see below.) Next time we’ll go take a number as soon as we get there.
  • The quality of the hot cocoa for sale was shockingly bad: clearly hot water with an inadequate amount of cocoa mix. Alpenrose is an actual dairy, why wouldn’t they offer, I don’t know, milk? Heat their own chocolate milk? It was not good.
Santaland at Oregon Historical Society

My very patient children–especially my son, Sid, thank you–at the Oregon Historical Society.

Meier & Frank Santaland at the Oregon Historical Society: I was very excited when I heard that Macy’s had donated part of Santaland to the Oregon Historical Society. Yes! A place that would cherish and display Santaland and preserve this important piece of history! When I saw that Santa would be there, I bundled my husband and the kids into the car and drove there next.

Pros:

  • It’s free to the public (the Oregon Historical Society is also free to Multnomah County residents).
  • There was almost no wait.
  • Pictures are free–bring your camera or device and a helper will take your picture.

Cons:

  • While the picture on OHS’s website is of the entire Santaland, it’s actually just a tiny corner with Rudolph, a couple of elves, and Santa’s chair. Don’t get me wrong–I’m so happy they have it. But my expectations were a little higher.
  • Unlike the traditional Santaland Santa, OHS’s Santa did not have a real beard.

Santaland at Lloyd Center Macy'sSantaland at the Lloyd Center Macy’s: Soon after our trip to OHS, I learned that the Lloyd Center Macy’s also had a piece of Santaland! Recapturing my Christmas memories was starting to resemble a game of Pokemon–I now have to run around and catch them all. But I needed to return some clothes to Old Navy, so Sarah and I went for a visit.

Pros:

  • Again, free.
  • This was actually a larger display that OHS’s–a little scenescape with the animatronic elves decorating the tree and pushing a gift-laden cart.
  • Near the Frango chocolates display. More nostalgia!

Cons:

  • No Santa (there’s a main mall Santa instead).

Monorail Exhibit at Pioneer Place: Oh my goodness. I am tired just typing this. I then discovered that the monorail cars are on display at the Pioneer Place Mall downtown. I have not witnessed this myself, but I doubt I will be able to resist checking it out. Is it near Hipster Santa? (UGH.)

I’m left with so many questions. Where are the rest of Santa’s reindeer? Or Macy’s 12 Days of Christmas window displays? What will move into the old Meier & Frank building? Is it time to relinquish my death grip on my childhood Christmas memories? My very patient husband–and children–might appreciate it.

Other Christmas treasures I’ve enjoyed this year:

The Hollywood Theatre has been playing Christmas matinees on the weekend, so I got to see White Christmas on the big screen for the first time ever, which was awesome. They will be playing a series of animated Christmas shorts, including Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 12/23 at 2:00 pm.

Broadway Floral Home & Garden have some really beautiful wreaths for about $20. No bows, but I saved mine from years past.

We drove to three different Christmas tree lots in the bitter cold looking for a decent noble fir, but Fred Meyer ended up having the best option, at the best price ($41.99 for a 5-6 footer). They are extremely picked over, however.

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market has largish poinsettias for $6.99, a real bargain compared to $9.99 at Fred Meyer. Also, extremely cheap cheese, a must for any holiday gathering.

So what are your holiday musts and recommendations? Post them below!

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Starbucks red cup 2017

Starbucks Red Cups, Zero Waste, and the Meier & Frank Holiday Parade

Starbucks red cup 2017Starbucks red cups are here! And people are losing their minds again! Thank god. I mean, can you imagine how sad Starbucks would be if people weren’t emotionally engaged with their holiday-themed marketing product to the point where they write about how mad and disappointed they are all over social media (and incidentally spread the word far better than an ad campaign could)?

Said ad campaign:


And yet . . . Starbucks red cups are special to me. I admit it. Even though I know it’s marketing, and I know it’s wasteful to buy coffee in a disposable, non-recyclable cup with a plastic lid, just seeing it brings me back to the Meier & Frank Holiday Parade here in Portland. Beginning in the ’80s, my mom would take me and my brother to see this homespun local parade—full of floats, high school marching bands, rodeo queens, and Shriners—and we would cheer and wait to see Santa ride up at the very end, and then we’d race inside to see Santaland.

Later, it was something just me and my dad would do (Mom wanted a break, my brother was living out of state), and then all four of us would go as a family. And as adults, part of the ritual became getting white chocolate peppermint mochas (oh, I am full of embarrassing confessions today) in Starbucks holiday cups. And I would feel warm and cozy and loved, and connected to my family and my city, because we were joining together for a yearly event that we’d done for decades, and all was right with the world.

But at some point, Meier & Frank (a department store with a rich and important history in Portland) was purchased by Macy’s, and after a few years they changed the store’s name. And then it was the Macy’s Holiday Parade (but not that Macy’s Holiday Parade). And then the downtown Macy’s store (still referred to as the Meier & Frank Building) closed this year. Goodbye parade. I even missed its final year, because of kids and rain and life, because I couldn’t imagine that even with the store closing, that someone wouldn’t take on the mantle of this historic, homey, seemingly essential parade. Such is life.

But Starbucks red cups are still here! I figure that much of our modern waste is due to convenience (individually packaged pre-sliced apples?), but so much is due to nostalgia and the kind of emotional connection that can only be forged by the epic collision of personal history and ad campaign.

Whew! This is a long essay to say I figured out a way to participate in this yearly controversy while eliminating the pesky paper-and-plastic waste (mostly): I bought a reusable Starbucks red cup and yes, I broke it out today (with coffee I made at home). It’s not colorable like this year’s model, but I can take it into Starbucks and get it filled with my yearly white chocolate peppermint mochas (no judgment) and I can go visit Meier & Frank’s erstwhile Santaland at the Oregon Historical Society with my brother, and something will be sacred, and something will last, and okay I may be a little stressed out right now.

But my point is, you can reduce your waste without cutting out the rituals and traditions that bring you joy—even if they seem a little silly when you type them down. Next up: how the heck do I get around holiday wrapping paper?!? If you have any suggestions, post them below!

NERD CAMP Wine Tasting and Speed Friending

Help Us Raise 4,800 Pounds of Food for SnowCap Community Charities

NERD CAMP Wine Tasting and Speed FriendingLooking for some nerdy fun where you can make 20+ friends in one night? What if I told you it involves wine and fabulous prizes by local Portland businesses? And—by the way—you can feel good about having all this fun because you’re also helping raise money to buy 4,800 pounds of food for the needy in east Multnomah County, right before Thanksgiving?

That’s right: get tickets now for NERD CAMP Wine Tasting and Speed Friending, November 15 at Pairings Portland! There are two seatings, one at 6:00 pm and one at 8:00 pm, and a total of 48 seats available. Tickets are just $25 each, and $5 of each ticket goes directly to SnowCap Community Charities, where it will buy 100 pounds of food for your needy neighbors. If they sell out, that’s 4,800 pounds of food in just one night!

Plus, they’ll be raffling off fantastic prizes from the Hollywood Theatre, Things From Another World, Red Castle Games, The PDX Broadsides, Hour to Midnight – Room Escape Games, and Stranger Comics!

Here’s how the event works: each seating will start off with a practice tasting to learn how to taste wine properly, and then you’ll be given a nerdy topic to discuss over a great wine so you can get to know your table mates. After each question, you’ll move to another table with new friends to meet. There are six tables and six wines, and you’ll meet more than 20 new friends by the end of the night!

Special thanks to Victory Point Property Group for advertising support. Tickets are limited and this is a great cause, so please buy yours now!

GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017

Happy Monday! Thor Stuff, Twin Peaks & 10-Item Wardrobe

GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017Happy Monday, folks! Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the summer. I’m using this little lull to catch up on my blogging, woo!

Local Happenings

GeekCraft Expo PDX concluded June 11 and–whew–I was tired afterward. It was a great show. Our exhibitors are so great. Not only are they insanely talented and obsessed with all things geek, but they’re genuinely nice people! You can find all of our Portland exhibitors here. Up next: the GeekCraft Expo Seattle Holiday Market November 25-26!

It seems like as soon as I slow down a little, something else pops up that I cannot resist! I’ve just started working with Pairings, which bills itself as “Portland’s Weirdest Wine Shop and Bar,” and they are amazing. I went to their “Salmon 5 Ways with Rosé All Day” event right before Mother’s Day with my co-parent, Myndi (she discovered the place), and I had such a great time! Pairings focuses on making wine fun and accessible, so they pair wines to adjectives and personality traits–which means they have wines paired to Harry Potter characters, female superheroes, astrological signs, and more! Next they’re pairing eight wines to eight characters from Animal House. June 22-25, $25!

Geekery

Did you know that I am now nerd famous? It is TRUE. Well. Kinda. Anyway, the latest episode of my podcast with Miles Stokes, Thor: The Lightning and the Storm, is up! We’re going through Walter Simonson’s epic 1980s run on The Mighty Thor, and we’ve finally reached one of the most hard-hitting, metal moments in all of comics: the Executioner’s Last Stand!

I’m also recording a guest spot on Titan up the Defense, another local podcast I enjoy immensely. Brothers Hub and Cory alternate reading (and discussing) New Teen Titans and Defenders. I have a ginormous soft spot for New Teen Titans (thanks to my cousin Bryan’s collection), so I’m psyched to join in. Plus! They allow drinking during podcasting! Miles would never. Ha!

Finally, I’ve been invited to guest on Comic Book Cover Story, a podcast that features my good friend (and former TFAW co-worker) Sean Wynn and Kurt Loyd!

Fashion

With summer right around the corner, I need to spruce up my Spring/Summer 10-Item Wardrobe, so I’m going through my current clothes and shopping with my mom later this week. Get ready for a post next week, and maybe a prep post this week!

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is in a category by itself, because really . . . where would you put it? I just have to say episode 7 was intense. I admit I was kind of wavering about where it was going. I actually love “Dougie Jones,” but it’s super frustrating how no one will take him to a doctor! I mean, a man supposedly shows up one day with new hair and wardrobe, 20 pounds lighter, and can barely string one word together? Come on. But I love it. I love every moment (almost). I sit with my eyes as wide as possible, in silence, absorbing every second.

Confused? You really should have been prepared for that. But Laura Hudson’s wonderfully written Twin Peaks recaps may help.

That’s it for now! Man, I’m just glad I got to blog today. Do you have any Twin Peaks theories? Wardrobe hints? Other podcasts to check out? Put them in the comments!

Great Balls of Cheese

Happy Monday: Gilmore Girls, MSW & Cheese Balls

Great Balls of Cheese

Photo via Gluten Free Girl!

Happy Monday! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these updates, but I’m delaying my Winter 2017 10-item wardrobe post until later this week. I decided I needed one more item, and I found something for $10 on ThredUp. Fingers crossed. To the links!

Current Events

The Women’s March took place this past Saturday, and estimates place attendance at 2.9 million. Even more amazingly–no arrests! I stayed home with Sarah here in Portland, but my husband went with our son and his former wife, and said it was an inspiring show of unity.

What got me a little choked up was seeing all of the Princess Leia-related Women’s March signs, especially so close to Carrie Fisher’s death. Carrie Fisher was an outspoken broad of the first order, and I feel like she would have approved.

What’s next? I thought The Atlantic had an interesting take, comparing the demonstration to previous protests in Russia and their aftereffects.

Cool Stuff

My amazing husband, Scott Allie, and our son Sid put together an epic Gilmore Girls/Murder, She Wrote crossover comic for me for my birthday, bringing Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Norton, Dave Stewart, and Nate Piekos together to help make it. It is one of the very best things I have ever received in my life. Sid wrote most of Jessica Fletcher’s dialogue himself! More details at Nerdist.

Gilmore Girls Murder She Wrote Comic

Amazing, right?

Every year for Christmas, my parents buy me a set of Soma pajamas and I love them so much. They are cute and comfortable and have pockets. This year I got some that are gray-and-white striped with a little silver, and I just noticed they are way on sale.

My friend Liza got me Great Balls of Cheese, a cookbook dedicated to cheese balls, and I am obsessed. I will make every single one of these!

Geekery

I’m expanding my role with GeekCraft Expo to include all of their upcoming shows (including some that haven’t been announced yet–yay!). I love being able to work with so many awesome crafters and see their nerdy goods! Exhibitor applications for GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017 are open until January 31, so make sure to fill yours out now!

I’ve also been really enjoying working with The Doubleclicks! You can check out their free online show 1/26 (with special guests the Library Bards), or catch their #NerdNightOut shows 2/11 in Seattle and 2/12 in Portland!

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men. I’ve just been invited to guest-host again next month, I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, listen to their latest episode, which covers Excalibur’s Cross-Time Caper and the aftermath.

Phew! I hope you all are enjoying January. I must admit, I’m relieved to have the holidays over with. Portland got about 10 inches of snow and then some ice, which prolonged Sid’s Christmas vacation (which was actually pretty nice), but kept me housebound a little too long.

What have you been up to? Post below and say hi!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Yes You Can: Make a Luscious Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Luscious Tuna Noodle Casserole, a Gould family recipe!

The cold and rain have returned to Portland, which means it’s soup and casserole weather, yay! I love a good casserole–they’re typically easy to make and feed a crowd. And oh I love to pull out the Campbell’s Cream of soups. They just feel cozy. This tuna noodle casserole comes from my friend Tiffany Gould, who graciously shared her family recipe with us, and it is fantastic: rich, creamy, and satisfying. It’s also huge.

Plus, like any good casserole, it’s flexible, allowing for the addition of whatever’s in your fridge. For instance, I made the casserole pictured above with egg noodles (instead of extra-large macaroni), ricotta (instead of sour cream), and thyme (in place of parsley), and it still retained its ineffably delicious character. Make it tonight!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 12

You Need:
2 cans white albacore tuna, drained
12 oz. extra-large macaroni, cooked and drained (if you use egg noodles, use 1 lb)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
Pepper (to taste)
Parsley (to taste)
Milk
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
Breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles in large pot according to directions on package and grate cheese. When noodles are done, drain and set aside. Combine tuna (you may need to chunk it up a bit), cream of chicken soup, and cream of mushroom soup in the pot used to boil noodles. Then add sour cream, pepper and parsley to taste; the measurements above are just an estimate, not exact.

Next, stir in the noodles and 2/3 of the grated cheese. Add milk until the mixture stirs easily; keep in mind the casserole will lose moisture as it cooks. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ pan, cover with the remainder of the grated cheese, and sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top.

Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, and then check to see if the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbling. If so, remove foil and cook for about another 15 minutes, until cheese on top has golden brown spots.

Variations: Add in leftovers from the refrigerator that need to be used in place of the milk, sour cream or cheese (cream cheese, buttermilk, cream, alfredo sauce, cottage cheese, ranch dressing). Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top with the bread crumbs tastes great, too.

Big thanks to Tiffany Gould and her family for bringing this recipe into our lives! Do you have a go-to casserole recipe? Post it below!

Luke's Diner Popup Portland Oregon

I Went to Luke’s Diner and It Was Magical

Luke's Diner Popup Portland Oregon

My very patient and wonderful family came with me to visit the real star of Gilmore Girls: Stars Hollow.

I need to start by saying that I have a wonderful husband and son. Because they let me drag them to a coffee shop on a weekday at 7 am and stand in line for two and a half hours. For a cup of coffee. My son is 11. He literally took one sip, refused to comment, and laughed with glee that he would be late for school because I couldn’t resist the lure of the Luke’s Diner popup event, a very clever marketing promotion for the upcoming Gilmore Girls revival.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is coming to Netflix November 25, which I’m sure at least 85% of people on social media must know right now, because Netflix’s PR game is tight, and thousands of people (and dozens of local TV news crews) were beguiled by the chance to visit Luke’s Diner right around the corner (almost literally for me: Oblique Coffee Roasters, the only participating location in Oregon, was about 15 blocks away).

I am not a morning person. And I’ve been working in fandom (comics and pop culture) for many years. I’ve worked countless conventions, including the big show, San Diego Comic Con. If anyone should be immune from standing in line for hours for a cheap freebie (for the record, the free cup of coffee was emblazoned with a quote from Lorelai Gilmore and a Snapchat filter code, and wrapped in a Luke’s-branded paper sleeve) and photo op, it should be me. Not only could I not resist, I was all in, because this promotion tapped into the essence of what made GG so popular: the idea of community.

Gilmore Girls is the story of mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Impetuous, irreverent Lorelai became pregnant at 16, severely disappointing her wealthy-yet-emotionally cold parents. Wanting her independence, Lorelai took baby Rory and ran away to the quaint town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, where she found a job as a maid at an inn, eventually working her way up to manager, and building her own family of friends. At the beginning of the series, serious, brainy Rory is 16 and has been accepted to the prestigious–and expensive–Chilton prep school. In exchange for loaning her the money for tuition, Lorelai agrees that she and Rory will join her parents for dinner every Friday. Wacky hijinks and emotional chaos ensues.

I didn’t watch Gilmore Girls when it debuted on the WB because it was on opposite Buffy. But also because I had just run away from home myself, in a way–I ran from a failed marriage and a boring copywriting career to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a quaint island where I learned to wait tables and eventually build my own family of friends. After returning to Portland in 2005 (and taking a work-from-home editing gig), my homesick self discovered GG on ABC Family and was hooked.

But in retrospect, I realize the main attraction wasn’t cool mom Lorelai or bookworm Rory (who were actually pretty flawed characters, but I like that). The real star of the show was Stars Hollow, the quirky granddaughter of Mayberry, and the Warner Bros. backlot-town that was literally made up of sets that have appeared on countless other TV shows (The WaltonsThe Dukes of Hazzard, and Seinfeld, to name a few). Stars Hollow is the town where everyone knows your name–and what you had for breakfast (probably at Luke’s, since Al’s Pancake House serves international cuisine). Portland seemed uncomfortably large to me, after living in a place where I literally knew almost everyone at the grocery store. Stars Hollow, a place rich in offbeat characters and so many town events and festivals, felt like a warm hug.

The return of Gilmore Girls is the return of Stars Hollow, and Netflix knows this–that’s why bringing Luke’s Diner to the masses was so smart, and so successful. After all, Gilmore Girls fans are already conditioned to love ridiculous events. And standing in line (for hours) with the GG fan community was like one long town meeting in our very own Stars Hollow.

Kicking yourself for missing Luke’s Diner? You can still get your Stars Hollow fix by visiting the “newly recovered” town website (apparently Kirk lost the password in 2007). That’s where I’ll be, drinking my coffee and the GG Kool-Aid, until November 25!