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!

Help Me Make a Christmas Dress

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Look at Beej! We are adorable. Christmas in Tualatin, circa 1979. Oh I just noticed we matched the tree skirt!

Christmas! Like many kids, I grew up loving Christmas. The whole season seemed magical: learning songs in school, making paper-chain advent calendars. Soon after Thanksgiving, my Mom would transform the house into a winter wonderland, bringing out treasured decorations–many of which she had made herself–and she always had new projects going on. The late ’70s-early ’80s was the height of the “dough art” craze, and my Mom would design and painstakingly make, by hand, hundreds of Christmas ornaments that she would sell in local bazaars. I have fond memories of our dining room completely covered with clown marionettes (with ribbon ruffs) or teddy bears sitting on baby blocks, as Mom hand-painted and glazed each and every one.

But my fondest–and most hilarious–memory is when I was four: the year Mom made my brother and I matching green velvet Christmas finery. I was beside myself: the dress was long and trimmed with white eyelet lace. I had, and have, never been so glamorous. My brother, who was two, was decked out in a green velvet vest and shorts, which made him look like an adorable toddler Kermit the Frog. We have pictures. They still make us laugh.

For years my brother and I have been threatening to break out the green velvet and recreate these magical memories, but this year I think I’m actually going to do it: I want to make a big, fancy, green velvet dress that screams Christmas and that I can wear to our fancy Christmas cocktail party.

It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve worked with velvet. It’s not very fashionable for the over-12 set (at least not since the ’90s), and it’s a pain to work with. However, I’m not going to let this stop me–I will make my dreams come true. Unless I lose interest halfway. I’m not making any promises here, folks.

Here are the three patterns I am considering:

Vogue Patterns V2903: Misses V-Neck Fit and Flare Dresses

christmasdress1

Pros: Big, swishy skirt. I feel like a constructed, retro style would lend itself well to velvet. Cons: I don’t think the pleats will work with velvet.

Butterick B6094: Misses’ Fold-Back Facing Dresses

christmasdress2

Pros: The bias-cut skirt is big and swishy without the bulk of gathers or pleats, plus that back is amazing! Cons: Not sure if I want to make a petticoat. I own one, might work.

Butterick B5748: Misses’/Misses’ Petite Flared Dresses

christmasdress3

Pros: I love the idea of an actual retro pattern. Cons: This is basically a less interesting version of Butterick B6094, above.

So what do you think? Which should I pick? And . . . should I make a vest for Beej?!?