Book Review: Elliott the Otter

Book Review: Elliott the Otter |

Author and Illustrator pair, John Skewes and Eric Ode have been keeping us busy this summer with exciting water themed reads.  The fun started with their newest Larry Gets Lost title, Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea, which I reviewed a couple of weeks back.

Their most recent picture book, Elliott the Otter is another perfect blend of fact and fiction.  The story introduces us to Elliott, an adorable, but bossy otter who runs the show on Puget Sound’s Elliott Bay.  Thanks to our buddy Elliott and his excellent leadership, cargo comes and goes, ferry boats transport people (and cars) across the water, and fish travel to and fro.

Book Review: Elliott the Otter | WildTalesof.comElliott saves the biggest surprise and most important (and dazzling) responsibility for the very end though, and you’ll just have to grab your own copy to see for yourself!

What I find so much fun about the Elliott the Otter book is that Bergen (nearly 4 years) believes that Elliott is real.  Now, when ever we visit Elliott Bay or drive along the waterfront in Seattle, Bergen asks if Elliott is around.

Here’s a little more of what I love about Elliott the Otter: The Totally Untrue Story of Elliott, Boss of the Bay:

  • In a simple way and through a lovable character, kids (and adults) learn about the inner workings of a harbor, and if those kids and adults happen to live in Seattle like us, then they’re better able to connect to the city and understand what makes it tick.
  • Besides learning about cargo, barges, and freighters, Elliott teaches us about orca pods, salmon navigation, and the transition from fresh water to salt water. Such important information presented in an easy to understand format.
  • The illustrations are playful, yet realistic.  Playful and exaggerated enough to grab the attention of the reader, but also realistic enough so that the reader will recognize and associate the images with the real life version.

Book Review: Elliott the Otter |

Info to Know:

  • To purchase a copy of Elliott the Otter by John Skewes and Eric Ode visit the Sasquatch Books website!
  • Format: Hardcover, 8 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches, 32 pages
  • Retail cost: $16.99

What’s one of your family’s favorite reads this summer?

Disclosure: Thanks to Sasquatch Books for providing me  with a copy of Elliott the Otter for purposes of review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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If You’re at a Dead End +News and Inspiration//2

If you're at a dead end, take a deep breath, stamp your foot, and shout "Begin!" You never know where it will take you. |


  • This weekend, we’re beginning our big road trip through Idaho and Montana.  First up: Hayden Lake, Idaho! Hayden Lake is north of the more well known Coeur d’Alene, and is absolutely a magical place.
  • We recently contributed to a huge National Park round up with the blog, “Roadtrips for Families”. 30 out of the 58 National Parks are covered making it an amazing reference for families interested in checking out national parks this summer (and beyond)!


  • Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do a thru-hike like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail?  This eye opening video shows an interesting glimpse.  He filmed 1 second of each day on the PCT.
  • Beach goers in the Carolinas are getting more and more creative.
  • I’d love to get into geo-caching as the kids get older.  Play Outside Guide shares how its more than just a scavenger hunt.
  • How would you answer the question: “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?” 3 Generations share their answers.

Happy Weekend!

What adventures do you have planned?






Seattle’s Volunteer Park Dahlias//2015

While spending time at Volunteer Park’s wading pool in order to get some relief from the sweltering 97 degree day last weekend, Georgia started to get a little restless.  There’s only so much a baby who doesn’t yet sit-up on her own can take.  So I loaded her on my back and we decided to wander over to check on the Dahlia garden near by leaving Slaed and Bergen on their own to splash in the cool water.

Every year, for over 30 years now,  the volunteers from the Puget Sound Dahlia Association dutifully tend to this space planting the tubers in the spring, and then digging them up in early November.  I’m used to getting to enjoy the blooms well into September, sometimes even in October, but this year I have a feeling it’s going to be quite different.  What seems like constant sunshine and warm temperatures are making for early opening and growth for all the foliage around Seattle.

While this particular garden is not at its peak yet, it will be in next few weeks, so we’ll need to return sooner than later to really view the garden in its full glory.

Seattle's Volunteer Park Dahlia Garden//2015 | [Read more…]

Southeast USA Travel: Waxhaw, NC with Kids

Waxhaw, North Carolina isn’t exactly a hot spot for tourism or a big adventure destination, but since we’ve visited the lovely small town a few times now, and it’s where my sister and her family call home, I thought it deserved a little attention.

Waxhaw is located about 40 minutes south of (downtown) Charlotte, and is situated just over 2 miles from the North Carolina-South Carolina border.  This proximity actually causes a great debate around the region as to where the true birth place of our 7th president, Andrew Jackson, was born.  Both states claim him as their own and feature plaques depicting this to be true.  In my opinion, after visiting Andrew Jackson State Park in Lancaster, South Carolina, the Palmetto State gets to hold the title, but that’s neither here nor there.

Since we always stay with family, I don’t have recommendations for lodging or accommodations, but I do have plenty of recommendations for fun activities and delicious dining!

Where to Play in Waxhaw

Southeast USA Travel: Waxhaw, NC with Kids |

[Read more…]

Disneyland with a Preschooler: How to Prepare for a Successful Trip

Just before the Diamond Celebration (60th Anniversary) hullabaloo at Disneyland got started, Slaed and Bergen (3.5 years old) squeaked in a visit to the park for the little guy’s first Disney experience.  While I was somewhat bummed that I wouldn’t be present for Bergen’s introduction to the happiest place on earth, there’s definitely something to be said about a solo-parent and child trip.  Bergen got the one-on-one attention that he craves, and the whole weekend was able to be focused around him and his preferences and needs making it all a huge success.

Parents have to do what’s best for their particular family, but we believe that 3 years is the best age for a first time visit.  The child is old enough to understand and navigate on their own, there are plenty of rides for them to go on, and the experience for them is positively magical and awe inspiring.  Slaed reported that our normally rambunctious little boy spent the majority of his time sitting, wide eyed with his mouth open captivated by the all of the action happening around him.

After months of preparation and research, combined with his own knowledge from numerous visits to the park prior, Slaed put together an amazing itinerary. Their experience, one day in Disneyland and one day in California adventure was nothing but positive.  I picked his brain, and we’ve put together 9 tips to help parents plan and prepare for a trip that is just as successful.

Disneyland with a Preschooler: How to Prepare for a Successful Trip |

1. Tear-Free in Disneyland

Soon after Slaed decided to take Bergen to Disneyland, he purchased the Tear-Free in Disneyland book.  He read it cover to cover, studying up almost every night during the months prior to their trip.  The book is filled with practical tips and ideas for making the whole Disney experience positive and stress free.  He learned a ton, and gained the confidence and bravery needed to tackle it all on his own.  Many (but not all!) of the the tips that follow come from or are adapted from the book.

2. Buy Your Tickets

Make sure to purchase tickets directly through Disneyland.  Doing so ahead of time will give you peace of mind, and save you from waiting in one more line! In our opinion, there is no need for park hopper passes when you are visiting Disney with little kids.  Focus on one park per day.  Slaed and Bergen spent one day in Disneyland, and one day in California Adventure.

Disneyland with a Preschooler: How to Prepare for a Successful Trip |

3. Get Your Kid(s) Excited!

You may know all about Disneyland, but mostly likely, and certainly in Bergen’s case, your kids have little to no idea what the park is really all about.  Even if they visited as a baby or toddler, they are unlikely to remember much.  Just like we build background knowledge before visiting a new destination, we worked to make sure he had an understanding of what the experience would be like.  Our suggestions:

  • Watch Videos: Poke around and find shows, programs, music videos, etc. that feature the park itself.  We recommend, Sing Along Songs Disneyland Fun.  It’s just 30 minutes long, and takes you on a tour of the park while singing classic Disney songs (“It’s A Small World”, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, “Whistle While You Work”…).
  • Coloring Books with Characters: Bergen received a Disneyland coloring book from the flight attendants during a couple of our Alaska Airlines flights prior to the trip.  This worked out perfectly to teach him about the classic characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, etc.).
  • Picture Books: Check your library for books that show the park experience.  D is for Disneyland is a great example as it has pictures showing the rides, quick facts about rides, and fun historical information.

4. Purchase Gifts and Gear

Plan ahead so you can shop sales and consignment stores for shirts, hats, and maybe even underwear for your big trip.  Buying at the park (and in Downtown Disney) is very expensive and wastes precious park time.  Slaed also bought a few small gifts (Tow Mater & Lightning McQueen hot wheel type cars & a small doddle board) to give Bergen once they arrived.   This prevented Bergen from asking to buy things in the gift shops, and also gave him something to do while waiting in line.

5. Ride Research

Know the following about all the rides and attractions:

  • Height limits–measure your child!
  • Fear Factors–dark, heights, pirates, thunder…can all be scary to kids.  Know what your kid can handle.
  • Closed rides–some rides are closed for various reasons.  Know this ahead of time so that no one is disappointed!
  • Make a priority list of what rides your kid wants to do.  Slaed and Bergen had about 10 on their list (for 1 day in Disneyland), so anything additional was a bonus!
  • Bonus tip: Mickey’s Toontown (a top attraction for preschoolers) opens one hour after the park opens, so choose rides close to this area for your first hour or so in the park.  Bergen and Slaed checked It’s a Small World, Dumbo, & the Teacups off their list, and were right at the entrance to Toon Town when it opened.  They were immediately greeted by all the characters & met 4 or 5 in a matter of just 10-15 minutes!

Disneyland with a Preschooler: How to Prepare for a Successful Trip |

6. Get Restaurant Reservations

If you are interested in dining at any of the popular restaurants throughout the park, we highly recommend that you secure reservations ahead of time.  Disney allows you to do this up to 60 days in advance.  You can find a list of the restaurants here, but Slaed suggests the Blue Bayou, and recommends lunch over dinner to save money.  Not only is the food tasty, but the atmosphere prepared Bergen for the Pirates of the Caribbean—a ride that was definitely a stretch for him as far as fear factor.

7. Don’t Bring a Stroller!

Contrary to popular belief, the stroller will actually just slow you down rather than making travel throughout the park quicker. Disneyland is crowded.  You’ll constantly be running into people, will always have to worry about parking the stroller, and your child won’t really engage in the full experience.  Go on walks frequently (everyday!) prior to your visit to Disneyland to build stamina.  Overall, you and your child will do a lot of walking at Disneyland, but it’s never that much all at once since you just pop from ride to ride, attraction to attraction, etc.

8. Character Alert!

Know whether or not your child is afraid of people in costumes, mascots, and dressed up characters.  We were lucky enough to get to test this out during our trip to Oahu when we attended Aulani’s character breakfast, and we also attend plenty of sporting events to get an idea of how Bergen reacts to the mascots like the Seattle Mariner Moose.  When he met Mickey for the first time, he was surprised at how big he was compared to the Mickey that he is used to watching on TV! If your child is too afraid, you can just avoid that whole aspect of the park experience.  My friend Keryn from has an excellent post about tackling your child’s mascot/character fears.

Disneyland with a Preschooler: How to Prepare for a Successful Trip |

9. Day Before/Day of Tips

  • Makes sure EVERYONE gets a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat breakfast before entering the park (saves money & time).  Bring snacks along.  As long as you are not bringing an entire picnic meal, Disney is okay with you bringing in small food items.  Hungry kids get cranky, so be prepared!
  • Talk to your child(ren) about the plan for the day so that they know what to expect.  Show them a map & circle the priority rides on your list.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes before the gates open.  No need to arrive SUPER early.  You’ll just end up waiting in yet another line.  If you can time it perfectly, just arrive exactly when the gates open–you’ll get right in, the lines go quickly at that point.
  • Plan to leave the park for rest/nap time.  If you build this into your day, to your kid, it’ll just be part of the experience.  It’s essential to recharge EVERYONE’s batteries.  It’s just not worth it to try to “do it all” and run you and your kids ragged.  Leave when it’s fun, NOT when your kids are completely exhausted, and you’re dragging them out of the place kicking and screaming.
  • Wondering about fireworks? We say, don’t worry about it.  You’re better off getting back “home” so your preschooler can get to bed fairly close to their bedtime.  Plus, you’ll avoid the crazy crowd exiting right as the fireworks show is over.

Have you been to any of the Disney Parks? We’d love to hear about one of your highlights! Or…share your own tip for how to prepare for a successful trip.

This post contains affiliate links to our Wild Tales of…Travel and Adventure store on Amazon.  If you purchase through link, we receive a very small percentage to help maintain and update the blog.  Thanks for taking a look!

Disneyland with a Preschooler: How to Prepare for a Successful Trip |

Come join the conversation! We’d love to have you join us on all of our adventures by “liking” our facebook page and following us on twitter! You can also keep up to date with each and every post by subscribing to the blog via email.

Summer Gear We Love for Traveling and Adventuring Tots

Summer Gear for Traveling and Adventuring Tots (2015) |

1. Klean Kanteen Water Bottle.

Bergen uses this water bottle all year long (he’s had it since he was about 1.5 years), but we find it especially essential during the hot summer months.  Klean Kanteen bottles (I have one too) are easy to clean, BPA-free, and extremely durable.

2. Keen Waterproof Sandals

Both Slaed and Bergen “live” in their Keen Sandals in the summer.  Open enough to keep feet cool, but structured (and closed-toed) enough to hike, walk, ride bikes, wade, stroll the beach…you get the idea!

3. Babiators Sunglasses

Super stylish, durable, and 100% UVA & UVB production for sensitive little eyes.  Plus, if they are lost or broken within a year of purchase, Babiator will replace the glasses for free!

4. Block Island Sunscreen

We tested out this sunscreen during our trip to Oahu last fall, and found it to be a reliable sunscreen–no burns, no sensitivities, just happy skin! The bottle is still going strong this summer, and I’ve found that I love it even more.  Since its chemical free, its safe for the whole family–even little Georgia, and we’ve found that a little goes a long way.   We’re actually using less of the Block Island Sunscreen to cover our skin compared to some of the more mainstream brands.

5. The North Face Markhor Tee

With Bergen attending forest school this summer (and for the upcoming school year) and for as much time as we spend outdoors in general, not to mention the unusually hot summer we’ve had this year, I love that we found this moisture wicking tee while shopping the North Face sales recently. It even has a pocket on the back of the neck that you can pack the entire t-shirt into!  We think it’ll be his go-to summer shirt.

6. REI Sunhat

We are fair people, and need as much sun protection as we can get, so I love how much coverage this hat provides for Bergen’s face and neck.  There’s a bungee on the back for adjustments, it’s made of moisture-wicking material, it’s lightweight, & dries quickly.

Do you have a favorite summer-specific item for travel and outdoor adventure? Do share!

This post contains affiliate links to our Wild Tales of…Travel and Adventure store on Amazon.  If you purchase through link, we receive a very small percentage to help maintain and update the blog.  Thanks for taking a look!

Summer Gear for Traveling and Adventuring Tots (2015) |

Come join the conversation! We’d love to have you join us on all of our adventures by “liking” our facebook page and following us on twitter! You can also keep up to date with each and every post by subscribing to the blog via email.