Holiday How To
Image: Tim Kamerer

Give Back Without Going Broke

Depositing even small change in the barista’s tip jar can feel painful in this economy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to give. GoodSearch.com, a search engine powered by Yahoo, will donate a penny to the charity of your choice each time you conduct a search (think of it as Google with a conscience). More than 1,200 Oregon nonprofits are listed, including the Oregon Humane Society, Girl Scouts Columbia River Council, and the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. Even if you conduct only 10 searches daily, after a month you’ll have tallied up enough to help the Humane Society mail donation requests to 12 other (possibly richer) souls. Still feeling miserly? Go to Good Search’s sister site, GoodShop.com, where more than 700 companies will donate a percentage of any purchase to your designated charity. You’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling and the cashmere sweater you’ve been eyeing.
—Kasey Cordell

 

Meditate Anywhere

You’re standing in a mile-long line at a department store, trying to block out the sound of the baby screaming behind you and worrying about the turkey that may be burning in your oven when you realize the woman ahead of you has decided to purchase the entire store. Don’t panic! It’s actually possible to de-stress and meditate just about anywhere.

  • First, stop what you’re doing and take three deep, long breaths while folding your arms behind your back. Concentrating on your breathing is key to calming yourself, says Genko, a novice monk at the Dharma Rain Zen Center at SE Madison Street and 26th Avenue.
  • Being fully present forms the basis of calm, so as you mind your breathing, focus on positive thoughts. (Repeat after us: “I love that baby, I love that baby … ”)
  • Stop and breathe before you react. Jacqueline Mandell, a Buddhist meditation teacher at New Renaissance Bookstore on NW 23rd Avenue, says, “Harmonious speech creates a calm environment of ‘no regret.’” Plus, the Dalai Lama likes to remind us: “Do good. If you cannot do good, at least refrain from harm (to both yourself and others).”
  • If all else fails, walk away from the situation and find a quiet
    place to clear your head.
    —Anna Dukehart

4 Ways to Wrap With Recycled Materials

Recycling can be boring and tedious, and so can wrapping presents. According to one of Murphy’s lesser-known laws, sometimes combining two distinctly boring tasks can yield pleasant results: DULL + UNITERESTING = FUN². We suggest having a look around the house and reincarnating some of the old stuff as gift wrap.

1. Road maps and atlas pages can provide unique texture and can be personalized. (Remember our trip to Burning Man, Mom?) For the gift tag, use a blank postcard or museum stub.
2. Your old dorm-room posters are usually big and vibrant enough to cover and enliven larger gifts. But, for the holidays, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from anything bikini- or beer-themed.?
3. Mayor-elect Sam Adams wants to impose a tax on your shopping bags, but would he still want to do that if he saw us reusing them to wrap our tax-exempt gifts? You can wrap a colorful shopping bag around a gift, plume it out, and make a festive bow. Just make sure to remove the spinach detritus first.?
4. Sometimes all that caring and giving just gets too mushy. To leaven the mood you need a good old-fashioned prank. This isn’t really a gift-wrapping tip, but we like it anyway. With pieces of recycled cardboard, you can trick your child into thinking he’s receiving the Japanese robot he begged for when in fact he’ll receive a sensible sweater. Instructions: Cut and shape the box as desired, fill with canned food for extra weight, wrap it up in, say, one of the aforementioned methods, and voilà—you’ve punked your kid. (Then bring out the bot.)
—Lucas Bradley-Kelly

Decorate Your House Without Blinding the Neighbors

Somewhere inside all of us lies childlike admiration for over-the-top holiday gaudiness—animatronic reindeer galloping across the roof, forests of glow-in-the-dark candy canes, a house so bejeweled with lights a cosmonaut could spot it from space. That does not mean, however, that you should actually go all Griswold on your own home (unless of course, God help you, you live on SE Peacock Lane). Instead, consider heeding the advice of Ink & Peat owner and floral designer Pam Zsori: “If it’s inflatable or requires a motor, walk away.”
Zsori recommends eschewing tackiness in favor of elegance by taking a natural approach to outdoor décor. That 1970s-era plastic Nativity scene, the one with the kneeling camels and the glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary? Put it on eBay. Trust us.

Here are five helpful tips, courtesy of Zsori:

1. Use light sparingly lest you blind the neighbors and yourself. Pick one color, preferably white, and use it only as an accent. Avoid those dangling icicle lights, which appear messy.
2. Let Christmas emanate from the earth. Consider planting giant green-and-white kale, which has a frosty, snowball-esque look, or scatter potted dwarf evergreens throughout your yard.
3. Make wreaths from nature, not plastic. Gather branches and shape them into wreaths that can be hung on the door or from trees. With glue or wire, attach a few pinecones and buckeyes, which you should be able to find easily on walks through your neighborhood. If you wish, paint the wreaths white (with low-VOC paint, of course).
4. Consider avoiding the traditional yet potentially garish red and green, and instead try modern Christmas hues. Zsori likes to use ribbons in muted colors, like sage green, subtle shades of silver, and even rich browns.
5. It’s best to under-do it than to overdo it. Keep it simple. It’s prettier, and it’s also a lot less work when it comes time to take down the décor.
—Jill Davis

Concoct Historic Hot Buttered Rum

When Trader Vic’s closed in 1996 after almost 40 years in business downtown, at the Benson Hotel, many a regular mourned the loss of the Polynesian palace’s famous Hot Buttered Rum. But hark. Mark Joseph, the bar manager at El Gaucho steak house—in the same hallowed space once occupied by the tiki-inspired restaurant—has revived the classic cocktail in all its sticky, cinnamony splendor. The barman uses the original Trader Vic’s recipe (see below) to whip up a batch most winter evenings. He says, “It’s the kind of drink where people drop in off the street, throw one back, then disappear into the night.” 319 SW Broadway; elgaucho.com
-Nino Padova

Hot Buttered Rum Batter
(1 batch = 20 drinks)

  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • ¼ lb soft butter
  • ¼ to ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ to ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ to ½ tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt, and continue beating.

Trader Vic’s Hot Buttered Rum

  • 1 tsp Hot Buttered Rum batter
  • 1 ½ oz light Puerto Rican rum

Preheat mug with boiling water. Dump water, place batter in mug, add rum. Fill mug with hot water, stir well, and garnish with a stick of cinnamon. Drink quickly and finish shopping.

Organize the Family

Get ahead for 2009 by buying each family member a planner and filling it with important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, and vacations. Personalize each planner with photos, drawings, and recipes—and don’t forget to include self-addressed stationery and stamps. To make the gift a little grander, include tickets to an event and mark the date. A great place to start looking for that special book: Oblation Papers and Press (516 NW 12th Ave; 503-223-1093; oblationpapers.com), a European-style paper boutique and print shop, in the Pearl District (we especially love their Portland-made note cards).
—Cameron Blair

Go it Alone Without Going Insane

Airline tickets are too expensive. You’ve run out of vacation days. You can’t bear the thought of spending Christmas Eve on a blow-up mattress on your relatives’ dining room floor (of course all the bedrooms will be occupied by couples). Whatever the reason you’re going solo this holiday season, there are others with a similar story. And you can probably find them at your local sipping spot. We recommend the Cheerful Tortoise (1939 SW Sixth Ave; 503-224-3377) which opens at 6 p.m. on Christmas. True, swankier bars are open Christmas Day, among them Jake’s Grill (611 SW 10th Ave; 503-220-1850), but at the Cheerful Tortoise you’re less likely to find yourself surrounded by families and couples, thereby sparing yourself reminders of singlehood. No, the Tortoise is a drinking man’s bar—especially men who prefer their liquor and vittles with a side of sports. The 50-plus televisions, including 6 plasma screens in the nonsmoking room, make it an ideal place to take in the five NBA games played on Christmas Day (including Portland versus Dallas). And if a pummeling of Dallas (fingers crossed!) doesn’t warm your heart, we’re betting a pint from one of the 19 taps will.
—Kasey Cordell

Pretend You’re in Hawaii

While a friend and I were road-tripping around Oahu’s North Shore, he told me he’d once gutted out a bleak Pacific Northwest winter by occasionally huffing Coppertone sunscreen. The scent, he said, reminded him of sunnier days. I laughed this off as, well, a little sad. Until I tried it back home. Only I didn’t prefer Coppertone—too metallic. Instead, I took a whiff of Hawaiian Tropic, the original one, with the bottle that looks a bit like Kahlúa. The sea turtles, the ukuleles, the vanilla-scented leis, catching a wave in warm, clear water—memories wafted from the bottle (opening it was a hell of a lot easier than opening a coconut). That said, a perfectly acceptable alternative to cavorting around with suntan lotion would be to order a mai tai at Thatch Tiki Bar (2733 NE Broadway; 503-281-8454). Chock-full of straw huts, wood-carved tiki gods, and, above the bar, an old outrigger canoe, it’s bound to trigger dreams of the South Pacific.
—Brian Barker

Clean Up

Dreams of a white Christmas don’t often include leftover Styrofoam and packing peanuts. J. Lauren Norris, who heads up the city’s Master Recycler Program, says these holiday interlopers need not raise your hackles. She recommends disposing of the peanuts by taking them to a shipping store like UPS, where they’re accepted for reuse. Styrofoam requires a bit more effort since only one place accepts it: Pacific Land Clearing & Recycling (4044 N Suttle Rd; 503-285-8777; plcrecycling.com). To avoid a similar whiteout next year, Norris suggests giving services or experiences as gifts. “That way you don’t end up with any mess at all.”
—Brian Barker

Beat the Blues

The season of parties, family, gift-giving, and travel can be as miserable as it is joyful. And here, the winter drizzle and cloud cover can add an extra dash of doldrums. Dr. Jason Luoma, director of the Portland Mood Disorders Clinic, suggests a few ways to beat the blues.

  • Light up your life. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects millions of Americans, many of whom use medications to ease this weather-induced type of depression. Light-box therapy and dawn simulators are good alternatives. To understand the range of options, check out the primer at cet.org, the Center for Environmental Therapeutics.
  • Dry up. We Portlanders like to party, but celebrating can become a way to avoid unpleasant feelings, Luoma says. “Using alcohol to escape usually backfires.” In stressful times try meditation or spending time in nature.
  • Exercise. Endorphins released in the brain during intense physical activity induce a good mood that can last up to 12 hours. “It’s really the best and easiest strategy for coping with holiday stress,” Luoma says.
  • Get real. Your husband may hate the tie you got him, and you may not have time to make the bread pudding, but so what? Lower your expectations. What’s important is being with the ones you love.
    —Stacey Wilson

Avoid Pudge Despite the Fudge

An American gains, on average, eight pounds over the holidays, but you don’t have to let the seasonal sweets sink you. Bob Hill, owner of Loprinzi’s Gym in Southeast Portland, advises consistency above all, because the January mad dash to correct the sins of December never works. Healthy eating and exercise need to be a way of life, and naughty foods should be a once-a-week treat to calm the cravings. Instead of going with whatever’s popular, choose a workout that will keep you not only moving, but interested. Ideas:

  • Climb a rock at Portland Rock Gym. You can start with a three-hour class and a week of unlimited use to get the hang of it. 503-232-8310, portlandrockgym.com
  • Sh-sh-shake it at Viscount Dance Studios. Get your groove on with options ranging from Latin swing to belly dancing to hip-hop. 503-226-3262, viscountstudios.com
  • Hit the ice at Lloyd Center Ice Rink. Take the kids for an afternoon of open skate, learn to twirl, or swing a hockey stick. 503-288-6073, lloydcenterice.com
  • Pump it at Loprinzi’s. You can find just about anything in this 5,000-square-foot facility. 503-232-8311, loprinzisgym.com
  • Find a trail. Portland Monthly has the area’s premier trail-finder, if we do say so ourselves. At Portlandmonthlymag.com, design the perfect hike with the help of our trail database.
    —Jenny Davis

Go Big for Less

The vacation is off this year—you’ve accepted it. Fortunately, you live in a place rich with possibilities for fun daycations (our twist on staycations). Sunshine Limo Service will haul you and up to 17 of your friends and family to beautiful Oregon wine country in a Lincoln Navigator stretch limo for an afternoon of tasty roaming (about $375, three-hour minimum). Bonus: Pick up bottles of vino as gifts. 541-344-5466; sunshinelimoservice.com
—Cameron Blair