The Commons

While visiting Woodinville the other week we stumbled upon this lovely brunch spot called The Commons. As soon as we stepped foot into this bustling space I was in love. From the light and bright interior to the piles of pastries under large glass domes, this spot is well appointed in every way. Once our food came we were delighted with an explosion of flavors. Although this place is a little out of our normal routine, it is definitely the type of place worth visiting again and again.

Beach time and my favorite parks around the city

Around here, beach time is more than just play time. Beach time is an opportunity to count airplanes and boats, interact with other children, learn to share and catch some much needed Vitamin D. Rain or shine we try to visit the beach at least once a week. We like to visit a variety of beaches, both sandy and rocky ones. Although the sand ones are more comfortable for sitting, I much prefer the rocky ones for overall clean up and interest factor. When we are on a rocky beach we can throw rocks, look under rocks, pile rocks and count rocks. Sandy beaches are better for playing with beach toys and working on our tans. 

In general, I try to pack as light as possible. In my beach bag I like to pack the following: sun hat, flip flops, a sarong which can double as a blanket to sit on and a towel, sunscreen, a variety of snacks, a small plastic bucket and a large water bottle. I have found the more I bring, the more stressed I feel about keeping track of it all. When you are out in nature, more toys generally does not equate to a better time. Also, unless Jasper is going swimming I do not bother to put him in his swimsuit or swim diaper. I find it to not be worth the hassle and most of his Summer clothes are quick dry anyways. 

Some of our favorite beaches/parks:

Lincoln Park, located in West Seattle: This park has it all from rocky beaches and ferries breezing by, resident ducks to feed, well maintained restrooms, swings, fire pits, baseball fields and grassy areas to run around on. 

Lowman Beach, located in West Seattle: This park is located at the north or back entrance to Lincoln Park. Very few people visit this beach which means we usually have the place to ourselves. 

Alki Beach, located in West Seattle: This beach is perfect for people watching, lots of water and boat traffic, sandy beaches, fire pits, volleyball courts and lots of places to grab a bite to eat and get out of the sunshine. 

Waverly Park, located in Kirkland: great swings, nice docks over the water for fishing, great little swimming area in the Summer time. 

Discovery Park, located in North Seattle: Great rocky beach for exploring, a neat lighthouse and places for picnicking. 

Volunteer Park, located in Capital Hill: massive green space in the city to run around on, great little playground, beautiful Conservatory, home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. 

Gasworks Park, located in the University District: large rolling hills, great for flying kites, frisbee and picnics. A favorite spot to catch a different view of the city and watch sail boats and kayaks go by.  

South Lake Union Park, located in South Lake Union: My favorite spot to watch the seaplanes take off and land. This park has a small pond for sailing toy boats, a splash pad, an occasional food truck and is home to the MOHAI. 

Dating your husband and fostering your own interests as a mother

People closest to me know my idea of relaxation is being active outdoors. Given the choice between doing anything else, I will always choose to be outside.  It is not that I am a fitness fanatic rather I gain strength from fresh air and beautiful surroundings. I love a long walk with a friend, a solo run, camping, and kayaking. Once our son was born and my free time was heavily diminished I quickly realized whenever Jasper spent the night at my parent's I always preferred a restless night under the stars over a good night's rest in my own bed. Although intuitively this did not make much sense, the time spent together devoid of all other distractions strengthened my marriage and in turn my ability to be an even better mother. When you have something good in your life it is important to both nurture it and share it with others. My husband and my children are the greatest blessings in my life and both relationships need to be fostered and cared for. 

Something I realized very early on as a mother is the time I spend away from my child is as important as the time I spend with my child. As a mother who works from home I often missed out on the powerful and restorative feeling of missing my child. Jasper is typically around me, climbing all over me and in my face most hours of the day. He both seeks and demands my undivided attention a majority of my day. On the other hand, my husband goes to work each day and experiences that daily emotion of missing our son. For me, it was important to occasionally experience those same feelings, so I could better relate to my husband and so I could be fully engaged when I am with my son. I am grateful for every second I am able to spend with my son, but I am also grateful for a network of people who love my son and allow me to retain my own sense of self. Before I had children I attend a dinner where we were asked to going around the table and talk about our hobbies. Two women I knew who happened to be mothers quickly stated they no longer had hobbies because they had children. In that moment, I made a promise to myself if I ever was fortunate enough to have children I would foster my own creativity and happiness with equal fervor. I can honestly say I wake up each morning feeling endless amounts of gratitude and love for this little person I get to call my own, but I am also grateful for those moments to myself and days where I get to go hiking with my husband knowing full well our son is having an equally epic time with Grandma and Grandpa. 

Willows Lodge

In the heart of downtown Woodinville there is a wonderful gem tucked away between the winerys and farms called Willows Lodge. My husband and I recently sent our son off to his grandparent's house and stayed at Willows Lodge for a little weekend escape. Once we arrived at the property we were pleased with the calming decor, inviting color palette and impeccable service. Growing up on the Eastside I regularly visited Woodinville, but after moving to Seattle I have not spent much time in Woodinville. In the past, I have never considered vacating the city for a night to relax, recharge and reconnect with my husband on the Eastside. However, now that I have experienced it I not only see the benefits, but am eagerly planning our next weekend getaway. 

Everything about Willows Lodge is swoon worthy. From the beautifully appointed lobby with a two story fireplace, to the meticulously maintained landscaping and the plentiful herb garden. The property offers free bike rental and has easy accessibility to the Burke Gilman trail and downtown Woodinville is within walking distance from Willows Lodge. There are not only one, but three dining options on the property. The world renowned Herb Farm, Barking Frog and Fireside at Willows Lodge. 

Just one of the many options for places to sit on the property and enjoy a late night drink or bite to eat outdoors. 

Having just recently started a garden of my own at our new house I was eager to browse their raised beds and see what was thriving in their garden. 

The Herbfarm offers a nine course dinner paired with five or six matched wines. (they also offer non alcoholic options) 

Our spacious room featured a king bed, large jacuzzi tub, and a charming little outdoor deck to enjoy room service or a great little spot to read a book. 

The weekend we stayed at Willows Lodge coincided with one of the hottest days we have experienced all year long. We made certain to take full advantage of our proximity to the mountains and enjoyed an afternoon of hiking before going to pick up our son. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Willows Lodge and found ourselves relaxed and rejuvenated for the week ahead. 

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Willows Lodge.  All opinions stated here are my own and I was under no obligation to write anything other than my personal experience. I will never write about anything I did not enjoy or find to be a valuable experience. 

A day trip to Vashon Island

Saturdays are our day to explore as a family. Although Jasper and I do a lot of exploring during the week we usually are missing the key member of our trio- Dad! We try to leave early in the morning and are gone for the majority of the day. I know Saturdays are a popular day for staying at home and getting stuff done, but having fun and enjoying one another's company will always trump chores and responsibilities for me. All the other days of the week get filled up with work, church and other obligations, but Saturdays are our day for fun. A couple Saturdays ago we hopped on a ferry and went over to Vashon Island for the day. Even though we live a mere five minutes from the ferry terminal surprisingly we have only done this a couple other times over the past eight years of living in West Seattle. We packed a picnic lunch and knew we wanted to visit a handful of places. Our primary goal was to visit Point Robinson Park, but we knew we also wanted to grab an ice cream cone from Glass Bottle Creamery and stop by the Farmer's market. 

In a rare turn of events, Jasper fell fast asleep in his stroller which meant we were able to eat our ice cream cones without sharing! 

Rocks, sticks, boats and planes make for a dream day for Jasper.

It is so easy to get to Vashon Island from West Seattle that I promised myself we will take more spur of the moment trips to the island. 

Kelsey Creek Farm

After wanting to visit Kelsey Creek Farms for a few months we finally made it happen. We went a few weeks ago on a Friday morning and we were simply delighted with what we saw. Amidst sun breaks and acres of green grass we watched sheep, a pig, goats, cows, roosters and bunnies. It was exciting to see the animals which Jasper has mainly read about in books walking, talking and interacting with him. Some of the highlights of Kelsey Creek Farm for us did not have much to do with the animals and were more about the two large sand boxes with trucks, the metal Lil' Johnny Deere and the ability to run free in a new environment. I was impressed with how well maintained the facilities were and that we are able to have so much fun without a high price admission fee. 

Picking dandelions and running up and down this well worn path kept Jasper entertained for a good half hour. It is fun to see what captures a child's imagination and how the littlest thing can have them smiling from ear to ear. It is a good reminder how we take so many things for granted like the ability to walk, run and see. As a photographer I am constantly searching for a new perspective and finding new ways to tell a story, but this little boy has opened my eyes to a world of constant wonder and amazement. If you need some inspiration in the mundane spend the afternoon with a toddler and they will surely open your eyes to every nook and cranny of the world you have never taken the time to notice. 

Jasper loved these information signs that were throughout the property. I like to think he is reading them and absorbing the informaton, but he really likes to just open and shut them repeatedly. 

The pure joy in his face is enough for me to want to come back here again and again. 

San Juan Outfitters

Happy Earth Day!

While visiting San Juan Island we went on a kayak trip with San Juan Outfitters. What started out as a beautiful day for a paddle ended in the most memorable kayak trip of our lives. We headed out of Roche Harbor and made our way to Henry Island. A couple hours in we stopped and enjoyed a shoreline brown bag lunch and then continued on. Before long we spotted a small clustering of boats and we knew it must be one thing- whales. For the next half hour we watched in awe as the whales swam a mere hundred yards away from our kayaks. 

There are many things I like about San Juan Outfitters, but the small group size is one of my favorite. When we went kayaking it was just us, our guide and another couple. It was great to have such a small group and to be able to travel from point A to B with ease.

Since my husband is tall he often finds being stuck inside a kayak for several hours on end a miserable experience, but San Juan Outfitters has some of the most comfortable kayaks we have ever been in. 

Even if you don't think you are athletic or like the outdoors much, I promise you as you spend time outdoors doing new things you will discover a side of yourself worth exploring. You will find you can dig deeper, work harder and see things in a new light which can translate to pretty much every other facet of your life. 

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This post was sponsored by San Juan Outfitters. All opinions stated here are my own and I was under no obligation to write anything other than my personal experience. I will never write about anything I did not enjoy or find to be a valuable experience. 

From South Lake Union to Gasworks Park

One Saturday we set out for the city with our only agenda to be outside and have fun. What ensued was a day of firsts, discovering new gems of our fair and city and stopping for good eats along the way. Our first stop was the Center for Wooden Boats. We had hoped to rent their paddleboat, but unfortunately it was still broken so instead we headed over to the MOHAI to watch the seaplanes come and go and the sailboats dance around Lake Union. 

A woman and her two french bulldogs pulled up in this fantastic boat. Jasper could not get enough of her dogs or the fact they were wearing lifejackets. 

It is a thrill to watch the seaplanes come and go. Jasper is obsessed with boats and planes right now, so a seaplane is kind of like the best of both worlds. 

I love to witness the special bond which is developing between these two. I love how comfortable and relaxed they are with each other. Jasper is definitely both a mama's boy and a daddy's boy. 

Last Spring and Summer, Jasper would keep these sunglasses on no problem. Now he wears them long enough for a photo or two and that is it. 

We left South Lake Union park and started heading to Fremont. We walked past docks and docks of houseboats and wondered what fun it would be to live on one. 

Eventually we made it to Fremont and walked across the Fremont Bridge for the first time in our lives. It is funny how you can live somewhere your whole life and never do certain things or visit certain areas. 

There are stunning views as you cross the Fremont bridge, particularly on a sunny and clear day. 

After a pit stop for some BBQ at Roro we continued to walk until we reached Gasworks park. There we enjoyed our late lunch and watching more boats, kayakers and seaplanes come and go. 

It would be a wasted trip without a stop at The Fainting Goat for gelato. Pistachio, Nutella and Coconut are our current favorites. The best part is unlike many gelato places they are not skimpy on their servings. After filling ourselves with gelato we walked back across the Fremont bridge right before it opened up for two large sailboats. Watching the bridge rise was a thrill and Jasper was both confused and in awe of what was occurring. 

Back at South Lake Union Park we hopped in the car and continued our boat themed day with a quick visit to the Ballard Locks. 

Roche Harbor in the Spring

Spring time is one of our favorite times to travel. The weather usually cooperates, flowers boxes and hanging baskets are bursting with color and it is generally a quiet time compared to the hustle and bustle of the Summer. When we visit San Juan Island we like to spend at least a few afternoons and evening at Roche Harbor. We like the laid back, easy pace of the area and find it to be devoid of all the ferry traffic and tours which come in and out of Friday Harbor. We also love to kayak out of Roche Harbor with San Juan Outfitters and one of our favorite places to eat on the island (Madrona Bar and Grill) is located here too. 

Signs of spring around every turn. 

Although we have never stayed at Hotel de Haro we love the stately and picturesque backdrop it provides for the town. 

Gearing up for our kayak adventure with San Juan Outfitters

For dinner one evening we drove to Roche Harbor specifically to try out McMillin's Dining Room. Normally, we like to eat at Madrona Bar and Grill, but unfortunately they were not open yet for the season. McMillin's although a little on the pricier side served up amazingly delicious and fresh food. Cameron ordered the most insane burger. A burger topped with sweet potato fries with still yet another serving of fries on the side. I went for something a little lighter and ordered the jumbo prawns on a bed of wilted greens. Both were amazing in their own right and made us glad we drove over for dinner. On another day we enjoyed sandwiches from Lime Kiln Cafe for lunch with a side of obligatory donuts. 

Checking out all the boats and reading their clever names is a highlight of every trip to Roche Harbor. 

A quiet evening stroll in Roche Harbor.

Spring time at Pike Place Market

Spring time at Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is a big tourist destination in Seattle, but it is still one of my favorite places to go for gorgeous fresh flowers and reasonably priced vegetables. Especially now that I have a toddler in tow, I try to be strategic about when I visit and I try to keep the length of my trip to a minimum. Although Jasper is a very social little boy, I have noticed he starts to get stressed and anxious if a place is too busy or chaotic. My favorite time to visit is in the morning between 9:30-11am or after the lunch rush from 2-4pm. As a general rule of thumb, the sunnier it is outside the busier the market tends to be. 

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Whale watching with San Juan Safaris

Whale watching with San Juan Safaris

While visiting the San Juan Islands earlier this month we went on a whale watching tour with San Juan Safaris. Whenever we visit the San Juan Islands we like to get out on the water as much as possible and San Juan Safaris is one of our favorite outfitters to partner with. Their guides and naturalists are professional and possess an enthusiasm for their jobs that is unmatched. Whenever I go on a whale watching tour or a kayaking trip with San Juan Safaris I always leave inspired by the scenery, but more importantly the people. In addition to fantastic staff you won't find nicer boats or kayaking equipment than through them. 

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A weekend at Bird Rock Hotel

A weekend at Bird Rock Hotel

In the midst of downtown Friday Harbor and just a short walk from the ferry terminal there is a lovely place to stay called Bird Rock Hotel. It is a small, unassuming place, the type of place you might even walk right past if you did not know the charm awaiting you once inside. Bird Rock Hotel is a boutique hotel with a historic exterior and a modern interior. Rooms range from deluxe with harbor views and jacuzzi tubs to simple European style sleeping rooms with shared baths down the hall. Each room is unique which makes it a fun experience to stay there again and again. There are so many things I enjoy about Bird Rock Hotel, but the comfortable beds, location and delicious continental breakfast awaiting me each morning are three of my favorites. This is our second time staying at Bird Rock Hotel and just like last time we loved every minute of our stay. 

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A weekend at the Freestone Inn

A weekend at the Freestone Inn

Before we bid Winter adieu we headed up to the North Cascades to stay at the Freestone Inn for one last hurrah. We spent our time enjoying slow mornings and big breakfasts, snowshoeing, window shopping in Winthrop, and constantly dreaming about one day building a house of our own amongst the stunning landscape. The North Cascades have become our refuge, our go to place when we want a break from the world with a healthy dose of natural beauty and a hearty side of adventure. We have spent many hours hiking the nearby trails and marveling at how we always feel like we have the place to ourselves. We love to visit the Freestone Inn during all seasons, but the Fall and Winter are our favorites. The combination of the coziness of the inn with cooler temperatures makes us feel right at home by the roaring fire.

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An afternoon at Cutthroat Lake

An afternoon at Cutthroat Lake

With the transition of Winter into Spring my thoughts turn outdoors. If I had it my way I would be outside everyday from dawn until dusk. Unfortunately, many days between work commitments, taking care of a small child and the rigors of life in general my schedule does not permit such a luxury like this. On those days, where all I want to be is outside, but I am stuck inside I have the memories and the photos of wonderful days past spent amongst the dirt and the trees. Here are a few photos from one such lovely Fall hike to Cutthroat Lake. 

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A walk around the neighborhood

A walk around the neighborhood

I don't know about you, but we are so excited Spring is here! We have been craving longer days, warmer temperatures and are currently in the process of planting as many vegetables as we can in our little plot at our community garden. We are day dreaming of window boxes overflowing with flowers, wearing flip flops and not having to wear a jacket for the foreseeable future. As of late, we have enjoyed getting out as much as possible and exploring every nook and cranny in our neighborhood. Our little man is all business when he is exploring and I would not have it any other way.

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An annual tradition: Cherry blossoms at the University of Washington

An annual tradition: Cherry blossoms at the University of Washington

Every March we make our annual pilgrimage to my alma mater to see the cherry blossoms trees. Since the window to witness them in their full glory is relatively short, it is usually quite crowded- but fun nonetheless. You will see people taking engagement photos, pregnancy photos and just photos in general. This year we witnessed a sweet little baby in full UW cheerleading attire being held by the world's proudest papa. Just like that I am reminded how each of us thinks we love our children more than the next person and how in that moment we feel like the luckiest person alive. Life is grand, muddy puddles, wind storms and March who acts like a defiant toddler never wanting to decide between whether it wants to be Winter or Spring or both. 

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Easter egg hunt and luncheon

Easter egg hunt and luncheon

Last week I had the brilliant idea to cohost an egg hunt and lunch with Jasper, for the three little boys his age from church and their Moms. What started as a last minute idea turned into a great way to commence Jasper's life as a host. He was gracious as he allowed others to play with his toys (we've never had anyone over to play before) and when it came time to eat lunch he sat like a big boy at a table quietly eating his lunch. I think he was in such awe of having such dashing lunch companions that he didn't even think to throw his food or his plate on the floor. My heart could have burst with pride as I watched him interact kindly (for the most part) with each little boy. This party was a good reminder how important it is to not put limitations on our children. Jasper did brilliantly in a completely new environment and I foresee a lot more get togethers with this cute little bunch of boys and their mamas. After everyone left I felt exhausted, but pleased to see how even though we parent differently the outcome is still the same- kind, sweet and loving little boys!

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Point Robinson

Point Robinson

During our visit to Vashon we spent one of our mornings down at Point Robinson. Point Robinson is a ten acre shoreline park and marine conservancy located on the east shore of Maury Island overlooking East Passage. This site has provided fog and lighthouse service for vessels since 1885. The park has a sandy beach shoreline which wraps around the point, a saltwater marsh, and upland woodlands. Jasper particularly enjoyed the beach (he is obsessed with carrying around tiny rocks), the wooden swing and cement pathway in front of the Keeper's houses. No matter how you spend your time at Point Robinson there are spectacular views of East Passage, Tacoma, and Mount Rainier from anywhere on the shoreline.

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