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