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Chinese New Year-Welcome to the year of the monkey!

Chinese New Year-Welcome to the year of the monkey!

Chinese New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February and the Year of the Monkey began February 8, 2016! The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, which is perfectly timed in Portland as everything, like this Chinese Paper Bush, is coming into bloom. People born in a year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016) are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality but personality traits, like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness, make them very naughty! (I can think of a few people who fall into that category!) We enjoyed the New Year celebrations at Lan Su Chinese Garden, an unexpected and lovely walled oasis in the middle of the city.  Covering a full city block, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou in the Jiangsu province and is modeled after Ming Dynasty gardens  designed as spiritual uptopias.  Even with the crowds for Chinese New Year, it was still remarkably peaceful and if I worked downtown, it’s somewhere I’d love to escape to in the middle of the day! There are events at the garden nearly every day from walking tours, music in the teahouse, folk art demonstrations, traditional floral arranging, craft making, Tai chi classes, discussions about the plants in the garden, performances from local cultural organizations, Chinese calligraphy classes, Chinese conversation classes, and even children’s Mandarin lessons! The garden definitely made the most of the year of the Monkey celebrations.  As soon as we walked in the main entrance, there were monkeys to find, with ten monkeys hidden throughout the garden, including a spider monkey visiting from South America and shadow puppets of the Monkey King.  There were also lantern riddles to solve like this one-“It’s been around for millions of years, but it’s no more than a month old. What is it?”, a wishing tree where you could toss a red ribbon to wish for prosperity, happiness and longevity and monkey themed puppet shows by Tears of Joy Theater to watch. Of course a Chinese New Year celebration wouldn’t be complete without traditional Lion dances.  The Lee On Dong Association lions regaled us with danced stories about the origins of the lion, how the lion overcame its fears to...

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Portland Winter Light Festival -Travel with Children

Portland Winter Light Festival -Travel with Children

Overcast skies are perfect for viewing light sculptures early enough for children to enjoy them, though a quarter of an inch of rain in the hour and half we were at the Portland Winter Light Festival was a bit more than we anticipated! Along the banks of the Wilamette river, the Portland Winter Light Festival was designed to celebrate the spirit of winter and warmth of community.  There was everything from sculptures made completely of light, to sculptures of fire, glass and metal.   Lights played across Fleeting by Jen Fuller and the rain, making the 100 glass “paper” planes really look as if they were about to take off over the river.       Hypnotron by Axiom Custom Products lived up to its name with a series of light sculptures representative of Portland with spinning colors behind.  It was all I could do to pull the children onto the next exhibit!       One of the great things about the Festival was that the sculptures kept changing.  We wandered back and forth along the river watching how the carefully chosen plays of light made everything look so different. [gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”sort_order” animation_effect=”” album_title=”true” album_id=”2″] Many of the artists chose the spot where their pieces were shown and incorporated the surrounding architecture into their works.  The artists were available to chat and were great at describing what had inspired them and how they had made their pieces.  It was fascinating. This was definitely a whatever the weather type of adventure though the pouring rain certainly didn’t keep the crowds away! Even completely soaked, the Portland Winter Light Festival is already on our schedule for next year. Find out what's going on in the places you're planning on visiting Many cities/states have a monthly/weekly magazine listing upcoming events. You can frequently find their event calendars online.  They’re great places to start your search. Look at the Facebook pages of places you’re planning on visiting. Often the Facebook page will highlight upcoming events and may be easier to navigate then some websites. Set up a Twitter list following the places you’d like to visit while you’re in town. Most places start talking about upcoming events they’re having a few weeks out...

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Review: Marvelous Cornelius- New Orleans with Children

Review: Marvelous Cornelius- New Orleans with Children

“‘Rat-a-tat-Tat! Rat-a-tat-Tat!’ He strummed the side when it was time to move. ‘Hootie Hoo!  Hootie Hoo! Hootie Hooooo!’  His favorite call of all.  Showtime!” The music, the hum of the city, street bands, jazz festivals, parades, and one man bands, all are part of the sound, energy and spirit that make up New Orleans.  After Hurricane Katrina, those sounds were temporarily silenced as people fled for safety. Marvelous Cornelius is a folk story based on a sanitation worked named Cornelius Washington who took pride in his job and was definitely a showman.  He was a “man who could twirl 70-pound garbage cans “like a ballerina,” bend his arms “like a human crane” to scoop up several boxes, and fire small bags into a truck with machine-gun-like rapidity(1).”  After Katrina, New Orleans was down but not out and Cornelius was one of the many people who helped to bring it back. While many people think of New Orleans as an adult playground, the city has a lot to offer families.   You can visit faithfully recreated homes such as the 1850 house, tour the city on a ferry, find out more about Voodoo in the wax museum, listen to jazz on an old fashioned steamboat and of course learn more about Mardi Gras and the fabulous parades at The Presbytère.  See what the city has to offer at:  http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/family/ Even after the devastation of Katrina, the spirit of the city continues and even after the flooding, “the old ladies whistled and whirled.  The old men hooted and hollered.  The barbers, bread twirlers, and beignet bakers bounded behind the one-man parade.” Interested in adding Marvelous Cornelius to your child’s library?  Click here:  Marvelous Cornelius.   Learn more about the real Cornelius in action at (1)...

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Review: The Sixty-eight Rooms-Chicago with Children

Review: The Sixty-eight Rooms-Chicago with Children

From the Borrowers to Stuart Little, children’s stories of tiny people coping in a regular sized world abound.  In this case, regular sized children magically shrink and go places only someone tiny could go.  What if you discovered that others had done so before you? What if you could change history? The Thorne Rooms are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms at the Chicago Art Institute which were made in the 1930s. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. In The Sixty-eight Rooms, Ruthie and Jack are able to shrink and wander through the Thorne rooms.  When they shrink, the painted murals outside of each room turn into actual landscapes with doors opening into the time period the room reflects.   Each room is filled with appropriate clothing for Ruthie and Jack to use, although walking in a suit of armor definitely takes some practice!  Even with the right clothes, it is challenging for Ruthie and Jack to blend into 18th century France and 17th century Salem where they narrowly escape a mob during the Salem witch trials! While this book was a bit heavy handed from an adult perspective, my 9 and 5 year-olds couldn’t put it down.  We listened to it as an audio book and they didn’t want to leave the car…If you’re planning a trip to Chicago with children, a trip to the Art Institute and a peak at the Thorne rooms should definitely be on your list! If you’d like to add The Sixty-eight Rooms to your child’s library, click here:  The Sixty-eight...

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Review: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers-New York with children

Review: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers-New York with children

While the  book provides a poignant reminder on the absence of the twin towers, this is a great book about reaching for your dreams.   If you’re planning a visit the Memorial plaza in New York city, this is a good introduction to what the towers symbolized and gives a child perspective on how tall they actually were and the impression they made on the city without dwelling on how they fell.  They could also watch  “Man on a Wire”  as they get ready for their trip to New York.“Once there were two towers side by side.”  For those who lived through the destruction of the twin towers, this fairy tale beginning may make your heart catch a little.  But the story of the Man who Walked between Towers is about following your dreams, not dwelling on what happened later.   This is the true story of Philippe Petit, a French aerialist and street performer who was inspired by the construction of the towers.  “He looked not at the towers but at the space between them and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk.”  This unusual perspective made me smile as it is definitely something children are great at, a view of the world that is full of wonder and things that a grown up might overlook. Inspired by the distance between the towers, Phillipe starts to plan his feat and, dressed as a construction worker, ends up carrying a 440 pound reel of cable the final one hundred and eighty stairs to the roof.   The images of Phillipe and his friend standing on the roof and looking across to the other tower helped us understand the magnitude of the task, the images made me feel daunted! Through a series of near misses over a city in which the Statute of Liberty looks like a child’s toy, Phillipe and his friends manage to string the cable and in triumph, “[a]s the rising sun lit up the towers, out he stepped onto the wire.”  Given how much attention window washers on really tall buildings attract, I can only imagine what his feat would have looked like from the ground.  Mordachi Gerstein’s use of perspective,...

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Fort Point-San Francisco with Kids

Fort Point-San Francisco with Kids

No visit to the Presidio is complete without a stroll along the northern shoreline with its amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city.  From Crissy field, a former U.S. Army Airfield, the northern waterfront has something for everyone with spectacular views, great recreational opportunities and a a chance to view wildlife in the restored tidal marsh. Crissy Field, is very kid friendly with a picnic area, a rock climbing gym, a trampoline house, a bike shop, a Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, the MIS Historic Learning Center  and trails down to Fort Point.  Just remember a jacket, it can be breezy along the water! A short walk along Marine Drive from Crissy Field brings you to Fort Point which you may recognize from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” The Fort is perfect for running around in.  No traffic, minimal crowds and  great echos in the battlements as you race from rifle slit to rifle slit, peer through recreations of soldier’s quarters from the Civil War, examine cannons, and climb up to the lighthouse on top of the battlements. If your children are interested in history,  Fort Point is a prime example of the U.S. Army’s most sophisticated coastal fortifications at the time of the Civil War, though it quickly became obsolete with the advent of rifled artillery.  During World War II it housed soldiers guarding minefields and the anti-submarine net along the length of the harbor.  It was saved from destruction when the plans for the Golden Gate Bridge were redesigned to save the Fort as a national monument. While we were there we managed to catch a photo shoot for San Francisco Ballet which was a lot of fun to watch (in between running around and shrieking….). Things to know before you go As with anywhere in San Francisco, parking is limited. The Fort is closed on Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. At the Fort there is an introductory film, cannon-loading demonstrations, and guided and self-guided tours. Don’t forget a jacket, it’s frequently a bit nippy! Books we re-read before the trip: In Pop’s Bridge, Robert watches the building of the bridge from Fort Point with his friend Charlie whose dad is a painter on the bridge.  Fort Point is still one of the best places...

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