Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Warm Weather Escapes

My Dears!

Summer is right around the corner and I have adventures on the brain. So does Chris: he and Ben are going away on their first father/son overnight camping trip in a few weeks. I have a brave husband.

But we’d also like to do a few family weekend trips this summer. We’re a bit limited, given that little Em is only a few months along and hasn’t quite got her camping legs under her yet. So we’ve got our sights set on something not quite so rustic.

Here are a few places that caught my eye:

Lakedale Resort Safari Tents
San Juan Island, Washington
$179/night. Includes deluxe breakfast.

I am definitely making our family a reservation for a weekend this summer at Lakedale. Any sort of camping that has me sleeping in a bed sounds right up my alley. In this case, your home away from home is a safari tent, complete with a queen size bed(!), tables, chairs, and fire pit. Each night they deliver hot water bottles to keep your feet toasty warm. A pull-out couch is available for the small fry.  Or, if you’ve ever dreamed of glamor RVing, two retro airstream trailers are also available. Activities include fishing, swimming, canoeing, or SUPing. And roasting marshmallows over a bonfire, of course.

Lodge rooms, rv, and camp sites are also available.

Speaking of safari tents, this one is a bit closer to home:

Dog Mountain Farmstay
Carnation, Washington
$150/night for two guests. $20 for each additional person. Includes breakfast.

Have a tot that is itching to try their hand at the farming life? Settle into this cosy and secluded platform tent and then spend the day collecting eggs, making cheese, harvesting vegetables, or taking a horse drawn carriage ride. Older kids can participate in a young farmers camp.

Campsites are available year-round.

Iron Horse Inn Bed & Breakfast Cabooses
Cle Elum, Washington

Tucked up against the Wenatchee National Forest, these little cabooses might appeal to the budding train engineer. Nearby activities include hiking, river floats, and horseback rides.

Lodge rooms are also available.

Here’s another train-themed option, this one comes complete with private beach and hot tub:

Pirate’s Cove Caboose
South Puget Sound, Washington

Spend the day digging clams and kayaking the cover before luxuriating in the hot tub and then tucking yourself into a nicely restored caboose. One queen bed and two twin bunks. Kayaks are included and hiking in Washington’s famed Olympic National Park is only a short drive away.

Flying Horseshoe Ranch
Cle Elum, Washington
$100/night for tipis and canvas cabins

I’ve actually stayed here with my family before and it was a hoot. We rented one of the tiny bunkhouses but I’d prefer to spring for a tipi next time. Older kids will love the trail rides. Ages six and below can’t participate in the horse activities but there is a pool, a huge grassy field, and nearby hiking trails. I can’t wait to take Ben here when he’s a few years older.

Tipis, canvas cabins, bunk houses, and log cabins available.

Rolling Huts
Winthrop, Washington

The huts don’t actually roll but they are spread out in the valley like tractors awaiting the summer harvest. Winthrop is home to miles of mountain biking, hiking, and cross country skiing. Check out the cute farmers markets in nearby Twisp and wind down with stops at the local pubs and shops after a day in the great outdoors.

Out’n’About Treehouses

Southwestern, Oregon

Spending the night in a tree? Yes please! For those of us that spent our childhood reading Swiss Family Robinson, a tree house hotel sounds like the bees knees. Add in zip lining, horseback riding (or pony rides for the toddler set), and river floats and this treesort sounds like our kind of family adventure.

We’re pondering an Oregon Coast trip this summer. A cute little beach cottage may be just the ticket.

Gearhart Ocean Inn
Gearhart (near Seaside/Astoria)
$175/night for three

Small town Oregon. Hiking, beaching, shopping. I’m going to be happy anywhere that serves giant bowls of piping hot clam chowder.

My Dears! What are your summer plans?



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

My Dears,

We spend a lot of time perusing websites trying to find good deals on hotels, airplane tickets, and rental cars.  Websites that allow us to bid on hotel stays, for example, are right up our alley. So it's no surprise that we'd spring for a site that allowed us to do the same for local sporting events, attractions, and concerts. Enter ScoreBig.

Using their site, we just bought tickets to take the family to a Mariner's game this weekend, and at a hugely discounted rate. Let's play ball!

It works like this: You pick the type and number of seats, and then enter the amount you're willing to pay. For example, the face value of our 2-Star tickets was $46. I initially gave a lowball offer of $19/ticket which was promptly rejected. Twenty four hours later, however, my $25 offer was accepted, for an overall savings of 45% per ticket. Not too shabby, right?

Another plus? No additional taxes, fees, or shipping charges. What you bid is the final price. They also guarantee that your tickets will arrive before the big event, via the post, email, or will call. Mine were sent in an email and it took all of three seconds to download and print them out.

It's a site we could also work into our travel routine. We'd like to head down to Southern California later this year to see friends. Score Big currently has tickets available for Legoland, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Knott's Berry Farm, three places that I’d love to visit with the kids.

In the meantime, I have my eye on some Seattle Sounders tickets...



This post is in partnership with Score Big; all opinions are my own.Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make The Sweet Seattle Life possible. 

Monday, April 21, 2014


Hello My Dears!

I hope you had a fantastic Easter. Or a fantastic weekend, if you’re not an Easter celebrate-r.We lucked out on Sunday morning with beautiful weather.

The Easter Bunny was one busy little gal this year. She hid eggs at our friend's house and at Grandma's house. I love watching the toddlers on the hunt. It's gleeful, joyous mayhem

It took perhaps 30 seconds for the kids to get the hang of easter egg hunting....and then there was no stopping them!

With their haul. Do they look happy or what?!

It'll be a few years before Emma is ready to partake in the egg madness. For now, she was content to snooze the morning away.

I took this one a few days before the actual event. Our little Easter Bear. Many thanks to Bailey Dog for propping her up (that's him in the bottom left). He was a good ole pup; didn't move a muscle the entire time she was wiggling around. 

After visiting our friends, we had brunch with both sets of grandparents and Auntie Alex. And then, a second round of egg hunting. Lucky kiddo!

Emma. And her official Easter portrait. She's still a bit wobbly; ole Cheeks McGee has a hard time lifting up that heavy head!

Ben had so much fun with the egg hunting that the grandmas went and hid them all again for a second round. He couldn't understand why the eggs didn't magically refill with candy though...

I love Spring. The sun, the flowers, the feeling of renewal. We are finally emerging from the fog of Winter.

It wouldn't be a holiday without chocolate. At least not in our house.

Ben was exceptionally proud of his eggs. Hasn't wanted to eat any though. Funny kid.

And last but not least: my most favorite picture of all.



Hikes - Mt. Si

Mt. Si is Washington State’s busiest trail, drawing between 30,000-50,000 people every year, thanks to its close proximity to Seattle. The mountain's trails are snow-free early in the Spring season so many folks use it as a training hike for more strenuous adventures later in the Summer. As Chris said: “I’ve never seen so much brand new REI gear outside of the store before”.

It’s also one heck of a steep climb: 3,100 feet of elevation gain in four miles. And for that reason, and because the lure of a Spring Break morning without my darling toddler was simply too great, I elected to sit this one out. So the boys tackled it themselves, armed with a hardy lunch and lots of water.

Randomly, Ben has dubbed Chris and himself ‘The Alligator Boys’. As in: "OK, the Alligator Boys are heading out! We’re off to climb the mighty mountain!”

“We’re” might be a bit generous here. Chris reported Ben walked about 100 feet up the trail, munching on his sandwich, before he decided he’d prefer to ride in the pack. And then he promptly fell asleep.

Despite being snow-free, the trail was muddy and cold. So bring those extra layers. The Alligator Boy in the backpack got pretty chilly. Of course, he wasn’t doing any walking. Chris, the one carrying the 50 pound pack, reported that he was a bit on the warm side!



If You Go: Mt Si

Fees: Discovery Pass

Tips: Consult the trip reports on the WTA website for up-to-date trail information. Also, because this is a busy hike, try to go on a non-weekend day or arrive really early to beat the crowds. Lots of water is a must.

Directions: (From WTA)
From Seattle drive east on I-90 to exit 32 (436th Avenue SE). Turn left (north) over the freeway and drive 0.5 mile to North Bend Way. Turn left (west), and in 0.25 mile turn right (north) on Mount Si Road. The large trailhead parking lot is on the left, 2.5 miles down the road.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chocolate Overload in T minus Two Days

It's almost Easter weekend. In our house that means egg dying and lots of chocolate. We successfully colored a few eggs yesterday and Ben takes them out of the fridge every few hours to admire his handiwork. 

It reminds me of the time growing up that I was so enamored with one of my eggs that I refused to eat it, instead hiding it in a little box under my bed for a few weeks. 

Predictably, it went (very!) bad and my parents mounted a massive room search in order to find the source of the noxious smell. 

We'll see if Ben can bring himself to eat his little beauties. Just imagine Gollum petting his precioussss and you'll have a pretty good idea of Ben's level of attachment. 

We're having brunch and an egg hunt with the family on Sunday. I am actually really excited; I loved doing this stuff as a kid and it's neat to see Ben jazzed about it as well. He is anxiously awaiting the Easter bunny's arrival. :)

Have a great weekend, my dears!



How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (for Toddlers and their parents)

There are only so many times a parent can read Hop on Pop before they go a little batty. Thus, we are always searching for new reading material in our house.

My toddler never does things in half measures: if he’s going to love something, he’ll love it wholly and completely. His favorite book? He’ll ask to read it seven times a day. And it must accompany him to bed.  This lasts for about two weeks. And then he’s ready to move on to a new favorite obsession.

We had a minor crisis the other day because he wasn’t quite done with the current crop of favorites and he didn’t understand why they had to go back to the library. “Well just buy them for me, mommy. I don’t want to send them back!”  Oh, child. We need to have a little talk about money.

He’s had a few stinker obsessions too. I’m kind of ready to be done with garbage trucks, for example. But dinosaurs? Never. Especially after my parents brought over the “How Do Dinosaurs...” series by Jane Yolen.

They are awesome. The verses are great (we’re always on board with rhyming books) but the illustrations, especially of the poor, bewildered parents, are pure gold.

When he hears, “Take a nap!”
does he give dirty looks?
When he’s told, “Quiet down!”
does he rip up his books?

No cookies today?
Fling a mug at the cat!

From How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad?

At the conclusion of each book, the dino works out his problems or decides it really is time for bed. Although, between you and me, I like the ‘mad, stubborn, and mischievous' parts best. Reminds me of my own little stinker.

He cleans up his mess, 
and he picks up the mug.

He says, I’m so sorry.”
He gives a big hug. 

His anger is gone,
so he opens the door.

Not mad? I’m so glad, 
little dinosaur. 

Here is an interview with the author on how the series came to be. 

As for Emma, we have a few favorites.

These two will never get old for me:

Time for Bed, by Mem Fox:

and the classic Going To Bed Book by the always-lovely Sandra Boynton.

What are your favorites, My Dears? Any recommendations? We’d love some suggestions.

xo ,


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Double Trouble

This week we hung out with some friends from an old preschool - ones we hadn’t seen in nine months.

They have our combination: a three year-old son and a new baby girl.

My Dears, you’ve never seen little boys that instantly clicked like these two. Ben was in heaven. Their kiddo is very much like ours: lots of energy, very verbal, and with a gleeful mischievous streak. It. was. awesome.

Watching them together, I thought: kismet. These two are perfectly matched.

It was fun to watch but also, and I’ll be truthful here, slightly nerve-wracking. These kids were on fire. You can do that?! I can do it too! And higher!  

You could practically see them rubbing their hands together, grinning gleefully at one another, and asking: “What glorious bit of mischief should we engage in now?!”

Shall we throw sand? YES!

Shall we egg each other on as we jump off high ledges? YES!

Shall we run through this couple’s romantic picnic down by the water? MOST DEFINITELY.

And for good measure, Ben fell in the lake. Twice.

Fortunately, with boys so similar, we’re both pretty good at baby wrangling. And we’re quick runners/retrievers. There is a sense of security that goes along with having another mother who is equally well-versed in high-energy toddler antics. And she probably won’t judge you near as much as that mama with the quiet little gal that plays so demurely with her dolly and is shooting horrified glances at your holy terror of a toddler.

Because she’s been there. She knows what these boys are like. And she loves her boy just like you love yours: fiercely, protectively, proudly, and (perhaps) with slight bemusement and mystification.

Later that night I saw this article [toddler found safe inside bowling alley arcade machine] and thought: Ah yes, there are many of us out there. We are not alone. 



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Toddler Outings

Ben and I did an adventure over to my parents’ yard a few weeks ago. I love their garden in the Spring; everything is fresh and new. Things are always popping up in unexpected places. We had a picnic (food being an essential part of any outing) and then sailed paper boats on the pond. 

The fish were not impressed by these new interlopers. We used this particular origami model (I also like the look of this one, too). 

Not surprisingly, the boats lasted about ten minutes before they started taking on water.  But it was long enough for a good race and we got to slip into our pirate lingo for a bit (always a plus for Ben).

Arggg! She be sinking, matey!

There are several ponds in the Seattle area that would make for a good pirate face-off. The best is probably the one at SLU: Lake Union Park (right next to the new MOHAI building). The Center for Wooden Boats rents wooden pond boats.

Also: Greenlake might be a good sailing place, particularly in the summer when you can wade in after them. The ponds at Meadowbrook would also work (although getting them back might be tough).



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Shenanigans

We’ve been trying to make the most of this Spring-like weather and do a bit of work in the garden. At times, the ivy, blackberry, and laurel battles can seem a bit overwhelming but we’re making progress in a few select areas.

Ben’s pumpkins have sprouted. He lovingly drowns them every morning. They’re going to be hardy souls - if they survive their first few weeks of overwatering. 

The raspberry patch was an overgrown mess and I spent a few good hours last month tearing out all the bushes and tilling the soil. This would have been a project better suited to the Fall, when the plants were semi-dormant, but I was a pregnant mess then, with limited digging abilities. Hopefully I haven’t totally killed our summer harvest. Robbie helped me straighten it up and then I dug some holes for a new trellis. In the rain. Welcome to Spring in Seattle!

The first trellis was only five years old but the original 4x4s had completely rotten through. After a bit of research I decided to use the dreaded treated lumber, provided that we bury the ends in concrete.

The thinking is that the chemicals in the lumber won’t be able to leach into the soil, thanks to the concrete, although there still is the issue of run-off. A number of publications argue that treated lumber is acceptable for trellis for a variety of reasons, but mostly because arsenic (the really nasty component) isn’t particularly mobile, typically only moving an inch or two beyond the wood source. I hope they’re right.

 Chris and his dad poured a bit of concrete into the holes and voila! A trellis.

You can see the old trellis laying against the fence. Those posts used to be four feet tall, but were completely rotten from the ground surface down. 

Our raised beds are made of non-treated wood and, although only two years old, are showing signs of significant rot. A real bummer, since treated lumber is definitely a no-no for vegetable beds. 

This trellis has a improved design: it’s offset so that we can have a path along the fence, allowing the harvest to occur from both sides.

Let’s hope for a nice warm summer - the raspberries are my most favorite thing to harvest in the garden!