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How To Make A Grown Up Advent Calendar

11.25.14

Advent Calendar Ideas

Last year, I wanted to make an adult advent calendar. No, not that kind of “adult”. Sheesh!

Seeing a friend’s calendar of adorable tree-topped miniature boxes, I started thinking how it would be fun to do a grown up version. After doing a bit of searching around, it seemed that most advent calendar ideas were either for kids or they were interesting themed gifts of 25 whiskeys, 25 chocolates, 25 wines etc. I wanted to do something a bit more budget friendly and experience oriented instead of shopping/consumer driven.

The result was a giant list of fun activities and outings. After the list was finished, I realized that they fall into three main categories – food or drinks to make/eat, at home activities, and holiday outings. I’m sure you’ll be able to think of a ton more fun activities along those lines!

Since I was traveling the first few days of December, the advent calendar was just a list in Google Docs. Then I ordered some silver cardstock on Amazon, so by the time I got the paper, printed and cut out all the circles it was Day 6, but who’s counting?

Here’s how to make your own:

1. Create a list of at least 25 activities or little gifts. (see ideas below)

2. Make sure the activities line up with anything already on your calendar (ie. if you have a big Christmas party on the 13th, make sure you slot in something simple as the activity for that day).

3. Be flexible. If you miss a day or need to re-arrange things, don’t stress about it. The point of creating this advent calendar is to add more joy into your month, not create a stress storm!

4. Find a calendar style that works for you. You could go as simple as writing them all down on paper or keeping a list on your calendar, or more complicated with little boxes or bags, like some of these ideas. I designed my own Christmas tree shape out of silver dots. Check out the instructions on how, below.

#1-12How To Make the Dot Christmas Tree Advent Calendar:

Step 1. Get silver cardstock (or any color you like).

Step 2. Arrange 12 #s to a page equally spaced with a fun font. Here’s my template, #1-12 printable pdf, #13-24 printable pdf, #25 printable pdf (in gold or silver). Print onto the card stock with your printer. If you don’t have a printer, you can print to Kinkos for pretty cheap too.

Step 3. Round up a few glasses from the kitchen to see what size of circle fits best (using either the rim of glass or base of glass) and trace around each circle with a pencil. Then cut out the circles!

Step 4. Print out the list of activities (or write them on the back side of each dot) and assemble on the wall in a Christmas tree shape. I printed out the activities list and used double sided tape to attach to each dot so we could have the option of moving days around and re-using the dots another year.

Advent Calendar Christmas tree

Adult Advent Calendar Activities:

Here is my idea list from the categories of making food or drinks, at home activities, and outings – some of which can overlap. :)

  1. switched to washi tape after some fell off the wall :)Make fancy hot chocolate
  2. Make eggnog
  3. Make spiced cider
  4. Soup night! with friends
  5. Buy a new whiskey – make hot toddies
  6. Make cookies
  7. Make or go out for a holiday cocktail
  8. Make smores
  9. host a holiday brunch with friends
  10. Decorate the tree
  11. Make something crafty
  12. Wrap gifts
  13. Massages
  14. Write a holiday card?
  15. Mail or send cards
  16. Make popcorn and watch a fun holiday movie
  17. Any donations?
  18. Buy or make some Christmas candy
  19. Make paper snowflakes
  20. play Christmas songs on guitar or sing carols
  21. make a holiday playlist on Pandora
  22. game night
  23. go to Timberline lodge
  24. get chai go for a walk
  25. Stocking stuffer outing
  26. Shopping downtown
  27. Visit Hood River
  28. Go to Powell’s Books - read with niece
  29. Attend a Christmas event
  30. dress up for dinner or drinks
  31. Arts – go to a play or musical performance
  32. go soaking at Kennedy School
  33. go out for tiki drinks or holiday cocktails
  34. holiday train ride
  35. Go out for holiday ales
  36. go look at Christmas lights
  37. Take grandparents out talk about childhood Christmas’
  38. holiday pop-up shops
  39. Have a Holiday picnic
  40. Volunteer somewhere
  41. go out for a comfort food dinner
  42. sledding or snowshoeing
  43. yoga de-stress before the madness

And here’s a printable list of some of the above activities that we picked last year. Enjoy!

advent calendar ideas

Are you doing an advent calendar this year?

This post was updated, but originally written in December 2013. Enjoy!

 

Eat All the Vegetables: CSA Adventures

09.18.14

After taking two summers off from gardening, I’m back to discovering how green my thumbs can be. I had considered doing a CSA at the beginning of summer and then decided to DIY with gardening and farmers market. I started out this spring with some container gardening – think super small planters, not a container box on the ground. The arugula, strawberries, butter lettuce, and basil did really well until June or July. And after moving mid-summer, suddenly I had a 75% volunteer garden! We’re still overflowing with tomatoes – cherry, sun gold, heirloom, roma… There’s a little bit of basil still hanging on, tons of rhubarb, mint, rosemary, sage. The blueberries were amazing, but long gone. Pumpkins – surprise! And the only thing that didn’t turn out well from our super volunteer garden was the corn.

weekly CSA

As the summer ends, tons and tons of tomatoes are the only veggie we’re still juggling from our garden. So when a friend asked if I wanted to take over the last couple months of his CSA share as he moves to Seattle, I accepted the challenge.

I thought it would be fun to document here some of what we’re receiving each week and how I’m making myself actually use it!

This Week’s CSA bounty:

  • Dragon Tongue Beans
  • Jimmy Nardello and Padrone peppers
  • Criolla Sella peppers
  • 2 tiny onions
  • Eggplant
  • Mixed Tomatoes

 Eat All the Veggies Strategy:

1. Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Feta Salad - I ended up combining a couple recipes and using what was available, for this salad. It was super tasty– eggplant, tomatoes, feta, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and basil.
Roasted eggplant salad

2. Dragon Tongue Beans with Butter and Garlic – While these purple and white beans are fun to look at — they ended up not being my favorite. I sautéed them with butter and garlic and added some basil. The purple color faded, which obviously doesn’t impact the taste – but I was more into the garlic, butter, and basil sauce than the actual beans.
Dragon Tongue Beans

3. Feta-stuffed Peppers – My sister had just sent me a quick recipe she created, so I knew exactly what I was going to use the mini peppers for when I saw them in the CSA this week. This is one quick and tasty starter. RECIPE: After halving, and de-seeding the peppers, boil or steam them for about 5 minutes. Mix 1/2 to 3/4 cup of feta, 1+ TB of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Then fill the pepper halves with the mixture, place on a baking sheet and broil on a lower rack in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. So good!

Feta-stuffed Peppers

The only unused veggies this week were the few tiny spicy peppers – hot sauce maybe? And the small onions, which will go in almost anything next week.

CSA Verdict?
After the first week, I’m super excited about getting out of my current cooking rut! I love cooking and trying new recipes, but all too often I get in little routines of making the same dishes on my meal plan. Another thing I noticed was that if I have something to use up, I’ll go searching for a recipe to make, but in the grocery store I usually just quickly run through my typical things. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way this week to pick up eggplant, peppers, or dragon tongue beans.

What new thing have you cooked lately?

Photo by Schoolyard Farms

49 Things to Do Before Summer Ends

08.22.14

With 31 days of summer left, I’m starting to feel like I’m running out of time to experience all the summer stuff I love. But I feel like this every year. Summer in Oregon is pretty much the best thing ever.

My summer list is a little Portland-centric, so feel free to replace things with your local, summer fun time places and things.

Summer in Oregon

45 Things to Do Before Summer Ends:

I’m bolding the stuff I still want to check off!

  1. Go berry picking - (does the yard count?)
  2. Go to Sauvie Island
  3. Camp in the backyard
  4. Do a backyard fire – s’mores
  5. Invite people over for BBQ/picnic – (informal house warming)
  6. Picnic at the park – done, a fancy picnic would also be fun
  7. Go tubing / river float
  8. Go to the coast – Oswald West!
  9. Go to the river – swam at the Clackamas River
  10. Go kayaking – kayak camped on the Willamette River and kayaked on 4th of July
  11. Have a big day of biking – birthday bike ride surprise!
  12. Mani/pedis – post-half marathon!
  13. Wear all my summer dresses and clothes
  14. Go out to breakfast on a weekday – I finally tried Sweedeedee
  15. Stay out late and have cocktails
  16. Wear heels 1x week – this can happen after my half marathon!
  17. Buy new sunnies
  18. Road trip! – to Seattle (ferry to Victoria), and to Vancouver for SeaWheeze
  19. Make morning mimosas
  20. Go on a boat – on the Columbia River in Kennewick
  21. Drink rose – reminds me of southern France
  22. Go to Last Thursday
  23. Go to a Beer Fest – how have I not checked this off yet this summer?
  24. Visit every ice cream shop in Portland – my favorite is Fifty Licks (no, not Salt & Straw, but they’re delicious too). Still need to visit: What’s the Scoop? Cool Moon, and Cloud City.
  25. Go to patios/rooftops in PDX that I haven’t visited yet - Departure, Salty’s on the Columbia
  26. Day trip to Hood River – did the valley fruit loop, I’d still like to do another summer Hood River visit
  27. play in the ocean – Kailua, Hawaii! and Oregon coast
  28. Declare my own summer song – Capital Cities - Safe and Sound has been on repeat, and Milk
  29. Make tasty water like the hotel in Victoria, just because – mint water! blueberry mint water!
  30. Smoothie making – try/invent a few new recipes
  31. Go standup paddle boarding
  32. Wear a sundress more often
  33. Bike everywhere for one+ week - post race
  34. Go camping – went kayak camping, not car tent camping yet
  35. Go backpacking -kayak camping is similar
  36. Buy a new swimsuit
  37. Go to movies in the park – Back to the Future at Arbor Lodge
  38. Go to a summer music festival or concert – SeaWheeze Sunset Festival – Capital Cities & The Colourists!
  39. Buy a new hat – got a birthday hat!
  40. Pretend I’m 15 and buy a new summer fragrance
  41. New sunscreen – I need more California Baby
  42. Try a new cocktail – Multnomah Whiskey Library is still on my list
  43. Read a new book (for fun not “work”!)
  44. Find my favorite summer seasonal beer – still testing…
  45. Go to Edgefield or Kennedy School - soaking pool! or golf?
  46. Roast corn – can’t wait to roast more from the garden
  47. Harvest from the garden – make a meal with mostly home-grown (tomatoes and basil pasta!) blueberries for dessert.
  48. Watch the stars – saw shooting stars at Oswald West
  49. Savor sunsets – in progress

What’s left on your summer list?

Best River Floats in Portland – Hello, Summer!

This week marks the official start to summer! As the weather heats up – yes, it gets into the 90s in Portland – city folk run for the Oregon coast and the nearest rivers. If you’ve been dreaming of a leisurely day on the water, here’s everything you need to know to get out on one of our many rivers.

Which Portland river to float?

While there are many rivers that you can swim and play in near Portland (including parts of the Columbia and the Willamette), if you want to do a proper float — from point A to point B — your best bet is to head to the Sandy River or the Clackamas River. Both rivers have several parks that you can base yourself from and either swim/wade in the water or go tubing. The Sandy is a little closer to central Portland, but the Clackamas is my favorite. You can also float on the Willamette River in July during The Big Float event.

Clackamas River float

Logistics:

First, you’ll need two cars if you plan to float from one park to the next (your other option is to bike or hitch a ride back to the upper parking lot). Here’s how:

1. On your way to the river, either drop Car #1 off at the float STOPPING point (and have driver #1 jump in Car #2) and drive Car #2 to the START point. OR have everyone meet at the STARTING point and then while everyone is getting ready, Driver #1 and #2 take both cars to the STOPPING point as detailed above.

2. When you arrive at the end of the float, either fit everyone into Car #1 and go get Car #2 at the STARTING point OR send both drivers to rescue Car #1. And everyone else gets to start a picnic. (Hope you put the food in Car #1).

Remember, the drivers need to keep their keys with them on the float!

Where to buy or rent tubes in Portland:

Most outdoor stores (Next Adventure etc.) in Portland have inner tubes for river floats (and stores like Fred Meyer do too). As summer heats up, it can be difficult to find tubes in stock and/or at a reasonable price, so plan ahead (I was quoted $60 for the cheapest tube at one big box sporting goods store in town one year). As much as I like to shop local, I decided to buy inner tubes on Amazon (and with Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping, you don’t have to plan ahead that far), which makes the adventure much more affordable!

Best Routes: Clackamas River Float

You have several options for floating the Clackamas River, as there are three typical start points and three end points. The most popular launch is from Milo McIver State Park‘s Upper Ramp near Estacada, Oregon (see map for details).

Float times:

  • Route 1: McIver Upper Ramp to McIver Lower Ramp – 2hrs
  • Route 2: McIver Upper Ramp to Barton – 6-7 hours
  • Route 3: McIver Upper Ramp to Carver – 8-9 hours
  • Route 4: McIver Lower Ramp to Barton – 5-6 hours
  • Route 5: McIver Lower Ramp to Carver – 7-8 hours

Best Routes: Sandy River Float

The most popular route on the Sandy is Dabney State Recreation Area to Lewis & Clark State Park (see map below). You can also start at Dodge Park and continue to Lewis & Clark.

Best river floats

Things to Bring to the River:

Newbie Tubing Tips:

  • McIver State Park and Carver County Park both close at 9pm; Barton closes at 10pm. Keep this in mind when you’re planning which route to float.
  • Most routes pass through several sets of small rapids (depending on the time of year, water levels and speed vary), so not recommended for small children.
  • You’ll need to purchase a $5 day use pass for both cars (main and shuttle).
  • If your car key is a fob and not an old school key, you’ll need to have a way to keep that key dry, by using an Otterbox etc.
  • Bring water! The idea of drinking a beer while floating the river might sound fantastic, but you’ll want water as well.
  • Bring a lunch! There are a few convenience stores on the way to the parks, but after your first hour or two of floating you’ll be glad you packed a picnic.
  • Just because you can drunkenly lay in a tube and float in water, doesn’t mean you can swim, maneuver small rapids, and/or help someone else if they need help. Drink responsibly!
  • If you get a fancy-schmancy tube you’ll need a pump to inflate the main intertube and a bike pump or your mouth to inflate the backrest.
  • Go see what the river looks like at the STOPPING point so you don’t float by.
  • You’ll learn this tip quickly: when you’re approaching rapids (and rocks), lift your butt out of the water!
  • Have fun, but be smart – every couple years someone dies on the river. Take safety seriously.

River Float Map:


View Portland Tubing: River Float Map in a larger map

Have you been river floating near Portland?

Leave your favorites in the comments. Float on!

Happy Girls 10K – Bend Oregon

06.05.14

This is a quick race recap post about my running adventures. Check out my Running page for more info on races and how I started running.

Happy Girls Course - Bend

If you haven’t been to Central Oregon, add it to your list! 300 days of sunshine, epic views of the Cascade mountains range, and a booming beer scene. Plus, one of the funniest things about Bend, is as a pretty outdoorsy person, being there makes me feel like a total amateur. While the Pacific Northwest has a good deal of people who like to get out on the weekend and hike etc., Central Oregon is full of athletes and people who are outdoorsy like it’s their job. Coming from Portland, it’s fun to see the difference.

I started the ball rolling on Memorial Day weekend plans in Bend way back in January. Then I saw that the Happy Girls 10k was the same weekend and decided to sign up.

Last year it was a bit chilly over Memorial Day weekend in Bend, but this year was pretty ideal running weather. Since the place we were staying was literally right on the course, we had our own little cheering section at the park. I definitely need to work on the slow down and smile nicely for a photo from loved ones bit though.

My Happy Girls 10k Time – 0:59 (9:37 pace)

  • Mile 1 – 9:25
  • Mile 2 – 9:15
  • Mile 3 – 9:54
  • Mile 4 – 10:07
  • Mile 5 – 10:13
  • Mile 6 – 9:37

I started out waaay to fast [for me!] on this one. I also overlooked that there was a bit of a hill in mile 5, oops! My Nike+ ended at 6.1 something instead of 6.2, so not sure what was up with the course or my phone.

Happy Girls Race Swag/Perks:

  • goodie bag with random stuff I don’t remember (the lavender soap was great though!)
  • 1 GoodLife Brewing beer at the finish
  • post-race snacks (fruit, hummus etc)

What: Happy Girls 10k
When: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Where: Deschutes River Trail – Bend, Oregon
Price: $37.58 (with promo code)

Bend 10k - I don't usually buy race photos. Ha!Overall, I loved the Happy Girls race. The course around the Deschutes River and parks is as-always gorgeous. It’s also fun to see Mt Bachelor and Broken Top in the background of race photos.

The staff of the event were also really kind. The only downside was that it lacked the “race energy” that you experience at bigger events with more people. And for my friend who ran through an injury, the lack of a distraction from smiling, cheering faces was probably a bit more noticeable. While the 10k was a tiny group, it seemed like both the half and the 5k were a bit more packed.

I can see myself running this one again.

Olivia Raymer
Things I ♥: travel, food (I'm a pescatarian), the Pacific Northwest, bikes (I ride an orange mixte), beer (IPAs), summer, coffee, lists, and kitties. Travel enthusiast, former product manager, dabbler, and currently helping small businesses with digital strategy at Early Bird Strategy.

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