Friday, December 31, 2010

January Joy

This list of free and low cost events for January 2011 is relatively short, but there are still quite a few amazing things going on around Portland this month.  I compile this list for my homeschool group, which includes kids 8 and under, but most events have much broader appeal.  I look for events that will have educational or cultural value.   As always, mistakes and typos happen, so please double check anything you'd like to attend.

Christmas Bird Count”, Sunday, January 2. “The Christmas Bird Count is a great way for birders of all levels to enjoy a day in the field and sharpen their birding skills. You will also have the opportunity to meet others who share your interest in birds and to discover some good local spots to find birds. And you will contribute to scientific knowledge. In fact, the Christmas Bird Count is one of the best ways for the amateur birder to advance ornithology: the data are sent to the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University, where over the years Christmas Bird Count records have been used to study changes in bird populations and wintering ranges. A recent study of CBC data shows that most birds are wintering farther north now than they did 40 years ago, perhaps the result of global warming. National Audubon Society info on using CBC data to plot wintering range changes.” Learn more about the Christmas Bird Count and easy ways you can participate here:

Mister Ben” Don’t you want to know why he’s so popular? This month he has a series of library shows: Saturday, January 8, 10:30AM at Albina Library; Wednesday, January 12, 10:30AM at Hollywood Library (free tickets will be available beginning at 10AM); Thursday, January 13, 11AM at Troutdale Library; Saturday, January 15, 12PM at Gregory Heights Library; Saturday, January 15, 2:30PM at Gresham Library; Saturday, January 22, 12PM at Hillsdale Library (free tickets will be available beginning at 11:30AM); and Saturday, January 22, 2PM at the Central Library. He also has regular gigs around town. They are on Mondays at 10AM at Posie’s, 8208 N. Denver Avenue, Pdx, as well as Tuesdays at 10:30AM at Milagros Boutique, 5433 NE 30th Avenue, Pdx, $3 per walking human, Wednesdays at 10AM (except the 12th this month) at Eco Baby Gear, 2122 SE Division Street, Pdx, $5 suggested donation, and Fridays at 10AM at Branch and Birdie, 8021 SE Stark St., Pdx. He introduces playing the ukulele to kids as young as 3. “Though most people know me as a performer, I think of myself first and foremost as an educator. Music education is the real motivation for why I do what I do. I believe that music should be and can be more accessible to all people. My primary goal is to eradicate the myth that some people are simply “non-musical.” We are all musical, and anybody can learn to play music. Yes, even you.”

Professor Banjo", Beginning January 5, now every Wednesday at 1PM at Milagros Boutique, 5433 NE 30th Ave., Pdx. $3 per walking human. "Paul Silveria performs for families as the banjo-slinging, old-time singing "Professor Banjo" entertaining children with sing-a-longs, dancing games, and stories, all accompanied by lively old-time music that parents can enjoy, too! Professor Banjo's shows are fun for a wide range of ages - from toddlers to tweens who still like to get up and dance around!" Professor Banjo is awesome!

Mo Philips
”, Thursday, January 20, 11:45 at Garden Home Community Library. “ Join musician Mo Phillips for lots of awesome songs and the chance to form a supercrazy onetime band that will write, perform and record a couple of tunes in about an hour. Don't think we can pull it off? Check out the music page at and listen to some of the crazy cuts from past Rock-N-Roll Kindy shows!” Mo also has regular gigs every Tuesday at 10AM at Posie’s CafĂ©, 8208 N. Denver Avenue, Pdx., and every Thursday (except presumably on the 20th) at 10:30AM at Milagros Boutique, 5433 NE 30th Ave, Pdx., $3 per walking human. “Mo performs interactive shows that respect the intelligence of young people with wit and irreverence, without being strictly scatological. This is music built for kids and parents alike! Mo does not dumb down lyrics or melodies for kids to "understand", and therefore sings about things whole families can appreciate. A fine, distilled blend of Americana, Soul and Blues, while not being afraid of a poppy hook or straight rockin' out.”

Symphony Storytime”, every Wednesday in January at 1PM, Sherwood Public Library. “Storytimes feature musicians from the Oregon Symphony performing music that enhances and deepens the storytelling experience. Each storytime features one of the four families of musical instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. A craft session where children make their own instruments out of common household items and an instrument petting zoo follow the storytimes. Children and their parents also receive a specially made bookmark with suggested reading and recommended CD's featuring the storytime instruments.”

Tie Dye And Dip Dye”, Wednesday, January 5, 10:15-11:45AM, The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Pdx. $15, suggested for ages 4 and up. “Bring t-shirts or other blank clothing, sweaters, sheets, pillow cases, curtains, etc. for this dying extravaganza! Make sure fabrics are cotton or wool, and white or light solid colors for best results. Please email for a registration form.”

Timberline Nature Walk With Bruno!”, throughout the winter, Friday through Sunday at 10AM. Meet at the US Forest Service Desk inside Timberline Lodge, on Highway 26 at Mt. Hood. Free, donations appreciated. “Join a Ranger and the 150 pound mascot of Timberline Lodge — the St. Bernard Bruno for some fun on Mount Hood! Depart from Timberline Lodge and stroll through the high country with Bruno on this short 1-2 mile walk (depending on weather) while learning about the winter ecology of Mount Hood. Once the snow flies, be sure to bring your winter gear and an appetite for adventure! For additional information, please call 503-622-2033 or visit”

Tom Waldrop, Magician", Saturday, January 8, 11AM, Lake Oswego Public Library. "Waldrop received a magic set when he was 12 and that was the start of his lifelong passion for sleight of hand. He began performing at age 14 after joining the Portland Society of Magicians. By the time he was 17, he was winning magic contest prizes. Waldrop continued doing magic shows through college, his military career, and beyond. He’s also a teacher of magic and has won numerous prizes for his magic shows."

Creature Collage
”, Saturday, January 8, 10:30AM, Capitol Hill Library (free tickets will be given out beginning at 10AM), and Saturday, January 22, 3:30PM, Fairview-Columbia Library. “Children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle creates insects and animal collages from hand-painted tissue paper. Under the supervision of artist Addie Boswell, use Eric’s technique to cut and paste your own creatures similar to those in the books "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Grouchy Ladybug." You may also make a rainbow set of painted paper to take home so that you can collage all year round!” 

Winter Creature Craft”, Saturday, January 8, 11AM, North Portland Library. “Local artist Dawn Grunwald will teach you how to reuse wool sweaters to create tiny stuffed snowmen, penguins, polar bears and winter hares. Creatures will be embellished with fabric scraps, buttons and beads. All materials provided. Bring a pair of sharp sewing scissors if you have them.” Registration required- Register at

Brick Builders”, Saturday, January 8, 10:30AM at Beaverton City Library Storytime Room. “Come and make a connection as we create, build and challenge with all things LEGO. Registration is required. Please phone (503) 350-3600 to register or sign-up in person at the Children's Desk on the first floor of the library.” 

Theatre Games For Kids”, Saturday, January 8, 2:30, Hillsboro Main Library, suggested for grades K-6 and limited to the first 30 in attendance. “Join directors from the Northwest Youth Theatre who'll lead young, aspiring actors in an interactive program of acting techniques, pantomime, theatre games and songs.” 

Johnson Creek Brass”, Saturday, January 8, 2PM, Ledding Library of Milwaukie. “A typical Johnson Creek Brass program includes a wide range of music, from early classical (Renaissance and Baroque) to Rossini and Debussy; from Joplin rags to Dixieland. The band has been known to play contemporary jazz, musical theater and works by the great John Phillip Souza. Concertgoers will also enjoy the band as members talk about the music, the instruments and themselves. Johnson Creek’s lineup is Dennis Crabtree on trumpet, Gary Michael on trumpet and flugelhorn, Carrie Baysinger on horn, Chuck Ford on trombone and Steve Jachim on tuba.” 

Lone Fir Cemetery Guided Walking Tour”, Saturday, January 8, 10AM-12PM, entrance at SE 26th Street between Stark and Morrison Sts, Pdx. $10 suggested donation. “Come for an informal history lesson while enjoying the beauty and tranquility of Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in SE Portland. Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery conducts monthly tours, highlighting Portland’s founders, pioneers, its famous and infamous alike, as well as interesting headstones and monuments. Come visit this hidden jewel! Explore 30 acres of mature trees, a very special rose garden and fascinating architecture in this unique place, the only cemetery in Portland listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Suitable for all ages. No advance registration required. Meet in the center of the cemetery, at the soldiers’ monument.” Lone Fir was the first public cemetery in Portland, and a tour is a must for anyone learning about local history.

Slavic New Year Celebration”, Sunday, January 9, 12-4PM, Midland Library. “Celebrate Slavic New Year by joining us for music, dancing, traditional costumes, crafts and a short performance based on Russian fairy tales.” 

La Musica Es Magica”, Sunday, January 9, 2PM, Fairview-Columbia Library. “This spirited, bilingual sing-along program celebrates the magic of music with songs in Spanish, English and sign language. Named 2009 National Young Audiences Artist of the Year, songwriter Greta Pedersen will captivate audiences as she plays guitar and shares her wonderful collection of percussion instruments with members of the audience.” 

The Chinook Winds”, Monday, January 10, 12PM, Antionette Hatfield Hall Rotunda Lobby, 1111 SW Broadway, Pdx. Free. A woodwind trio. “Noontime Showcase is a once a month program featuring different performances every month and are family friendly. Noontime Showcase is presented by the volunteers of PCPA and is our way of saying thank you to the community for supporting the arts! This is a free event and tickets are not needed.” 

Shabava”, Monday, January 10, 6:30PM, West Linn Public Library. “Shabava is a trio with members trained in Iran, Morocco and India. They combine their backgrounds in classical Persian, Arabic and Hindustani music to deliver fresh presentations of traditional pieces and create original compositions with a unique voice.”

Top Secret With Slightly Illusional”, Tuesday, January 11, 7PM. Tigard Public Library Community Room. All ages. “Join magician and educator Curt Nelson as he takes a fascinating subject - secret agents and spy gadgets - and combines it with magic, puppets and a cute bunny rabbit. Shhh...don't tell anyone how captivating this show is sure to be!” 

Book Making”, Wednesday, January 12, 10:15-11:45AM, The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Pdx. $15. Suggested for ages 6 and up. “In this class we will be assembling and decorating our own handmade books. There will be a few different types to chose from, ranging in difficulty level. Kids can focus on one project or try their hand at multiple styles. Perhaps it will be a scroll-book, a comic book, a journal, or a photo album? A mis-matched body flipbook? Please email for a registration form.

Project Learning Tree Teacher Workshop- The Young Years”, Wednesday, January 12, 9AM- 4:30PM, Tryon Creek State Park. $13 registration fee. This is an adult workshop for environmental education aimed at classroom teachers, but may well be of interest to homeschoolers. “This all day workshop will focus on the Pre-Kindergarten to 1st grade educator. Learn how to incorporate natural sciences and multi-sensory activities into your early learner curriculum. We will focus on how to teach using multiple learning styles. Enjoy classroom activities and field experiences alike. Dress to engage in discovery outside. Bring your lunch and a notebook. Register online at:

Cooperative Games and Activities”, Thursday, January 13, 10:30AM, Capitol Hill Library. “Children learn when they can play and interact freely without fear of judgment or consequence. When playing without competition, children can bolster their creativity, imagination, self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. Explore ways to interact with children without rewards, punishment or competition and learn specific games and activities you can try at your home or daycare center. Kristen McKee, of Insideout Schoolhouse, has assisted learners in groups for the past 25 years in both English and Spanish. Participants of all ages are welcome and will be playing cooperative games together.” 

Decorative Decoupage Boxes”, Thursday, January 13, 4:30PM, Belmont Library. “Artist Shanon Schollian will show you how to decorate small boxes using decoupage, an art or craft form that entails gluing paper cutouts onto an object. Schollian creates art with the notion that if something is unsightly it should be covered, and if something is unimportant it should be made fancy. The finished boxes are great for keepsakes or gift giving.” 

Homeschoolers New Year’s Reception”, Friday, January 14, 2PM-4PM, Beaverton City Library Meeting Room A. “Drop in for light snacks, networking and a display of hand-picked resources to meet the needs of homeschoolers. Children are welcome to attend alongside their parents. No registration required. For kindergarten to grade five (or equivalent) and accompanying adult.”

Prowling for Owls”, Friday, January 14, 7-9PM, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Sherwood, OR. Free. “Whooooo goes there? Join us at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to find out about the owls that make the refuge their home. During a night hike, learn about the mysterious lives of our nocturnal neighbors, discover their habitat and learn about their amazing adaptations for life at night. Wear sturdy shoes, dress for the weather and bring a flashlight. Free. Meet in the Riparian Room of the Wildlife Center. Advance registration required, e-mail with your name, phone number and number of participants.”

"Family Day at the Oregon Historical Society", Saturday, January 15, 11AM-3PM, 1200 SW Park Avenue, Pdx. On family day, two children are admitted free with one paid adult admission. Regular admission for adults is $11, students over 18 and seniors $9, kids 6-18 $5, kids under 6 are free. "Come and visit the Oregon History Museum’s newest exhibit Perseverance: Black Pioneers in Early Oregon. Visit with costumed interpreters from the Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers Association. Learn 10 facts about Oregon’s Black Pioneers, then put your knowledge of Oregon history to the test with puzzles and activities. Enjoy a special showing of Oregon Experience: Local Color, and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by adding your dreams to our “I Have a Dream” Wall."

Graffiti Style Fine Art", Saturday, January 15, 10:30AM-1:30PM, Albina Library. On one hand, the library categorized this as "grades 6-8, teens", and it is a three hour workshop. On the other hand, the description says the presentation portion is brief and all ages are encouraged to participate. If you have a younger kid and think they might love this, it could be worth checking out. "During this 3-hour workshop, DeAngelo Raines, artist and founder of the nonprofit organization Art Not Crime, will give a short presentation demonstrating the positive and creative aspects of legal street art. Participants will then use these new techniques to create a small graffiti project. All ages are encouraged to participate in this hands-on introduction to graffiti style fine art."

Annual JRR Tolkien Birthday Bash", Saturday, January 15, Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave., Pdx. Free, all ages welcome. Begins at 11AM, and at 7PM there will be music from the Garcia Birthday Band (playing the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead). Their website advises that a full schedule of the day's activities is to be posted. "Elves, wizards, ents, orcs and all others are welcome to join us for this celebration of one of the 20th century's most influential authors. We'll have kids' fun, live music, performances by Willamette Radio Workshop, the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in the Theater, Hobbit-inspired food specials and more! Come in costume to compete for prizes."

Talk About Trees Paper Workshop
”, Saturday, January 15, 1:30PM, Tigard Public Library Puett Room. Suggested for ages 5 and up. “Learn the history of paper, its many uses and the importance of recycling. Use recycled paper products, craft materials and your imagination, design a unique sheet of writing paper to take home.” 

Living Worlds”, Saturday, January 15, 11AM-12PM, The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Pdx. $15. Suggested for ages 6 and up. “Come create a miniature living world. Using pots, soil, small plants, easy to grow succulents, herbs and mosses, we will create a living mini-scape of our imagination! Experiment with natural materials to create your landscape. A meandering garden path? A rock wall? A pool of water? There will be materials for making miniature structures as well - a hut, a teepee, a fairy house? Take your living world home and watch it continue to grow! Please contact for a registration form.” 

Oregon Trail Trio”, Saturday, January 15, 2:30PM, Canby Public Library. “Trail Band members Mick Doherty, Gayle Neuman and Phil Neuman will perform a fun and historically informative program of music from the heyday of the Oregon trail up to the early 20th century, singing and playing instruments of the time. They choose from a wide variety of familiar and rare instruments including hammer dulcimer, violin, guitar, banjo, flageolet, tuba, tenor horn, walking stick recorder, pennywhistle, ocarina, serpent and others. They will also share stories about the music and instruments they're playing. “ Mick Doherty is also half the talent behind Oregon Shadow Theatre. 

Knights of Veritas”, Saturday, January 15, 4PM, Kenton Library. Saturday, January 29, 11AM, St. Johns Library. “Knights of Veritas is an organization specializing in interactive educational demonstrations of medieval arms, armor, combat, knighthood and chivalry. Through thrilling demonstrations of historical combat techniques, they will introduce the code of chivalry and demystify common fanciful misrepresentations of the Middle Ages. The program includes authentically weighted and detailed steel swords and armor to provide an eye-opening experience for the audience. Exciting hands-on sharing allows participants the rare opportunity to handle the weapons and try on the armor!” This is a really spectacular show. Both libraries have small community rooms, so although they do not currently show that they are limiting admission with free tickets, I highly recommend arriving early.

Guided Nature Walks”, Saturdays, January 15, 22, and 29, 10:AM- 11:30AM. Tryon Creek State Park. Free. January 15- Winter Twig Identification, January 22- Conifers of the Creek, January 29- Magnificent Moss and Lovely Lichen. Join a park ranger for a free, guided nature hike to explore the forest and stream ecosystems and natural history at Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Topics will vary from week to week but will be appropriate for all ages. Parents must accompany kids on all hikes. 

Kids' Day Drawing Party with Alex Beard”, Saturday, January 15, 2PM, Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton, OR. “With Monkey See, Monkey Draw (Abrams), artist Alex Beard brings to life his love of exploration and painting. Set in the African savannah, the book offers lessons in conservation, overcoming fears, and unleashing your inner artist. Join us for this special drawing party.”

Squirrel Survivors”, Sunday, January 16, 10AM- 11:30AM, Tryon Creek State Park, $10. Preregistration required. “Spend the morning exploring the park to learn about the squirrels that call Tryon Creek home. We will examine the features of squirrels as well as their fascinating behaviors through fun, hands-on activities.”

Winter Crafts For Kids”, Sunday January 16, 1-3PM, Gregory Heights Library. “The Gregory Heights Library Teen Council will host an afternoon of crafts for kids ages 4-10. Teens will help kids make snow globes, dazzling pipe-cleaner snowflakes with beads, clay sculptures and paper snowflakes. Join us for the fun!” 

Mudeye Puppets Open Build Night”, Tuesday, January 18, 5:30PM- 7:30PM, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave., Ste 237, Pdx. “Come be Mudeye masters! Wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy and we’ll teach you some tricks of the trade. Open Build Night is Free. Please RSVP if you plan on coming. Email or call 503-805-0291. Children and friends are welcome!” We checked this out a couple of months ago, and they had a big group of people helping make props and sets for shows. Refreshments were served, and everyone had a great time!

Book Celebration Featuring Author Eric Kimmel”, Wednesday January 19, 4:30PM, Barnes and Noble, Clackamas Town Center Mall, 12000 SE 82nd Avenue, Pdx. “Join us with our partner, Portland Reading Council, for an event featuring author Eric Kimmel. Nominees for the Patricia Gallagher Children's Choice Picture Book Award will be showcased including Kimmel's Anansi's Party Time. Enter to win door prizes!”

Recycled Jewelry”, Wednesday, January 19, 10:15-11:45AM, The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Pdx. $15. Suggested for ages 6 and up. “Did you know you could make jewelry out of paper? Metal washers? This class will cover a few different techniques using recycled materials, including rolled paper beads, metal washer pendants and more. Kids will get to take home multiple pieces of handmade recycled jewelry.” Please email for a registration form.

Water Into Electricity”, Thursday, January 20, 6-7PM, Tryon Creek State Park. Free, no preregistration required. This is a program aimed at adults, but some kids may find it fascinating. “Join us in the nature center for a fun evening learning about the environment around you! This will kick off our new adult lecture series with watershed themed talks. Pat Barry, Supervisory Park Ranger with Bonneville Lock and Dam Visitor Center will uncover the mystery behind turning water into electricity! A pretty complicated process that will be broken down in a way that anyone will be able to understand and share with their friends and family. Don’t miss this interactive program and opportunity to visit Tryon Creek after work to learn more about how the watery world around us works.”

Portland Metro Reptile Expo", Saturday, January 22, 10AM-4PM, Holiday Inn, 25425 SW 95th Ave., Wilsonville, OR. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for kids 6-12, and free for ages 5 and under. There is a $1 off coupon available on their website: We have been to this reptile expo just to look, and it's truly fascinating. Your child is absolutely guaranteed to get a more closeup view of a dazzling array of reptiles and amphibians than can be found at many zoos.

Model Trains with the Beaverton Modular Railroad Club", Saturday, January 22, 10AM-6PM and Sunday, January 23, 1PM-6PM, Lake Oswego Public Library. "Trains in the Library? You bet! Members of the Beaverton Modular Railroad Club are providing two sets of model trains and tracks to the Library; one set will be on the main floor and the other set in the children’s room. People of all ages are invited to view the trains, ask questions, and “drive” the trains. Kids can even bring their own trains to run on the tracks if they are HO. There will be train books available for check out to extend the learning and fun."

Gem Faire
”, Friday, January 21, 12PM- 7PM, Saturday, January 22, 10AM- 6PM, and Sunday, January 23, 10AM-5PM, Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro, OR. Admission $7 for a weekend pass, free for children under 12. “You'll find gems, jewelry, beads, classes, demonstrations, hourly door prizes, fossils, minerals, and more!” While this gem faire is focused on beads, there are generally quite a few delightful finds for the discerning young rock hound.

Easy Snowflake Making”, Sunday, January 23, 2:30-4PM, Holgate Library. “Drop in and make simple snowflakes with the help of Holgate Library's Teen Council. All materials provided.” 

Lego Construction Zone”, Sunday, January 23, 1:30PM, Tigard Public Library Puett Room. Suggested for ages 5 and up. “Drop in to work on your creations with other LEGO® fans. We'll supply the building blocks; you bring your creativity.” 

Winter Wild Walk”, Monday, January 24, 3:30PM, Hillsboro Main Library. For grades 1-3. We'll bundle up and take a winter walk on the wild side to discover how plants and animals handle shorter days and colder weather. Wear warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. (Registration required at the library or online  here.

Oregon Shadow Theatre presents, “Anansi the Spider”, Tuesday, January 25, 7PM, Forest Grove City Library. “Anansi the spider is clever, witty, foolish and greedy. He loves to eat and he hates to work. Anansi plays tricks on everyone and gets into a lot of trouble. In this story Anansi meets a River Goblin, fights a Chimpanzee, and plays a trick on his whole village.” The Oregon Shadow Theatre is really amazing and not to be missed.

Northwest Ag Show”, Tuesday, January 25. 10AM-6PM, Wednesday, January 26, 10AM- 9PM, and Thursday, January 27, 10AM -5PM, Portland Expo Center, 2060 n. Marine Drive, Pdx. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and free to children 12 and under. Parking is free. The Max Yellow Line stops here. “The NW Ag Show is the second largest agricultural show on the West Coast… It attracts over 200 exhibitors from the Northwest, across the country, and around the world. It's planned for the second day of our three day show at the Portland Expo Center, January 26th. We'll feature a family ticket for $15, making it exceptionally affordable for the whole family, a craft area for children, along with kid, and family-friendly meals that will be available at our food court." This is a must-see if your kid loves big trucks and tractors, or if you want your child to gain insight into the technology of modern agriculture. Last year we saw some really crazy machines!

Metal Sculpture”, Wednesday, January 26, 10:15-11:45AM, he Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Pdx. $15. Suggested for ages 4 and up. ““It went tick when it moved, and tock when it stopped and Whirrrrrr when it stood still. I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will!” 
In this 3-D sculpture class we will use glue, hot glue (for those age appropriate), wire and more to sculpt fantastic machines. What will you make? A robot? A time machine? A gadget that will make you chocolate waffles in the morning? Please email for a registration form.”

Lunar New Year Celebration”, Saturday, January 29, 1-3PM, Gregory Heights Library. “Celebrate the Lunar New Year customs of China and Vietnam and welcome the Year of the Rabbit at the library. Enjoy activities including a Vietnamese spelling bee and writing contest, traditional dress pageant, a lion dance performance, crafts and food!” From 1-1:30PM: Lion Dance: “Decorate red accordion fans with origami paper, Chinese character rubber stamps, glitter and other materials. The fan is a traditional Chinese symbol and red paper is used to symbolize good luck and happiness throughout the year. Artist Cindy Lommasson brings back this popular craft for the new year.” From 2-3PM: Red Fans for a Lunar New Year: “Decorate red accordion fans with origami paper, Chinese character rubber stamps, glitter and other materials. The fan is a traditional Chinese symbol and red paper is used to symbolize good luck and happiness throughout the year. Artist Cindy Lommasson brings back this popular craft for the new year.” 

Copper Wire Hearts”, Saturday, January 29, 2-5PM, Gresham Library. “Artist Kathleen Karbo will show you how to create a one-of-a-kind valentine using copper wire, pipe cleaners, and colorful beads and ornaments. Gain experience with hammers, anvils and needle-nose pliers. Fun for all ages!” 

Family Valentines”, Saturday, January 29, 2-4PM, Woodstock Library. “Join artist Lisa Kagan in creating valentines for your whole family through a combination of collage, personal photographs, drawing and creative writing. Participants will be encouraged to explore what love means to them as they create their own customized valentines. This project is a great activity for the whole family. Optional: Bring family photographs to incorporate into your project.” Registration required:

"OMSI Portable Planetarium", Saturday, January 29, Estacada Public Library, Flora Community Room.  11AM is a program suggested for kids K-3, and at 11:45 is a program suggested for grades 4 and up. "Discover how stars are formed and self-destruct, in our vast and amazing universe.Travel in time by learning star stories about queens, heroes, and mythical monsters while viewing the constellations that inspired the legends of ancient cultures."

Speaking of OMSI, they aren't either free or low cost, but their exhibit "Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science" opens January 29. (That's probably the worst time to plan a visit- it doesn't close until May 1 so you will have plenty of time to see it without the crowds.) Ancient Egypt is one of the more intriguing topics in history studies, but here in Portland it's rather difficult to learn about it close up. Here's a chance.

Mochitsuki 2011” Japanese New Year Celebration, Sunday, January 30th, 11am-4pm, Scottish Rite Center, 1512 SW Morrison Street, Pdx. Tickets $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62 years and up) and students, $3 for children ages 2-12, children 2 and under are free. This year tickets are required for admission to Mochitsuki, however they include admission to one of the stage performances and all of the activities. There are three different stage performances scheduled and you must indicate which show you will attend at the time of ticket purchase. The Japanese American community begins 2011 with a celebration of Japanese New Year traditions. “Mochitsuki,” or the making of mochi, a sticky rice cake, has taken place in Oregon since the first immigrants arrived in the late 19th century. Coming together to pound steamed rice into hearty cakes gathered people from far-flung railroad and lumber camps, farms and towns. Beginning the year with mochi symbolized both the strength of community and starting the year with a full belly. The Portland area Japanese Americans invite the public to join in its lively annual celebration at a large and historical location this year. In the Scottish Rite Center, Mochitsuki is a program of dynamic taiko drumming, Japanese folk dance, and storytelling that brings Oregon’s Japanese history to life. The concurrent Cultural Fair features a community stage, displays and hands-on activities for all ages. Come hungry for culture and great treats from the Pacific Rim. Show Schedule: 
Noon Show: Alton Chung, Minidoka Swing Band 
2:00pm Show: Hippoh Dance, Lewis/Clark, Mitsuki Dazai (koto), Portland Taiko, Sahomi Tachibana Dancers (traditional Japanese dance), Utsuki-kai (mochi-pounding) 
4:00pm Show: Emcee: Robert Kikuchi; Epworth Break Dance, Fujinami-kai (traditional Japanese dance), Nanda (acrobaticalists), Portland Taiko, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo (story-telling), Tanuki Taiko, Utsuki-kai.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Just in case you hadn't heard, Monday December 20 at 10:33PM Pacific Standard Time, a total lunar eclipse will begin.  Lunar eclipses are not that rare, but this one will be clearly visible for the entire length of the eclipse from all of North America.  Lunar eclipses are completely safe to view with the naked eye, and although star gazing is rather difficult this time of year, our chances of seeing the moon through the clouds are much greater.  From NASA: "At that time, Earth's shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the "bite" to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes. If you're planning to dash out for only one quick look - it is December, after all - choose this moment: 03:17 am EST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That's when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red. Why red? A quick trip to the Moon provides the answer: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway. You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it's not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth's circumference, you're seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb."  The Rose City Astronomers will be outside at OMSI with telescopes for free viewing from 9:30PM to 1AM.  (Binoculars also enhance viewing).   More here:

Christmas Tree Train

Going in the tunnel...
Our favorite local train excursion by far is the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, not too far off in Yacolt, WA.  All year long, this train ride is a treat.   The scenery is gorgeous, the train ride is just the right length, and the people who run it could not be friendlier.  Also you get to go through a spooky tunnel!   The cool seats are in the cupola of the cabooses (they know this- there were two cabooses this year).  Passengers take turns with these special seats.  The trains stop at Moulton Falls, a dramatically lovely spot.  This time of year, they run Christmas Tree Trains.  When the train stops at the Moulton Falls station, you can pick out a tree, which is carried back to the Yacolt station for you on the return train ride.  (Purchasing a tree is optional.)  Santa is at the station, with presents for every child, and hot chocolate, hot cider, and cookies for all.  Jasper encounters Santas all over the place, but he saves his Christmas wishes just for this particular Santa.  This year, two very sincere elves rode down in our car, getting everyone to sing Christmas carols.  Any time of year, it's definitely worth a drive!
A view from the cupola of the caboose.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Even in December, it's good to meander through some woods just to see what you can see.  We saw plenty, on a recent soggy day at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park.  This nature park has the distinction of being one of the few places to walk in the woods that is next to a stop on the Max.  There's a tremendous concentration of nature here, in the heart of the western suburbs.  It's kind of a last refuge for many creatures. Some of the trails are paved and stay pretty mud free all year. In the spring, the tadpole pond teems with millions of tadpoles and newt larvae.   In the summer, it's one of the most reliable places to see (harmless) garter snakes, and huge bullfrogs.  This time of year, it's a great place to see rough-skinned newts, lichen, moss, fungi, nests no longer hidden in the trees, and slime mold.  It's quite an oasis.  Here's some pictures of some of the marvels of our nature walk.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Corner Crest Natural Farm

Rain or no rain, it was time to get our Christmas tree.  It's easy to find one already cut, but it's so much more fun to visit one of the many local tree farms and cut our own.  For us, the obvious choice was Corner Crest Natural Farm.  The trees have only natural beauty, with no pruning or spraying.  I expected our tree might be a little wild, but surprisingly we seem to have ended up with a real symmetrical beauty, here and there dotted with lovely lichen.  It's got to be our best tree ever!   And Corner Crest is owned by a lovely family that homeschools, so the trees come with especially good karma!

Yes, it's true that Oregon is the nation's top grower of Christmas trees, and it's a great sustainable business we love to support.  And yes, it's also true that artificial trees can pose a hidden lead hazard.  But I must admit, we just love the delicious way  a real tree scents the air.     

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do Jump

Do Jump was offering discounted tickets to several homeschool groups to a performance, and we jumped at the chance to check them out!  We were treated to what turned out to be the public debut of the second half of their amazing holiday show, followed by an awesome question and answer session that I'm betting will not be included in the official program.  The last piece, which completely fascinated the audience, involved a large screen stretched the entire length of the stage.  Above it were the torsos of the performers, and below, at a strange distance, their legs.  Their legs definitely had minds of their own.  At times, they seemed to grow discontented with their upper halves, and drifted off or found other torsos to hang out under.

After the performance, in response to a question from a child in the audience, they performed the end of the piece without the screen.  The kids really loved seeing how they created this illusion.   Do Jump offers some cool classes for homeschoolers:  "Sign up as individuals or groups for a day time class in trapeze, acrobatics, creative movement and physical theater. Classes focus on building strength, confidence and creative expression in a safe and non-competitive atmosphere. Ages 4 - 12."  For more on their amazing holiday show or their classes, check out their website:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Events This Weekend

Timberline Nature Walk With Bruno!”, Throughout the winter, Friday through Sunday at 10AM. Meet at the US Forest Service Desk inside Timberline Lodge, on Highway 26 at Mt. Hood. Free, donations appreciated. “Join a Ranger and the 150 pound mascot of Timberline Lodge — the St. Bernard Bruno for some fun on Mount Hood! Depart from Timberline Lodge and stroll through the high country with Bruno on this short 1-2 mile walk (depending on weather) while learning about the winter ecology of Mount Hood. Once the snow flies, be sure to bring your winter gear and an appetite for adventure! For additional information, please call 503-622-2033 or visit” 

"Open Studios at TaborSpace", Saturday December 11 and Saturday December 18, 10AM -1PM,  TaborSpace, 5441 SE Belmont, Pdx., $5 per child.  "Young artists from 3-18yrs. will have fun exploring a variety of art materials and have the opportunity to work on a community mosaic as well. Drop in cost is $5/child. Drop your child off for an art class and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea downstairs in the TaborSpace coffee shop."  Artist Leslie Tucker will also be taking registrations for her regular classes, beginning in January, in painting, collage, mixed media, mosaic, and open studio.  More info here:

Dennis’ 7 Dees Hosts Reindeer Magic!”, Friday December 10, 10 am to 5 pm at their Lake Oswego Garden Center, 1090 McVey Ave., Lake Oswego, OR, and Saturday, December 11, 10 am to 5 pm, Cedar Hills Garden Center, 10455 SW Butner Rd., Portland. “For the second year, we will have Santa's reindeer help us kick off the holiday season. Enjoy some apple cider and cookies while visiting the live reindeer. Frosty will bring his pal and children can have their picture taken with the reindeer for free!”! 

22nd Annual Origami Workshop”, Sunday, December 12, 1-3PM, World Trade Center, Mezzanine Level, SW 1st Ave between Salmon and Taylor Streets, Free. “At the 22nd Annual Origami Workshop, volunteers from the local community will teach participants “Origami” - the Japanese art of paper folding. Everyone is welcome! Cranes, Roses, Animal Faces, Basket, Origami Wreath and more! Sponsored by Consulate-General of Japan in Portland." 

Mad Science "Fire & Ice"

Mad Science did a show this week called "Fire & Ice".  Jasper and I both love Mad Science shows, so there was no way we were going to miss this one. I'm not sure if there was truly any unifying  scientific principle for all these experiments, but that doesn't mean that we didn't both learn a lot.  And of course it was thoroughly enthralling.  The lady doing this presentation was beyond fantastic.  

Changes in air pressure caused by a hair dryer allow three pingpong balls at once to float in the air!

The fire inside the flask consumed oxygen, lowering the air pressure.  The shelled, hard boiled egg on top, suddenly popped in!

Dry ice mixed with water can be used to make some pretty cool soap bubbles!
And lastly, a video of our Mad Scientist handing out more  dry ice soap bubbles!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Wonderful World of Amazon

Are you, like me, caught like a deer in the headlights as Christmas fast approaches with devastating swiftness?  Never fear!  Amazon is here!  I know, you probably use it mostly for the excellent product reviews, which help you pick out which resources to get for free from the library.  But those product reviews can point you in the direction of some truly amazing items.  Just in time to save Christmas!  Check out the links below:

Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt, Tuscan Whole MilkLatest Word in Self-PublishingSteering Wheel Desk TrayUranium OreFresh Whole RabbitUFO Detector

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Champoeg Holiday Gathering

We decided to see what the festivities were like at the Champoeg Holiday Gathering. Champoeg State Heritage Area is an amazing place to go to learn about pioneer era history.  The holiday gathering was focused on pioneer era crafts for children.  Their events are free (although a $5 parking fee per vehicle is required at this state park).  A storyteller was there telling wintery tales, and musicians played lively folk tunes.  I was spellbound by the four ladies who had gathered there  to make lace.  This was a dying art when my mother was young, and I'm amazed they actually found four people who were available to come there at the same time, who actually know this astonishing art.  The lady whose lace appears in the photograph, told me that so far she'd invested about 200 hours in this piece.  Kids were making pomander balls from clementines and cloves, lavender sachets with real raw wool, and cup and ball games. (An acorn is attached to a wooden cup with a string.  The object is to flip the acorn into the cup- pretty tricky!)  There were also cookies to decorate, swags to be made from evergreen branches, bows, and holly, and more.  Jasper got very excited about weaving God's eyes, one of those pleasures of childhood I'd all but forgotten.  We went out and bought a bunch of yarn, and he's been weaving more and more at home.  I suspect they may end up all over our Christmas tree!  A volunteer struck up a conversation with Jasper about beaver trapping.  He showed Jasper the beaver traps they have on display.  He explained that they liked to bait traps with a beaver scent gland, and that different sized traps were needed because beavers could reach sizes of up to 120 lbs, or 5 feet from snout to tail!  Champoeg has a wonderful pioneer garden that Jasper loves.  He insisted on visiting it, despite the fact that little grows in the garden in December.  In fact it was hard to drag him away.  He can't wait until he's old enough to volunteer to help grow it.  If you are looking for a way to get your child intrigued with history, or if they already are, Champoeg is a great place to visit.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010


This weekend we headed over to PSU to check out ScanFair.  For 26 years, the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation has been hosting his festival, and it has grown to be really over the top.  I learned that it's best to get there early if you want a seat, because the dancing is fantastic.   (Homeschoolers are represented in these folk dancing groups!)  Also, it's best not to eat before you get there, because the food is outrageous.  They were serving up Swedish pancakes and meatballs with lingonberries, hot Danish aeblekive, which are perfectly round balls of apple pancake/popover goodness baked in a special cast-iron pan, more baked goods than I've seen in one place at one time in many years, and more.  Of course they have all manner of Scandinavian gifts, including clothing, jewelry, books and cookbooks, and handicrafts, and Scandinavian language schools were also there.  They even had a room where Scandinavian films were screening.  Nearly every aspect of Scandinavian culture was represented.  

Jasper was enthralled with their kid's craft room.   He made a Lucia crown for himself, and was really proud of the little wooden Santa he made.  They offered several others as well, including a cool Viking ship.  He had a blast, and actually learned something about Scandinavian culture at the same time.  I think we're going to have to make it an annual event!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Columbia Gorge Model Railroad

Every November, the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club in North Portland open their doors for a special open house, delighting model railroad fans big and small.  Of all the local clubs that offer an open house, they seem to have the most amazing and complete layout, and we never miss a chance to marvel at its complexity and detail.  It's in HO scale.  From their website:  "The designed to represent the rail lines between Portland and Wishram, Washington plus the rail line up the Deschutes River to Bend, Oregon. Points of interest that have been specifically modeled on this new layout includes Portland's Union Station and the Steele Bridge, Multnomah Falls, Crown Point, Portland's Trolley Lines, The Deschutes River Canyon, Wishram's Railroad Yard, and many interesting points between." The club not only owns the building, they had it built just for their layout.  Inside the club, they also have a room where they offer refreshments, souvenirs, a big Lego train layout, and a layout with four train cars that kids can control themselves. It's great fun!  Many kids love trains, and it can be a wonderful way to learn about all sorts of other things, especially history and music, and to introduce some of the principles behind engines.  (There's just an amazing number of songs in dozens of genres written about trains.  The libraries have lots of compilations).