There is so much to love about The Loop Ice Carnival … the ice carving demonstrations, the ice slide, the ice cubes with dollars inside, the ice breaker (sledgehammer, not the flirty kind) … or, if you’re sick of ice, there are s’mores, hula hoop demos, yo-yo demos, giant non-ice slides, fire-eaters … very best of all, the streets and sidewalks are guaranteed to be ice-free by Saturday (Jan. 16).

As in the previous four years of this classically eclectic event, the shops and eateries along Delmar Boulevard will have deals and special entertainment starting at 11 a.m.  Pick up a map along the way and plan your day. I don’t have a link to the flier, but you can check out the blog for more info on the various events and participating shops at VisitTheLoop.com.

My vote as top attraction this year is for the ice carving at Fitz’s American Grill and Bottling Works. Do go inside — S. and I ate there a few weeks ago, and both of us were impressed (him with the seemingly limitless free root beer a tour will earn you, me with the much-improved quality of the food.)  As an extra bonus, it’s not far to the s’mores station at Craft Alliance!

My holiday shopping is right on track, but I’m seriously considering using one of the many “Drop-N-Shop” dates at various venues around town just for some time alone — I mean, they can’t make me shop while my kids are there, right?

If you haven’t heard of this new trend yet, check out the Magic House (members only, kids must be potty trained,  Dec. 7 and 14) the South County or the Chesterfield Bounce U (Nov. 24, Dec. 23 and 24 ) or  the JCC (ages 4 to 10, Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13, and 20) or Spirits Gym (kids must be potty trained, Nov. 27, Dec. 12, Dec. 23) … there are lots of them around town, typically ranging in price from $15 to $35 for the first child in a family (with sibling discounts), four or five hours in duration, usually with snacks included.

If you’d rather not stay home and watch the Rams get trounced by the Saints on Sunday, and if you’re avoiding raking/mowing/blowing all the leaves that have fallen this week, I have a suggestion for spending your afternoon (Nov. 15): the annual Cranksgiving food drive, er, ride. A couple hundred cyclists will set out at noon from Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchster Ave. in The Grove, with a map of stores at which they’ll purchase items from a shopping list for Food Outreach. Along the 10- or 25-miles routes, they’ll stock up (in the $10 to $20 price range total) then loop back around to Atomic Cowboy.

If you’d prefer to watch the Rams but want to donate ahead of the ride, there’s a list of drop-off points on the St. Louis BikeWORKS homepage.

When my husband decided to leave the active duty military in 1998, I was relieved beyond words. He was in Air Force communications, and although his job didn’t require him to deploy for long time periods, it did put him into hostile territory — at that time, it was Bosnia-Herzegovina. But we both knew that he’d joined at a lucky time, after the first Iraq war and before whatever lurked ahead, and that Bosnia would eventually seem like a walk in the park compared to future military deployments.

He continues to support the military in his present job, with a fervor that’s perhaps stronger than when he was still on active duty. When he returned to civilian life, I’m the one whose ties to the military were almost completely cut. And lately, as casualties mount in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve been feeling that my small gestures of support are more and more futile.

But a couple of weeks ago — before the shootings in Texas, ironically — I decided that I was going to make donations to military-related causes for those on my Christmas list. To get myself in the spirit of the season, I’d planned to attend the Operation Shower fundraiser at Monarch last weekend. It’s a nonprofit that throws baby showers for moms-to-be with military ties. Unfortunately, a sick babysitter quashed that plan. But that’s such small potatoes compared to what deployed servicemembers are going through that I hardly dared whine.

There are tons of other opportunities to lend financial support, sometimes where you’d least expect them.  For example, at work the other day I was looking up some literature on children’s emotional well-being and came across a plea for donations of books on marital relationships to soldiers and their spouses.  It’s from John Gottman, a very respected expert who cites startlingly sad statistics on miliary marriages.

I suppose my former status as a military spouse predisposes me to support these kinds of family-related efforts, but there are tons and tons of others — everything from doing yard work at the homes of those who’re deployed to sending care packages, either as part of a group like The Care Package Project or on your own. (If you choose that option, the deadline for the cheapest holiday shipping rate to Iraq and Afghanistan  is Nov. 13; visit the Missouri VFW homepage for details.)  Heck, if you’re flying through Atlanta or Dallas or Bangor, Maine, you could even join the troop greeters, as seen in tonight’s PBS documentary.

‘Tis the season when I start avoiding malls. Except this coming Saturday (Nov. 14), when I have to bring M. to Plaza Frontenac so he and the rest of his Music Makers from the St. Louis Children’s Choirs can serenade shoppers from 11 to 11:30 a.m. I’m curious if they’ll do their holiday songs — but probably they will, as Santa will already have made his official entrance over at St. Louis Mills Mall the day before (Nov. 13). Yes, you read that right — Santa comes on NOVEMBER 13!!!! You can hardly bash the event, a fundraiser/tree lighting for the Salvation Army, but it’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, for crying out loud.

So if you’re already in the mood for Santa (and S. is — he asked yesterday, as we were taking down the Halloween decoration, why we couldn’t put up the Christmas tree), you can see him Friday at 4:30 p.m. near the play area. There’ll be door prizes, cookies and hot chocolate, and a holiday show by The Muny Kids.

But naturally Saturday’s show will be better, because M. is in it! It’s also tied to a nonprofit — the Arts and Education Council’s St. Louis on Sale event — and the organization’s card-carrying members receive 20 percent discounts at certain shops over the course of nine days.  Membership is $50, and depending on how much shopping you plan to do (and not all the shops are in malls, incidentally) joining could be worth your while.  And it’s for a good cause: The council supports dozens and dozens of arts groups (St. Louis Children’s Choirs among them) with grants of various amounts.

This year I’ve been on a yard sale rampage — not shopping them, but donating to them. For S.’s school this coming weekend, I’m cleaning out the garage: from kiddie sleds to the human-powered lawnmower that my husband despises, I’m putting together quite the carload. And there’s a bake sale too, which means I’m lightening the freezer’s load to the tune of a few dozen cookies.

Though I haven’t seen the stash yet, my guess is that this will be a great sale, since 75 families are contributing clothing, electronics, household items and toys to it. So come on over to the corner of Victor and 11th on Saturday (Oct. 24) and shop the Soulard School’s first community-wide rummage sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you’re reading this and wishing you had a Monday morning pick-me-up snack, plan your lunch break around Whole Foods Market in Brentwood, where there’s a trail mix mixing event today (Aug. 31) from 1 to 4 p.m. To celebrate National Trail Mix Day, they’ll be giving away free bags with the combination of your choice. Kids who aren’t in school yet are welcome too, to imagine all the potential lunchbox combinations.To learn more, visit the store’s online calendar or call 314.968.7744.

There’s not a corresponding event at the Town and Country location.  However, there is a storytime from 10:30 to 11 a.m. each Monday and Tuesday, as well as a drop-the-kids-while-you-shop opportunity on Wednesdays from 10 to noon. Check out the details here.

I’m in the market for school uniform stuff this year. And my hand-me-downs skip from size 6 to 8 (big growth spurt for M.’s cousin), so the Greater St. Louis Mothers of Twins Club Re-Sell It Sale is sounding pretty good. It runs 1 to 3 p.m. tomorrow (Aug. 29) at Lindbergh High School. Admission is $1 and — get this — you can pay with credit cards. Whoo-hoo! There are items for singles and twins, and the focus is on fall and winter gear.

Be sure to leave strollers and big purses/bags at home — and kids, too, because they’re not really welcome to run the sales floor while their parents are shopping. Besides, it’s hard to scope out the good deals with one eye/hand on Junior!  As I know all too well from experience. If you’re like me, you need two eyes and both hands at a sale like this!

This is the first time I ever used The Huffington Post as a reference source for this blog. It’s kind of fun to be putting a current events spin on a rummage sale!

But I can’t take credit for the idea — that goes to LiveFeed, a local grassroots organization that pairs bands and venues in the name of feeding hungry kids. I’ve been gathering items to donate to its Garage Sale fundraiser on Saturday (Aug. 1), and when I went to the site to find the drop-off address, I got to poking around and read the open letter to Cynthia Davis, the Missouri legislator from O’Fallon who drew national attention for writing in her June newsletter that cutting school lunch subsidies for poor kids makes sense because hunger is a good motivator. A quick Google generates many, many fun blog reads — what a gold mine for pundits that newsletter was!  It was also a motivator for me to step up my closet-cleaning a little.  This summer has been a tough one for food pantries — and summer is always tough for kids who get two of their three meals a day at school.  If more legislators get to thinking like Ms. Davis, things could get rougher still for those kids.

So LiveFeed is organizing this sale on Saturday at 9 a.m., in the parking lot behind Walgreen’s at Olive and Mason in Creve Coeur, with live music (most likely great music, if its list of participating bands and venues is any predictor) and lots of other people’s stuff to peruse. I personally can guarantee a very nice selection of infant clothes for a boy, plus miscellaneous baby and toddler gear.  If you’re interested in donating, they’re accepting items for the next two days at the office. You can get details by calling Hillary at 314.732.4986.

For several weeks (or maybe months) I’ve been making a list of sites that I want to write about on a slow day. Problem is, the longer I do this blog, the fewer slow days I have — there is always something to write about! So I’ve manufactured a slow day (in case you were wondering why the past couple of days were so jammed full of stuff) in order to get in these very worthwhile links.

I’ll start off with a token event piece, simply entitled “Summer concerts 2009,” from the Post-Dispatch’s entertainment department. Though some require ticket purchases, most are free — and nearly all are kid-friendly, though having been to The Lot a while back, I would recommend taking the kids to Schlafly brewpubs as indoor weekday customers instead.

Up next are a couple of eco-friendly sites.  I’m a true believer in Catalog Choice. You know how, when you have kids, you start receiving all this stuff from who knows where, and you don’t have the energy to write to each one to get removed from the mailing list?  Well, we’ve gone from a deluge of junk-mail catalogs to a trickle in just a few months using this site. (A similar service that I’ve used less frequently is DMAchoice.)  And I’ve been growing my own alfalfa, bean and lentil sprouts for ages — since childhood, really, though back then it wasn’t by choice! — but I’d have never thought to blog about it until I saw this article about cheap ways to improve your eco-sense from Green Living Online.

As someone who’s guilty of feeding her 2-year-old whipped cream for breakfast (but at least I whip it myself, right?!?!), I feel duty-bound to occasionally visit the USDA nutrition pyramid for preschoolers and try to follow its guidance.

Finally, I want to encourage you all to vote in my favorite event calendar’s annual survey of good stuff in St. Louis.  Parents Connect has added a local blog category this year, and while I’m fans of the other nominees as well, I’d naturally love to have you vote for me!  Cast your ballot here.