Archive for December, 2013

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Geoff and I both grew up with the tradition of Christmas and have continued it with our girls despite the fact that we are not religious. Although our daughters know that Santa Claus isn’t real, we all love pretending during the holiday season. Here are some ways we’ve celebrated Christmas in Rhode Island…

1. Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

It’s the ultimate ‘paper versus plastic’ debate — we’ve chosen a real tree because ultimately it’s more sustainable (another tree can be grown) and so much more festive to have the smell of pine in the air. This year, we once again got our tree from Lockwood Tree Farm. Trees get collected after the holidays in Providence — don’t make the mistake of one over-eager dad who tried to burn his tree in the fireplace and nearly set his house on fire.

2. ‘Christmas’ Waterfire

Tonight (December 13), there will be a special (and as always, free) WaterFire lighting to enjoy. It really is much warmer by the glowing fires, although you’ll still need a coat, and a hat, and gloves, and a scarf.

3. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Providence Ballet also will put on a performance tonight (December 13) at Rhode Island College of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

4. Christmas at a Mansion

Somehow seeing someone else’s house decked out in holiday spirit can be as satisfying (and a lot easier) than your own. Christmas at The Newport Mansions continues through January 5. I personally love to visit Blithewold, a 45-room English style manor house adorned with holiday decorations. Don’t forget to stop in the Carriage House where the “Gingerbread Wonderland” features mini-gingerbread houses of all styles made by area children. And right in Providence, you can visit the John Brown House Museum‘s Home for the Holidays.

5. A Christmas Carol

The Trinity Repertory Theater has certainly perfected its performance of the classic Dickens tale. The show has moments that can be scarier for children, although of course we were brave (or stupid) enough to bring our two-year-old one year. Let’s just say, it was a good thing we packed plenty of lollipops. Anyway, the show kept all of us mesmerized. I also recently discovered there’s another production of A Christmas Carol featuring Big Nazo puppets, which is definitely on my list to check out.

6. The Nutcracker

Festival Ballet's Nutcracker

Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker

Festival Ballet puts on a stellar performance of The Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For next year, you might also consider the Island Moving Co.‘s performance at one of the Newport Mansions, Rosecliff.

7. Gingerbread Houses and Holiday Cookies

Of course, a great way to celebrate is to make your own or build a gingerbread house (or village as the girls did this year) at home. There are also several decorating events and contests (everything’s a contest apparently) throughout the state. Check out the Decorate Your Own Gingerbread Man event on December 21, 2013 at the Smith-Abbleby House Museum in Smithfield, RI. The Ocean House in Westerly also hosts a Gingerbread Village Competition and Reception on December 16, 2013.

8. Ski, Skate and Sled

There are plenty of indoor and outdoor skating options throughout the state, including the Kennedy Plaza rink in Providence. If we actually get enough snow, you’ll probably find us sledding on the East Side. We still haven’t been, but there’s kid-friendly skiing in Yawgoo Valley Ski and Sports Area in Exeter, RI.

9. Shop Local

Two years ago, I came up with a list of great places to shop locally for children’s gifts. There are also guides to Shop Downcity and the Shops at Hope Street, which includes stores like Kreatelier which has wonderful hand-made items for adults and children.

While you’re shopping, get into the spirit by donating gifts at any one of the local toy drives: Children’s Friend or Toys for Tots (Whisky Republic in Providence is accepting gift donations today December 13), for instance.

10. Holiday Pops

Last but not least, tonight the Boston Pops comes down to Providence Performing Arts Center for a special local performance. We went years ago without children when we were living in Boston. I think older children (especially aspiring musicians) certainly would appreciate the performance.

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The Grange

The Grange's Po' Boy sandwich.

The Grange’s Po’ Boy sandwich on pretzel bread.

I used to believe a “vegetarian” restaurant was missing something, along the lines of the old joke “vegetables–it’s what food eats.” But the team behind Garden Grille and Wildflour Bakery made me a convert, and now their new vegetarian restaurant on the West Side, The Grange, has taken it a step further. As they state on their website, they are “all about elevating diners’ perceptions and experience of vegetables,” and that they most definitely accomplish.

I’ve now been to The Grange three times–twice for lunch and once for dinner–and I haven’t met a dish I didn’t like. The tofu in their Sesame Tofu Sandwich is crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside and accompanied by assorted pickles, sprouts, chili, and shiso aioli. Their Po’ Boy would be worth it for the fresh pretzel bread alone, but it’s even better with ‘chicken’ fried oyster mushrooms, cabbage slaw, pickles and remoulade. Both are served with fresh potato chips, although their homemade fries are worth getting too.

For dinner, we loved the roasted cauliflower with sweet chili sauce, green onion, peanuts and cilantro ginger aioli and the crispy pan-seared tempeh with braised collard greens, root vegetable mash and smoked maple mustard. One of our favorites of the evening was the ‘everything crust’ seeded tofu with a curry broth and beet relish.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert. To me, it doesn’t get much better than their chocolate brownie topped with peanut butter ice cream and caramel corn.

The Grange
166 Broadway
Providence, RI
(401) 831-0600
www.providencegrange.com

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