Since we were away celebrating Christmas with family, and taking some much needed time off from the social media world, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2018!
When is the last time you put together a jigsaw puzzle? We’re not counting those under 100 pieces completed with your kids. After our experience renting a Mount Baker Chalet, the jigsaw puzzle (500 pieces or more) will forever be the reference upon which I measure our level of relaxation. Opportunities to read entire books or take a certain amount of naps may come in close second or third.
We only stayed in the chalet for 2 nights, but the feeling of truly being able to getaway from the noise, busyness, and stress of our everyday life was remarkable. There were several factors that led to this restful state:
- Space–We had more than enough room (probably too much) for our family to spread out.
- Small town–Friendly people with just the right amount of shops, restaurants, and services.
- Adventure at our finger tips–Quick drives (or even just walking out the door) to amazing hikes and outdoor experiences.
- No cell service–We appreciated the forced break from our phones and other electronic devices due to spotty service.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NatureMadeVitaminD #CollectiveBias
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The to-do lists, the parties and activities, and shopping can have us thinking there isn’t much time for anything else. However, with a little planning and creativity, we can also focus on what’s most important, Our health!
We can have a joyous (and productive) holiday season if we are intentional with our time and choices. Getting outside connects us to the natural world, provides us with fresh air and sunshine, and in turn bolsters our immune system helping us to stay healthy. Then we have the energy and strength to live our lives with exuberance!
Georgia and I recently ventured back east to visit family in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Before I dive into the details of our trip, I thought I’d explain first how we got there. Instead of flying directly to Charlotte, we opted to fly to the Raleigh-Durham airport. We then rented a car, and drove the rest of the way, about 3 hours, to our ultimate destination just south of Charlotte.
I outline why we love this option when flying (especially with kids) in our “No Layovers!” post, but basically, we are loyal to Alaska Airlines, and our air carrier of choice does not yet have a direct flight to Charlotte. Sure we could fly to another city and connect to Charlotte all through the Alaska Airlines interface, but when it comes down to it, another flight would add more time, more variables for delays, baggage issues, and other possible headaches. Especially when a car rental is necessary anyway, flying direct to an airport that isn’t necessarily the closest is a great option.
Not that we ever need an excuse to head out on an outdoor adventure, but with Slaed out of town on a recent weekend, I knew that the kids and I could not sit idle. When solo-parenting, I find it’s a lot more fun and manageable to get out and be active rather than dwell on my lack of partnership!
Gold Creek Pond has been on our list of places to visit for several years now. As the kids and I headed down I-90, I must admit that I second guessed myself several times. It was pouring rain. Blinding, hard to see the car in front of me, worried about driving too fast and too close to other cars, RAIN. Where was the friendly, misty Seattle area rain that we are used to?
I started going over alternatives in my head, and how I was going to break it to the kids that we wouldn’t actually be making it to this hiking spot. And as those alternatives churned in mind, I just kept driving. I talked myself through the overwhelm, and convinced myself not to abandon our plans. Eventually those intermittent downpours subsided and we found ourselves at the trail head! I’m so glad that I didn’t chicken out.
Here you’ll see some quick highlights of our visit, and hopefully you’ll see why we think Gold Creek Pond is such a great outdoor destination for kids!
Fall Visit to Gold Creek Pond with Kids
We visited on the first day of October, so the fall colors were not out in their full glory, but the peeks that we saw were gorgeous! I imagine at by mid October, the oranges, reds, and yellows are out in their full glory.
With Bergen starting Kindergarten this year, our slow preschool mornings have disappeared. We used to be able to take our time. I’d get up early, have the ability to get several tasks completed, sip coffee at a leisurely pace, and the kids could wake-up slowly. Breakfast could be more elaborate because we had time on our side.
These days, school starts shortly before 8:00, and even though it’s only a difference of a little over an hour compared to Bergen’s preschool days, it’s shifted our morning in a huge way. Bergen adores smoothies, but with the rush to get out the door in the morning, the whole process just seems overwhelming to me. I could put together clever freezer packs ready to be added to the blender, but then there’s always the looming clean-up that keeps me from wanting to bother.
I recently decided to take a break from coffee. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll go back to drinking the delicious black nectar. Admittedly it’s only been two weeks, but by replacing my morning brew with tea, I must say, I don’t miss it. Much.
I feel like coffee was making me too jittery and anxious, and I also felt too dependent on it to wake up, and be a functioning and productive human. Yes, tea contains caffeine too, but since it contains a lot less than coffee, it felt like I could make a gradual shift without a lot of side effects.
Cutting out coffee is all an experiment, and for what it’s worth, I’m happy with the change. I’m sure I’ll share more in the coming months, but to start, one of the helping factors of my recent detox from coffee is Cusa Tea. I’ve been testing out Cusa Tea for the past 2 months (yes, starting before I made the full switch), and I’m excited to share this innovative product!
I recently posted about the Pure Carrier from Onya Baby, and I’m thrilled to share that in partnership with Onya Baby, one lucky reader will WIN a carrier of their own! As I mentioned in my review, we are so impressed with the Pure carrier, and in just a short couple of months have taken it on countless adventures. Of course, I’ve carried Georgia in the Pure on hikes, but we’ve also explored gardens, visited the state fair, gone grocery shopping, and attended sporting events.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson
Challenge and Toddlers. Like most young tots, our daughter Georgia asserts her opinion and pushes the boundaries. Of course packed in with all that frustrating behavior are moments of pure joy, great accomplishment, and immense pride. However, when we’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to remember that, “this too shall pass”.
Especially in the last couple of months, I’ve lovingly and intentionally tried to challenge Georgia right back. Not by throwing tantrums, whining or making demands, though sometimes I feel like doing that, but by posing small achievable goals. As we adventure about, making sure I’ve built in ways to set-up success, I push her to be more independent, brave, and engaged in our environment.
Presently, Georgia has just two speeds on the hiking trail:
- Run. Usually with abandon and no regard to instructions.
- Whine, lollygag, and ask to be picked up.
Unfortunately, I never know which speed she’ll choose from day to day! For example, on one of our recent hikes, she took off at the trail head, and her big brother and I had to corral her back in the right direction. Just a couple of days after that incident, as soon as her feet hit the trail at the start of our forest outing, she was upset and refused to move.
Along with patience, frequent practice, and incentives, one of the things that’s helping us on our adventures is a soft-structured carrier, specifically the Pure carrier from Onya Baby.
The Outdoor Mom Academy experts, made up of Amelia from Tales of a Mountain Mama, Rebecca from Hike Like a Woman, and Susan from Mountain Mom and Tots are back at it! These inspiring ladies are offering their 6-week course for a second time this fall.
If you weren’t able to join the course when it was offered the first time earlier this summer, this is your chance to get in on all the action, and take advantage of this amazing learning opportunity! I provide a lot the details of the course (though it’s been revamped and updated a bit) in my first Outdoor Mom Academy announcement, but here is the course outline in a nutshell.
Would you believe me if I told you that I once got a sunburn indoors? I wish sun protective clothing like Little Leaves shirts and pants were available during my lifeguarding days! Yes, back in college when I was working at the indoor pool during summer break, I had the sliding door behind my lifeguard stand slightly cracked, and that small amount of sun light streaming in burned my arm.
Needless to say, my skin is extremely sensitive to the sun, so protection of vital importance for me and my family. When I was young, before rash guards and swim shirts were a common thing, much to my dismay, I always had to sport a t-shirt over my swim suit at the beach and pool. So heavy and uncomfortable! I had to don streaks of zinc oxide under my eyes to shield that vulnerable area from sunburn.
Technology has come a long way with waterproof sunscreen now available, and more advanced ways of protecting our skin. Little Leaves Sun Protective Clothing is leading the way in developing apparel that helps to prevent the damaging effects of the sun, such as skin cancer and premature aging. Knowing that kids and adults need protection from beyond just water activities, Drs. Carlos and Carley Gomez-Meade created shirts, pants, and hats that have natural UPF protection from the sun.
Since our oldest, Bergen, was a wee baby, we have been taking family trips to Hayden Lake, Idaho every summer. For Slaed, it’s been since his freshman year of college! We are lucky to have a good friends with a lake house who allow us to stay and live the lake life for a long weekend.
We often fall into the same routines. We relax on the porch, play on the dock, take boat rides around the lake, and eat delicious home-cooked meals together. This past month we still did all of the above, but in order to spread our wings a bit, and get to know the area more, we added to our usual activities.
When we visit Portland, Oregon, we usually stick to the downtown core with trips to outlying neighborhoods to visit friends. In fact, early on with Bergen when he was a baby, and then a toddler, we took the train down from Seattle and didn’t even use a car! With Portland’s advanced public transportation system, this is easily accomplished.
A recent article in the Seattle Times led us to expand our Portland area horizons though. There is more to the area than the city itself, and we thought it was high time we incorporate a road trip to the Columbia River Gorge. Even with its close proximity to Portland, we’d never traveled to this area famous for its amazing waterfalls, wind surfing, and GORGEous views of the Columbia River cutting through the rocky landscape.
There is much to do and see in this region, and with a day trip (and 2 young children), we barely scratched the surface. This of course means we are already dreaming about return trips. In the meantime though, here’s what our adventure along the Columbia River Gorge entailed, all of which we highly recommend!
When we returned from our week stay on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, aside from falling in love with this beautiful island, we learned one valuable lesson for beach travel. That lesson? Don’t over pack!
St. John, along with the rest of the Caribbean is laid back. And especially since we were staying at house with a washer and dryer, there was no need to pack outfits for everyday. When you have amazing (and world renowned) beaches to visit every day, the basics are all that’s necessary.
After traveling to Maui as a family of 4, we shared our beach vacation packing list for families. That packing list will get you started, but the Caribbean as we learned is a whole different animal. That being said, we wanted to highlight some essentials. We found the items on the following list to be extremely helpful in keeping us comfortable and protected from the elements (mostly sun, bugs, & humidity) while on the island.
Looking for a Seattle area hiking guide to lead you through the outdoors this summer (and beyond)? I’m excited to share a brand new book from Moon Travel Guides called 75 Great Hikes Seattle. Full disclosure: The book is written by my cousin, avid hiker and Kirkland, Washington resident, Melissa Ozbek. I also contributed a short piece on hiking with kids including tips and ideas for heading out on the trail with young kids.
In the following video, I give a quick overview of the hiking guide, and also share what I love most about the book. Continue reading for a chance to win your own copy. I’m giving away two autographed copies of 75 Great Hikes Seattle, so be sure to enter!
It’s finally sandal season here in Seattle, and we are celebrating! Our travels to the Caribbean this spring allowed us to get a jump start in testing the fun kids sandals from M.A.P. shoes, so I’m looking forward to sharing our thoughts. We also hope it might help you make your decisions as you prepare for an adventurous summer season!
You may have read our review of the M.A.P. Footwear sneakers last fall. We also appreciated their cozy boots to keep Georgia’s toes warm this past winter. We are big fans of the brand! In addition to trying out the Emmons Fisherman Sandals (for Bergen) and the Niagara T Fisherman Sandals (for Georgia) during our vacation on St. John, we’ve also put them to the test this spring. Activities have included biking, hiking, scootering, beach play, and of course just typical day to day life of errand running and family hustle and bustle.
It’s a lot of work to get two young children to St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands) from Seattle, but my husband and I can say with confidence that it’s well worth it! Because we have a 2-year old who isn’t so keen on sitting still, and hasn’t yet given in to the power of movies and games on the tablet, we broke the trip up.
First we flew from Seattle to Philadelphia, and stayed the night in a hotel near the airport. The following morning, bright and early, we flew from Philadelphia to St. Thomas. We then took a 45-minute taxi ride to the ferry dock. And finally with much anticipation, we took a wild 20-minute ferry boat ride to Cruz Bay, St. John!
We opted to rent a car on St. John, so we also had the pleasure of walking with our 5+ pieces of luggage to the car rental spot along bumpy sidewalks. When our car rental registration was complete, we were off on just a 5 minute drive to our rental house.
Do you want to boost your confidence as an outdoor mom?
As an ambassador for the class, I want to make sure all you amazing mama readers knew about the OUTDOOR MOM ACADEMY’s first online course! It’s a 6-week course designed to teach moms (and really any caregiver of kids) strategies for easy, fun, and safe outdoor adventures! Want to join me?
I’m taking the class to refine my skills, learn from other inspiring outdoor moms, and to get some practical advice on the most important aspects of adventuring in the outdoors with kids. I’m particularly excited about the camping lesson, as our family is looking to make our camping trips easier and more organized. As my children grow, and we take on “more adventurous” activities, I also think the risk management lesson will be especially relevant.
The course is being taught by 3 amazing outdoor family bloggers:
- Rebecca Walsh from Hike Like a Woman
- Amelia Mayer from Tales of a Mountain Mama
- Susan Strayer from Mountain Mom and Tots
Lake Sammamish State Park, located in Issaquah, Washington has so much for families to enjoy. We recently visited the park with a mission to check out their new playground, which opened last fall (October 2016). The playground, designed for kids ages 2-12, mirrors the area’s nature features and historical attributes. The kids and I were impressed to say the least! Along with some of the usual playground offerings, we found a mushroom house, climbable salmon making their way into the lake, and a coal mine to explore.
During our annual visit the Phoenix area, between watching our Mariners in Spring Training, visiting with family, and enjoying the break from gloomy Seattle weather, we always make time for a family hike in the desert. So far, we’ve hiked in the White Tank Mountains, around Lake Pleasant, and explored Glendale’s Thunderbird Park. Each of these hikes have allowed us to connect with natural environment that can often get overshadowed by the flurry and excitement of travel (combined with suburban sprawl).
On our most recent trip this past March, we ventured northeast of Phoenix to Cave Creek Regional Park. In anticipation of visiting the area, I often scope out new (to us) parks by simply pulling up our location (the Peoria area) in google maps. I then pore over the the screen, zooming in and out, looking for green spaces.
When I find one that looks interesting, I find the driving distance and time estimation. Our general rule considering the ages of our kids, and the goal to be back for afternoon nap time, is to choose something within a 45 minute drive. Cave Creek Regional Park definitely fit the bill!
With winter recently coming to a close, you might not be interested in cold weather gear. However, if you live in a region still experiencing chilly temperatures or want to plan ahead for next fall and winter, you’ll want to consider Stonz Wear.
Stonz Wear is a children’s outerwear brand featuring cold (wet and snowy) weather accessories. They specialize in boots and mittens, and we particularly love the story of their origin. Try as she might, Stonz’ founder Lisa Will, could not keep her young son’s feet warm. She wanted to shoe or boot that would protect those tiny feet from the cold AND stay on, so she got to work designing and creating her own.
Imagine waking up and stepping outside your front door onto a covered porch. In front of you, a babbling stream greets you, bringing an overwhelming sense of peace to your day. Surrounding you from above are towering evergreen trees helping you to feel centered even though tasks, responsibilities, and to-do list items try to impose.
Then as your eyes dance from the calming water to the majestic trees, you realize that the entire area is covered in a blanket of fresh white snow. Truly a winter wonderland that, despite the chill in the air, feels like heaven.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well, this is actually what we experienced just a few weeks ago during our stay at Mounthaven Resort near Mount Rainier National Park.
With a toddler not keen on snow and cold weather, and a preschooler who’s never strapped on snowshoes, I wasn’t sure what to expect for our first family snowshoe adventure. Bergen, our 5-year old, loves hiking, and has been climbing mountains with me since he learned to walk. But snowshoeing?
I foresaw him getting frustrated with the plastic clodhoppers and throwing them off in disgust. Then after being relieved of the clumsy feeling, he’d end up sinking in three feet of accumulated snow. All the while, our 2-year old would grow tired of being carried in the backpack. I envisioned her whining, screaming, or worse throwing a complete tantrum no snack, treat, or lollipop could pacify.
No, that’s not exactly how our first family snowshoe adventure transpired. It ended up being a whole lot of fun for most of us, but it wasn’t without a few bumps! To give you an idea of our set-up, here are a few nitty-gritty details: Slaed has his own snowshoes, I borrowed a pair from a friend, and we rented a pair from REI for Bergen. Georgia was carried in our Deuter Kid Comfort 3 for the 3-mile trek. We chose to hike along the Wonderland Trail (Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground) for it’s easy terrain, pretty views along the Nisqually River, and easy accessibility from Mount Rainier National Park’s south entrance.
Do you have any National Parks on your travel and adventure list this year? Our National Parks are an amazing resource allowing us to dig into the nature and history of many of our country’s most important locations.
Every year the U.S. National Parks service selects several days or weekends that are FEE FREE. This provides a great opportunity to explore a park you’ve been meaning to see!