Dating my husband

Before we had children my husband and I would joke everything we did was a "date". Since having children the word "date" evokes a whole bunch of excitement and anticipation. Since most of our interests revolve around outdoor activities or food, our favorite activities to do when we are childless usually involve going on a hike or going to check out a new restaurant. Jasper has reached the age where he is no longer equally enchanting with long hikes or leisurely meals so we happily plan to do these things without him when we get the chance. Last weekend, we went on our inaugural snowshoeing trip and it was a good reminder to me just how important it is to nurture your relationship with your spouse in all seasons of life. 

It was a snowy day at Snoqualmie Pass so we enjoyed a beautiful hike up to Snow Lake. There is something so peaceful about feeling like you walking around in a snow globe. One day, I dream of owning a little cabin up in the mountains. But until then, our Saturdays hikes will have to hold me over. 

Mount Baker cabin

Nestled amongst a mossy forest, there is cabin high up in the mountains. It is close to a few modern necessities, but with greenery out every window it feels like you are miles away from everyone else. A few stormy weekends ago, we stayed at this cabin and enjoyed an adventure filled weekend in the mountains. Most notable were the homemade treats, cozy fires and experiencing our first snow fall of the season. If you are looking for a laid back weekend where your family can relax and you can skip your list of chores and errands then this is the place. 

The cabin has two bedrooms, a sleeping loft, two bathrooms, a game room, a large living room, a large dining table and enough room for a family of six to be comfortable. 

Our little explorer liked hanging out on the deck no matter if the rain was falling or not. 

I was obsessed with all this beautiful moss right outside the front door. 

Doing dishes isn't a chore with this beautiful, lush back drop to gaze at. 

The house perched up on a hill. 

Mornings at the cabin were slow with moody light and roaring fires. 

Stairs to the sleeping loft. 

A freshly remodeled bathroom on the main floor. 

Jasper running away from the dreaded gloves. 

No matter your age, there is nothing more magical than snow!!

Knee deep to check out the snow plows. 

Frozen ponds and swirling snow. 

Jasper appreciated all the natural light in the sleeping loft. He was perfectly content with his large stack of books and comfy bed.  

My number one recommendation when traveling with kids is to bring lots of books. Jasper can spend hours looking at these. 

Remnants of a morning well spent. 

This post was sponsored by Mount Baker Lodging

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.

The Teddy Bear Suite

Last year, we stumbled upon the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmount Olympic Hotel Seattle during our staycation. This year we made it a point to check it out again while we were downtown on Black Friday. This year marks the nineteenth anniversary of the Teddy Bear Suite. As a curious toddler, Jasper was very enthusiastic about the teddy bears and spent our entire visit repeatedly saying "teddy bear". Since he surprisingly does not own any teddy bears (just other kind of animals) I did not know he could even say teddy bear.  It is so fun to see his little spirit develop and how freely he gives of his love and excitement to all he encounters whether that be a mail truck or a room full of teddy bears.  

This year the Teddy Bear suite was decked out in jewel tones and the light shifted from blue to purple throughout the space which made for some interesting photographs. 

Mr. Chill acting like he owns the place and that all of these teddy bears are his. 

Thanksgiving + a new favorite pumpkin recipe

I know today is the first day of December, but much like the rest of world I have been enjoying all things pumpkins for the past month or two or three. On Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to bring something to the table so I turned to my Better Homes and Garden magazine and stumbled upon this recipe. It was easy to make, I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry and it tasted even better the next day. In my opinion, pumpkin recipes do not have to be reserved solely for Fall. With the addition of a pile of toasted pecans on top this recipe can easily march its way into Winter. And anything you can bring to your hostess which does not have to be fussed with or sliced is always a win in my book. 

A couple of days before Thanksgiving we pulled out the finger pants and decided to try our hand at making turkeys. I was uncertain how it would go, but I was thoroughly impressed how patient Jasper was with me. He quietly sat there and allowed me to brush different colors onto his different fingers and then he pressed his hand gently onto the paper. After we made several turkeys I let him freestyle it and he had a lot of fun mixing the various colors together. 

On Thanksgiving, we were a bit under the weather so we paid a visit to Top Pot Doughnut for a little pick me up in the morning. I love watching Jasper's enthusiasm for food. He is forming his own opinions about what he likes and makes it known. He is really taking after his father with his love for pizza and doughnuts. 

Holiday weekend staycation

Some days time just gets away from me. Usually, it is a bi product of having too much fun, staying up too late, and packing too much in. But this past week has been filled with doctor appointments, too many viruses, too much coughing, not enough sleeping and lots of medicine for our family. However, I am happy to report we are on the mend and grateful we survived this long Thanksgiving weekend of trying to have fun amidst feeling crummy. 

Since we had so much fun last year, we decided to spend the night downtown on Black Friday. For some of you it might seem silly to stay at a hotel so close to home, but if I have learned one thing since having a child it is: a staycation is the perfect vacation. No need to spend time in the car, buy expensive plane tickets or attempt to entertain a toddler for hours. Within minutes you are swept away from your chores, your clutter and your to do list and well on your way to experiencing a different side of the city you know with the ones you love. No getting lost, no stress of not knowing where the next public bathroom is or whether you are going to like your destination or not.

Pike Place Market getting festive for Christmastime. 

The time of year where flowers give way to cabbages and lots of dried flowers. 

Quintessential Seattle Christmas shot. 

Traveling with a toddler whether near or far can be a bit challenging, so when the hustle and bustle of the city proves to be a tad too much, it was nice to have a place to take a break (or a long Winter nap in Jasper's case) without the need to rush home. Gone are the days where he happily drifts off in his stroller and I don't hear a peep from him for hours. So some down time during the day is essential to everyone's sanity. 

It was so fun watching the ferries come and go from our hotel room. We counted no fewer than twenty during our short stay. 

I love Jasper's laser focus and intense concentration on his surroundings. I would love to get inside his brain and see just how much he is learning each day. Having a front seat to watch his growth and development has been one of the highlights of my life.  

We stayed at a new hotel to us called The Motif and selected it based upon its central location. I was a little disappointed they did not decorate their lobby, but then again it is hard to match The Fairmont when it comes to festiveness. We spent the following day and a half with no real agenda other then watching the Tree Lighting, riding the carousel, browsing a few favorite stores, possibly visiting Santa and meeting up with friends for brunch the next morning. Overall, we checked most things off our to do list, but we didn't have the stamina to wait in line for Santa. The beauty of a staycation is we can come back anytime and get our picture with a happier and more rested Santa. 

Some people wait in line for hours to see Santa. Jasper just waits until he comes to him. 

Jasper being Mr. Chill and trying out all the furniture while shopping the Black Friday sales. 

My favorite bag from Lo and Sons which held everything the three of us needed for the weekend. 

The Tree Lighting at Westlake was so so, but the firework display afterwards was quite spectacular. 

Check out our staycation last year here


Happy Thanksgiving! 

This week has been one big germ fest which makes me even more grateful to have a healthy body which can fight infection and still manage to get stuff done. I am grateful for a son who fills my every day with wonder, adventure, messes and loads of hugs and kisses. I am grateful to our first son, Asher, who has made me never take for granted the honor of being a mother. I am grateful for Jasper and the light he is to all those he comes in contact with. I am grateful for the sound of Jasper's little feet pitter pattering around the house and his constant chatter which is the soundtrack to my days. I am grateful for a devoted husband who has endured life's challenge both big and small firmly planted by my side. I am grateful for a home where honesty, laughter and fun abounds. I am grateful for friends who love me to the core and whose presence is a force for good in my life.  I am grateful to know I am a daughter of God. I am grateful to know the value of being vulnerable. I am grateful for all my cheerleaders in life. I am grateful for parents who adore our son and who would do anything for our family. I am grateful for this little space I have carved out and for the people who take the time to come, say hello and come with us on our adventures. I am grateful for my wide variety of interests, my constant desire to push myself and for the heaps of energy I typically have. I am grateful to live in a beautiful place where I am constantly inspired. I am grateful for a future filled with hope and growth. I am grateful for my life and the things I have learned and for the things I have yet to learn. Lastly, I am grateful for my faith which sustains me, gives me purpose and encourages me to reflect, refocus and try better.

Regardless of your circumstance I hope you can find a quiet moment of peace, reflection and gratitude this day. 



Five easy holiday D.I.Y.s

With the holidays fast approaching I thought it would be fun to feature a few past holiday D.I.Y.s  First, a Thanksgiving round up which includes a couple fun table settings, a quick and easy hostess gift wrap and a simple handmade leaf pin for all your guests. 

To help you feel festive with minimal effort on these long, dark nights try your hand at making Hot Chocolate Stir Sticks:

To ensure an activity packed December, make yourself a Christmas Advent Calendar and fill the boxes with a fun family tradition to do each night. 

For an inexpensive and easy craft to make with the kids add a Holiday Yarn Wreath to your Christmas decor this year. 

Skip the bows this year and make these Felt package toppers instead. 



My top five ways to prevent holiday stress

I used to get a thrill out of checking things off my long holiday to do list, expertly navigating the crowd of holidays shoppers and being amongst the hustle and bustle. Nowadays, the same things which brought me joy seem to stress me out. Over the past few years I have figured out the best ways to combat my impending feelings of holiday stress while still making the most of the holiday season:

1. Limit expectations of myself. Some years I am going to send out Christmas cards, decorate a beautiful Christmas tree, make dozens of Christmas cookies, deliver treats to all my neighbors and do something festive each and every day in December. Other years, I am going to make mini wreaths, make very few cookies and leave most of my Christmas decorations in their box. 

Over the years, I have learned there is nothing worse than simply going through the motions just because you feel obligated to. This holiday season I will spend my time only doing what brings me joy and gets me excited. One of my favorite traditions is to make a beautiful fresh wreath while sipping cider on a chilly Winter afternoon at my local nursery. Another key I have found to feeling rested and happy during the holidays is to limit the things I say "yes" to during the month of December. 

2. Give family gifts. Between siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, friend's children etc. it adds up to a whole lot of time and money to procure thoughtful gifts for each person you know and love. Instead, we have gotten in the habit of giving family gifts when possible. Some of my favorite things to give are museum memberships (the gift which keeps giving) or all the fixings for a festive breakfast (think hot cocoa, pancake mix, syrup etc.)

Another thing I try to do is skip the horrendous lines at the post office and utilize free shipping whenever I can. I also try to collect addresses early on so I am not frantically searching for someone's address I know I wrote down on a scrap of paper few months ago. It would be an enormous time saver if I would just use an address book. Maybe this is the year to reinstate one. 

3. Don't make gift giving your focus of the season. The reason I celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas is not to give gifts. It is easy to get sucked into big sales and long lists, but the years I have focused on what truly matters makes for a lovelier holiday season for me and everyone around me. Attending performances of the Messiah or other live performances has always been a boost to my holiday season. 

4. Throw an early holiday party. I love to entertain and for the past few years I have thrown a Pie Party at the beginning of December. By hosting a party at the beginning of December I am motivated to decorate early, I am not competing with the dozens of other parties going on throughout the month and is a festive start to my holiday season. 

5.  Take a vacation. Each year we have done it a little differently, but it has been really nice to go away for a little rest and relaxation either before, during or after Christmas. It is a nice way to recharge and have time to look ahead to the new year. Usually, we go on trips to more remote places in the mountains and spend our days snowshoeing, going on sleigh rides and most importantly enjoying the beauty around us. 

How do you combat the blues?

As I have gotten older, I have slowly realized the importance of being vulnerable. As a society, we often focus on the importance of serving others, but I think it is equally important we allow others to serve us. I used to think I could do everything on my own, but since losing a child and then subsequently having another one, I have learned the value of community. When something big happens in your life people usually give vague offers like, "if you need anything let me know" when in reality you would much rather someone offer to walk your dog, rake your leaves or make you dinner without having to ask them.

When our son passed away all I really needed was a listening ear and a reason to get dressed for the day. Without asking a good friend made it a point to invite me on lots of walks while another friend called me every single day for a month to just check in and see if I needed to talk. After having our second son all I needed was some time to myself to exercise, so I mustered the courage and asked a friend to watch my son while I went running a couple of times a week. Looking back, it seems silly I needed courage to ask someone for help. But from a young age we are applauded for saying things like, "I can do it myself". Often I think we confuse isolation with independence and we confuse having needs with being needy. Over and over again I have seen in my own life people are not only willing to help, they are eager to. I whole heartedly agree in the importance of letting others know your needs. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself at times, but it is much harder to call a friend and tell them you need a listening ear, a long walk, or an hour to yourself. 

One of our favorite things to do when the weather is yucky and we don't have anything else planned on a Saturday is to have brunch at the Salish Lodge. I used to think of the Salish Lodge was the type of place you only go for special occasions or where you take out of town guests, but it is really a wonderful place to go when you are feeling sick of the rain, feeling disappointed about the current state of the world or just want to celebrate the fact you have people in your life who love you. Because the older I get the more I realize there is little in life which cannot be improved upon over a good meal and a listening ear. 

The Museum of Flight and some post election thoughts

Living in a household which is predominately male means I have the unique opportunity to spend my time reading, watching and doing things I might not otherwise. Take for instance the Museum of Flight.....Although, I am not especially interested in aviation, aeronautics or space travel I have a boy whose eyes light up at the sight of a rocket and who has the uncanny ability to suck me into his world. Often I find myself forgetting where I end and he begins. Although we are two very different people with vast interests, we spend the majority of our days as one. 

I am eternally grateful for this time in my life where I can learn about things I would normally not stop and take the time to learn about. To learn the difference between front loaders, motor graders, bull dozers and back hoes. To break down gender stereotypes and teach my son to do the laundry, bake cakes, sweep the floors and be as domestic as his little heart desires. In my world it does not matter so much who was elected as president as to what we believe and teach inside our home. In our home males honor and cherish women, in our home men are humble, kind and work for the betterment of others. In our home I am supported and encouraged to follow my dreams, leave my unique imprint on the world and my looks or jean size have no effect on my value or necessity in our family. 

I am sad hate, bigotry, sexism and racism still exist in the world. The one thing I can control is that these things do not and will not exist in my home. I think it is safe to say we are all ashamed ugliness still exists, but this election is a good reminder to us all to work on our own prejudices a little harder. I vow to do my part to raise a kind, open minded son who will support, honor and cherish all the women in his life. The type of man who will acknowledge the vital role women have played in his life to one day make him the great man I know he will be. Regardless of who is president, the future isn't white male or female it is all of us trying a little harder to dig deeper and fight against stereotypes and prejudices. There are many sides to all of us and when I am valued, loved and listened to I can be anyone I want to be. 

"Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." -Jack Layton

I believe in the magic of childhood

I want to provide my children with a life of fun, discovery and adventure. I once heard of a mother who asked her children every time before they got in the car "Do you want to go on an adventure?" Going on an adventure sure sounds a lot more enticing then getting in the car to go to the grocery store, run errands, or go to the dentist when you are a child. I want to create an environment where creativity and imaginations thrive before the stresses of life i.e. homework, school, tests, bullying, and peer pressure take over and the magic of childhood quickly fades.

I will be the first to admit my house is not perfectly clean nor do I spend every hour of the day inching my way toward having an immaculately organized home, but to be honest it really is not where my focus lies. The important things in life right now are learning how to count by throwing rocks at the beach, spending a precious hour to ourselves at our favorite playground while the rest of the toddlers in Seattle sleep, firming believing the weather will never stifle our plans and that a genuine smile, a good tickle session and a hearty laugh about nothing can temporarily cure all of lifes worries. 

I firmly believe having the privilege to spend my days learning and growing side by side with my little man is an honor. I fiercely love our time together and I want that reflected in my actions. 

In the coming year, I resolve to take more impromptu picnics and spend my days outside until the last ray of light dips below the horizon. I resolve to spend less time looking at my phone and worrying about things I cannot change and more time carving out a life where my children will see their mother going after her dreams, but who always makes certain they feel like her top priority. 

Last hike to Snow Lake before the snow

We always like to get in one last hike to Snow Lake before the inevitable mud, slush and then snow arrive. We were fortunate to have planned it just right as we headed out on the last dry Saturday in October. This October has been the wettest EVER recorded in the history of Seattle. For awhile, we thought we might tie with 1947, but in the end we shattered the previous rain fall record and then went on to set a new one. One of my favorite parts of Fall is the usual Indian Summer in September followed by cool, crisp days in October.  This year there was not a lot of that. Instead, it was wet, wet, and wet.

As we are knee deep into the first week of November, I am starting to think long hard about what I am grateful for and my healthy body (although far from perfect) tops the list. I am grateful for a body which can run and hike and is overall happier when it moves. I am grateful for a body which can handle being pushed hard and usually does not protest too much. I am grateful for a body which can grow and carry children. Most importantly, I am grateful for a body which has the stamina and energy to take care of the people and things I need to throughout any given day. 

Next time we visit Snow Lake, it will covered in snow and equally stunning. 

Family photos

Family photos

As a photographer I take a lot of photos, but the photo which has been missing from my vast collection was the most important one- a family photo. Over the years there have been many excuses as to why have not taken family photos. Many years it was just not a priority, it seemed like a luxury, and sadly, it didn't seem to make sense to get photos taken of just the two of us etc. Before I knew it years and years have gone by. Regrettably, we have not had professional photos taken of us since our wedding. In the end, it took the passing away of a dear friend to be the catalyst to finally get some family photos taken. If anything happened to any of us, I did not want to live with the regret of not having our joy captured. When I think of our family I think of how blessed I am to be surrounded by such handsome, funny and sweet guys. Out of everything good in my life- these two are the best! Jasper has created such light, happiness and joy in our lives I wanted that captured. 

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Birthday prep and fun in the kitchen

Birthday prep and fun in the kitchen

As a mother, it is easier, cleaner and quicker to do everything yourself, but having the patience to work side by side with your children can be one of life's sweetest memories. Teaching your children how to bake, craft etc. although endlessly messy can be some of the punctuation marks in your career as a mother. As a parent, I am constantly trying to provide diverse and enriching experiences for my child and a hands on approach to learning is the best teaching method I know. When I decided to make Jasper's birthday cake while he napped I quickly rethought that idea as I decided it would be more memorable and more fun if he could assist me instead. 

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Seattle Japanese Garden at the Arboretum

Seattle Japanese Garden at the Arboretum

On Jasper's birthday we paid a visit to the Seattle Japanese Garden at the Arboretum. The Seattle Japanese Garden is a 3.5 acre park located in the Madison Park neighborhood of Seattle. The garden is located in the southern end of the Washington park Arboretum on Lake Washington Boulevard East. The last time I visited the Seattle Japanese garden Jasper was a few short weeks away from being born. It was fun to be able to take him on such a glorious day for his first visit. The sun was shining, the leaves were gorgeous shades of red, yellow and orange. One of the gardeners was even kind enough to let Jasper rake the leaves for a few minutes. As I watched Jasper successfully maneuver a rake almost twice his size I could tell this was a highlight of his day. I love how children don't view anything as work- just play.  

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The big TWO!!!

Although I never dreamed of it I have quickly become THAT parent. The one who takes a million photos of their child, misses their child when they are asleep, and who talks about them incessantly to their spouse or anyone else who listen about the one MILLION adorable things he did on that particular day. I am the one whose Instagram account is littered with photos of my child and the one who often sends photos to my parents or anyone else who has chosen to stay away from the clutches of social media.

It is safe to say when it comes to my child he is the most expressive, sweetest, funniest human being on the planet (aside from my husband, of course!) and I am eating up every second of my time with him. Earlier this week despite my hopes to freeze time, Jasper went ahead and turned TWO which means he is now known in years instead of months. People will also be a little less shocked he is so tall when I tell them he is two instead of twenty something months. Upon lamenting to my friend of my hopeless obsession and love for my little guy she gave me some sage advice; "Embrace it!" which is exactly what I am trying to do each and every day. 

At home in Iceland

At home in Iceland

If you have not heard, Iceland has been gaining tremendous popularity over the last several years. And if I am being completely honest about it, I am a little sad. Iceland is such a fantastic place I really hoped it would stay a secret for as long as possible. However, I will have to admit I am partly to blame for the explosion of tourists. Ever since our first visit in 2010, I have been singing the praises of this beautiful country. From its rugged beauty to its colorful little city, it really is a country bursting with both charm and diversity. 

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My top three cozy weekend getaways

My top three cozy weekend getaways

As I type, the rain is falling hard outside my window. One moment it goes from sudden downpour, to a drizzle, and then a sprinkle and back to another downpour. As a Seattleite who has experienced her fair share of rainy days, it should be known we have lots of different names for the type of rain falling outside our window. As I think about the upcoming months, it would be easy to hunker down at home for the next several months, but I have recently discovered it is more exhilarating and relaxing to head away for a weekend or two to hang at someone else's home. 

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Gordon Skagit Farm

Gordon Skagit Farm

Fall is not complete without a trip to Gordon Skagit Farm. If I could create a pumpkin patch of my dreams this would be the place. From fresh cider to apple picking and more varieties of pumpkins and gourds than I have been able to find anywhere else. Each year we come here my heart is so full with love for the season I think I smile throughout our entire visit. 

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A wet and windy weekend at Earthbox Inn

A wet and windy weekend at Earthbox Inn

On a wet and windy Thursday we took the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. The weather forecasters were calling for a "storm of the century" that weekend and we weren't exactly sure what to expect. Several years ago I heard the expression "there is no such thing as bad weather, only improper clothing". As a born and breed Pacific Northwesterner I try to stick to that as my mantra and not let the weather interfere with my plans. If we made it a point to stay inside on inclement weather days not only would we be missing out on a whole slew of adventures, but we would be missing out on the quintessential moodiness which is so integral to the PNW. 

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