Tag Archives: Summer

Our favorite pictures from this summer

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Well, looks like summer is officially behind us! Although, I hear that this weekend is suppose to be bright and sunny, I can see the leaves on the trees just barely starting to lose their green and we nearly turned on the heat last night!

Taking a moment to reflect on some of our best moments of Summer 2014 with our favorite photos… I hope you’ll share your favorites too!


Reading list: More summer book recommendations

Summer Reading List

My appetite for reading has kept up this summer. I think I’ve read more books this year than I ever have… I’m finishing my 20th book right now. I just can’t seem to stop and crave my time reading of every moment of the day. It’s my way to relax, to escape, to fill some quiet time at home and to reward myself for getting through my to-do list.

I started the summer with these books, and have dug into some heavier novels and historical fiction since… with the exception of a lighter, fun read that I’ve been dying to share with you.

Your Perfect Life: A Novel by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
Lucky for me, I write with Lisa at allParenting, so when Your Perfect Life was born, I felt as if a friend was having a baby. It’s been so fun to watch her debut it to the world! I’ve read a handful of book that have been written by friends or people who I know or work with and there’s a curious element to doing so because I tend to picture the author as the lead characters in the book… and it’s hard to let that go and just enjoy what I’m reading.

But, my weird reading habits aside, I devoured Your Perfect Life and would highly recommend it. Liz and Lisa, who were previously of Chick Lit is Not Dead, co-wrote this story of two high school best friends, who accidentally switch lives at their 20-year high school reunion. Can you even imagine? Available on Amazon.com.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
I’m actually just two chapters from finishing this book, but I had to add it to this list because it is so, so interesting. A recommendation from my friend Molly, who appreciates a super-thick book as much as I do, Moloka’i is a historical fiction about a little girl who is sent to live in a leper colony in Hawaii in the 1850s. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked.

Not only was the story interesting and compelling, but the history of Hawaii and this period — before, during and after the time that the United States took possession — was new to me and kept me intrigued. Available on Amazon.com.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
One of my dearest friends told me, no less than six times, to read this book. And I didn’t listen. War books aren’t really my thing… or so I thought. Unbroken just as amazing as you’ve heard it is. It’s so good that there’s a huge blockbuster movie coming out this Christmas based on the story.

It’s hard to simply touch on what this book is about, because it’s about everything. A memoir. A love story. A war story. A survival story. A story about friendship and dedication and perseverance and life. Be prepared, it’s gritty at times and if you’re like me, you’ll only be able to read a handful of pages at a time because it’s just so much to process. Available on Amazon.com.

Defending Jacob by William Landay
This book has been on my to-read list for a while and I’m not even sure where it came from, as it’s quite a departure from books that I typically read. However, it was worth the time and a great choice for a book to read while traveling. I was impressed with the flow of Defending Jacob, which skips back-and-forth in the lives of the characters, but does it flawlessly.

It’s a book that rotates around the murder of a teenager, a father who is defending his son and the trial that surrounds it all. The elements of the parenting dilemmas in Defending Jacob drew me in and I loved how satisfied I was at the end, despite never really getting any resolution. Available on Amazon.com (it’s only $3 for Kindle right now!).

Next up on my reading list is Sarah Jio’s Goodnight June. And, I keep hearing good things about Tell the Wolves I’m Home and Eleanor & Park, so maybe those will be next. You can find all of the books on my to-read list on Pinterest, as well as the other books I’ve read this year.

For more book reviews and recommendations on bellingFAM, check out:

5 Books I just read (including one I hated)
7 Books I’ve read so far in 2014
Summer book recommendations

I also wrote this article for allParenting earlier this summer: 10 Books to read poolside. And, in case you’re wondering, kiddie pools totally count.

What are you reading right now?

Psst! Amazon doesn’t pay me to recommend you buy your books there. It’s just a convenient place to link to give you more information on each book and where I happen to order books for my Kindle. Opinions are always my own. The end.

Notes from a week in Seattle

Week in Seattle

We spent all of last week in Seattle, soaking up the city for our summer vacation. And, while it’s good to be home (isn’t it always, after a week away?), we had the best time visiting our favorite places, eating at a few restaurants we’ve been missing since we moved to Bellingham and catching up with our Seattle family and friends.

I’ll have more detailed posts about some of our adventures this week, but in the meantime, here’s the full run-down of everything we did…

Bouncy houses at Magnolia Summerfest. Kiddo talent show. Outdoor movie on the lawn. The best parade ever. Dinner with neighbors. Walking and scootering around the neighborhood. Downtown. Pike Place Market. The magic store. And the wind-up toy store. Gum wall. The waterfront. Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. A trip to Bellevue. Lego Store. Dinner at Pagliacci. Mornings at Ella Bailey Park. Swimming at Pop Mounger Pool. Walks to our favorite Starbucks. Catching the Seahawks at the neighborhood pub. Running into countless friends. Queen Anne wading pool. Lincoln Park in West Seattle. Dinner with cousins. And delicious Moscow Mules. Too many Moscow Mules. Margaritas and nachos and friends at the ‘Ranch.

I feel like I’m forgetting a million things. Hopefully they’ll come to me this week as we get back into the swing of things! Which, speaking of, I’m off to Trader Joe’s, as our fridge is empty…

Look forward to getting back to bellingFAM! What have you been up to?

The House on Fremont Street: A last-minute modern picnic table

Sometime last month, I was at Target to grab one thing (literally, ONE THING), when I noticed they were clearing out all of their outdoor furniture and accessories to make way for school supplies. Everything was discounted, majorly, including the picnic table that we’d been eyeing since forever.

Target Threshold Picnic Table

Threshold Bryant Faux Wood Patio Picnic Table, Target, available online, $254

They only had the display model left, but it seemed to be in pretty good shape (plus, they offered me an extra discount to make up for it…) and Josh happened to be out running errands in the truck, so I snagged it.

Target Picnic Table

The rug (Threshold Rectangular Patio Rug in Navy Chevron) was a last minute add-on that I grabbed on the way out. It was heavily discounted as well, so I think it was less than $20. It’s a little small for under the table, but it does the job of keeping the table in place and giving a soft spot for barefeet to rest. It’s an indoor/outdoor rug, so I’ll clean it up and move it inside when summer comes to an end.

What was originally a $300 table came to under $70, with tax. Um, I can’t even tell you how insanely excited we were. I think it was discounted at 60 percent off and I had an extra 10 percent off using my Target Cartwheel app (do you use it? it’s awesome.) and another 10 perfect off for the display model discount. I’m not sure that really adds up, but however we got there, it was a steal.

Target Threshold Picnic Table

It seems small at first glance, but it’s the perfect size for our little deck (which we have plans to expand/turn into a larger patio/do something with in the future) and for our family to sit around for dinner, which we do as often as we can.

The kids love sitting out there to color or craft as well. It’s plastic, not wood, so it cleans up very nicely and lasts through summer storms without getting damaged. Josh and I also love that the benches are attached to the table. Our kids are squirmy and benches that tip over can be risky business.

Patio Table House

(I’m dying to paint that door. And add a new light fixture. And paint stripes on the deck. Poor Josh.)

Looking forward to many, many more summer dinners at this table, at this house, with my sweet family. There’s something so peaceful about eating outside. The kids seem to eat more when we’re outside and we tend to linger longer afterward, or the kids leave the table to play in the grass while Josh and I catch up on the day…

… and pour another beer or two.

The House on Fremont Street

A beat-the-heat staycation in Bellingham

And, it was so hot this weekend. So very hot. We tried to keep our house cool and at least a few times, had regrets about choosing a tankless hot water heater over a heat pump with air conditioning when we added new appliances earlier this year. We have a portable window A/C unit that does take the edge off of the heat in our house, but just barely.

Hampton Inn Bellingham Pool

To beat the heat, we booked a mini staycation at the Hampton Inn in Bellingham, which is off of Bakerview, near the airport. We had won an overnight stay at the Boys and Girls Club auction earlier this year with this in mind — a quick overnight stay to play in the pool when the summer weather was just too much to bear. We certainly didn’t think that we’d be using it so early in the summer — Josh and I both predicted it would be August before we’d give in — but we enjoyed every second, regardless.

We checked in around 3 p.m. and went straight to the pool. It is an outdoor pool and we spent the rest of the afternoon splashing and keeping cool. And, boy, did it do the trick! Eventually, we came back to our room (which was awesome, clean and plush, by the way), ordered pizza and Rio 2 and chilled out for the night.

Hampton Inn Bellingham

Before long, these two were out for the count. Janie and Josh headed back to the pool for another swim and I worked, in silence, with the air conditioner blasting.

This morning, we did have to pop over to swim lessons bright and early (7:45 a.m. for the next two weeks… brilliant or not? TBD) and now we’re back at the hotel, munching on breakfast (hello, breakfast bar!), taking baths, playing and working.

I think that we’ll add this to our adventure list for every summer. It was nice to getaway without actually having to getaway. We felt like we were on vacation, even though we were about 10-minutes from home and the good night’s sleep in the cool room did us all some good.

Plus, I was so pleasantly surprised by the Hampton Inn. We often stay at them when we travel and this one was great for this staycation adventure. The staff was so sweet to the kids (they even printed out Frozen coloring sheets for them this morning!), the pool is big and awesome, and there’s free coffee. I’m not sure if I need much more than that, honestly.

Have you ever done a mini-staycation at a local hotel?

How to prepare your child for summer camp

We were lucky enough to get to chat with Dr. Mollie Grow, a pediatric specialist from Seattle Children’s Hospital (which we hate to have to use, but are thankful to have access to, when we do need them!), about how to best prepare kids for summer camp.

Our girls haven’t ventured into the world of sleep-away camp yet, but I’m sure that it won’t be long for Janie… maybe next summer? Josh and I are in a stand-off about where she should go to camp — I was a dedicated Camp Orkila kid and he always went to Firwood, so…

In the meantime, I’m tucking these tips away. I’m sure we’ll need them, soon enough.

Summer camp tips

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Talking about camp, what it will be like and how much fun your child will have will help them know what to expect… and doing so far enough in advance to process any anxiety they may have will help drop-off day go smoother, for everyone.

2. Let them help make the decisions

Signing them up for a summer camp that they’re not into may not end well. Let your child help make the decision about the type of camp they’d like to attend, as well as involving them in the process of preparing for camp — from picking out a new sleeping bag to packing their bags.

3. Keep the positive in mind

As with most things in parenting, focusing on the positive, and minimizing the negative will help get your child excited for summer camp. And, with so many fun activities and adventures ahead of them, it shouldn’t be hard to do. However, don’t minimize their fears, either. Make sure you take the time to listen and help solve any anxieties they may have, whether it be those dreaded swim tests or sleeping in a cabin.

4. Consider some practice runs

Schedule sleepovers and play dates with friends so that your child can experience time away from home before they leave for summer camp. Bonus points for get togethers with buddies who are going to camp with your child!

5. Pack some reminders of home

Your camp may have guidelines about what they can bring to camp, but stuffed animals, photos from home or other beloved mementos will help keep homesick moments at bay.

6. Send easy-to-wear and apply sun protection

Many summer camps keep on top of kids needing to apply sunscreen, but teaching your child to apply it properly and packing them products you know they will use will help keep them protected from the sun. “Many experts are now recommending the use of sunblock products with zinc oxide,” shares Dr. Grow. “One zinc oxide product that emphasizing very low questionable chemicals is ThinkSport.” She also recommends checking your sunscreen’s safety on the Environmental Working Group‘s website.

7. Think ahead for chronic health issues

If your child has chronic health concerns, Dr. Grow suggests having a physical exam before heading to summer camp, to make sure that medications are on track, how to use them properly at camp and to see if any adjustments need to be made, in advance.

8. And bring them to the camp’s attention, when necessary

Don’t be afraid to request a meeting with the camp’s director to discuss your child’s medical conditions before they head off to camp. For more serious conditions, Dr. Grow reminds parents that there are often specialized camps that children can attend and parents can feel safe knowing that their medical needs will be a top priority.

9. Keep them hydrated

Have a child headed to a sports camp this summer? Hydration is key. Make sure they have a water bottle that they love. While kids of different ages need different amounts of water each day, in general, Dr. Grow says that kids should be drinking about 1/2 a cup of water every 15-minutes.

10. Make sure they come home lice-free

Lice at summer camp? Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s common. Remind your kids that sharing brushes, hats and helmets can result in an itchy head and be prepared to give them a quick bug-check when they get home… or maybe on the front porch! Dr. Grow reminds us that facts about lice can be found on the CDC website.

A big thanks to Dr. Grow for these fantastic tips! We love following the blogs at Seattle Children’s Hospital — you can find a full listing on their website.

bellingFAM approved: Rio Beach Total Sun Block Umbrella (Giveaway)

Rio Beach Umbrella

// This giveaway has ended. Please visit Rafflecopter to see the winner. //

Our new house has a backyard that we’ve always dreamed about. One where our kids can run straight outside from the living space to play, one that has a kitchen window that overlooks it and one that is flat, spacious and green for as much outside time as possible. While we still have some work to do back there, and it will likely take us a good five years to complete everything, right now, it’s perfect. Perfectly perfect.

Rio Beach Umbrella

Our kids play outside a lot. But, as much as they love to run and kick the soccer ball and have the Slip N’ Slide set up, one of their favorite things to do outside is downtime activities, like coloring, reading, or getting out their doll house furniture and critters to play on a blanket.

Rio Beach Umbrella

While our backyard is surrounded by trees (big trees!), it’s mostly open and during the high of the afternoon, there can be a lack of shade for playing. My kids are Northwest natives, after all, and prefer their sunshine with a bit of shade.

Rio Beach Umbrella

When Rio Beach offered to send me one of their Total Sun Block Umbrellas (Rio Brand, $70) I knew that it would be a hit for our family, not just for our backyard play sessions or for shady lunch breaks in the shade, but also for the countless adventures we go on as we check items off of our Bellingham Bucket List.

Rio Beach Umbrella

Here’s what I love about it already:

  • It’s easy to put up… even by myself and with three excited kids underfoot. You just take it out of the bag, pop it open, and screw it into the ground. Done. Seriously, if I can do it, you can.
  • It’s big enough to provide some good shade, but not so big that you feel like you have a tent.
  • Everything fits into an easy to carry bag and it’s pretty light for hauling on adventures. You could easily keep it in your car for the summer and not even worry about it taking up too much space.
  • The sun coverage is serious business. It blocks 99.8 percent of UVA and UVB rays and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • It’s breathable. We’ve had umbrellas like this in the past when the kids were younger, babies in particular, and they were awesome, except that on the inside of the umbrella, it was terribly stuffy. Breathable panels? Check!

Rio Beach Umbrella

The team at Rio Beach was kind enough to send us an umbrella to try out and to offer as a giveaway to bellingFAM readers. Please note that this giveaway is for LOCAL PICK-UP IN BELLINGHAM ONLY. Or, for our Seattle-area readers, I can bring it to you the week of August 1, if you happen to win. I have the actual giveaway umbrella with me, so it’s not shipping directly from the company, like most giveaway. I promise not to hug you when we meet to hand it over. Really. (Maybe.)

To enter to win a RIO BEACH TOTAL SUN BLOCK 7′ UMBRELLA, please click the Rafflecopter link below:

// This giveaway has ended. Please click the Rafflecopter link below to see the winner. //

bellingFAM giveaway for a Rio Beach Umbrella

(If you’ve never used Rafflecopter before, I promise that it’s easy and the BEST and safest way to enter a giveaway on a blog, as well as for me to run a giveaways on bellingFAM. No registration necessary. All of your information provided is kept private. U.S. residents only, please.)

Giveaway provided by the team at Rio Beach.
No other compensation was provided for this post.
All opinions are our own.

Bellingham Bucket List: Strawberry picking

Strawberry Picking

Strawberry season is in full swing, so we took advantage of a quiet morning (and because we needed to bring dessert to a family dinner that evening!) and headed out to Boxx Berry Farm to do some picking.

This is the first time we’d been berry picking — for both the kids and I — so we didn’t really know what to expect. Here’s what we learned:

1. Don’t wear flip-flops: Janie and I both did and even though the dirt was dry, our feet were filthy by the time we were done.

2. Go first thing in the morning: It was cool and overcast when we got there at about 10 a.m., making for perfect picking. There was only one other person picking when we got there, but as we were leaving, at least six more cars arrived.

3. Don’t wear white: Or anything that you care about getting strawberry stains on. Your kids will wipe their hands on their clothes as they pick. You might too. Just make it easy and dress in dark clothes or clothes you don’t care much about.

4. Drive all the way out to the fields: We made the mistake of parking in the little parking lot behind the shop, up front, but quickly realized that the u-pick fields were way out there. You can drive back there (slowly) and it’s fun to catch a glimpse of what else is growing along the drive.

5. It doesn’t take forever: We picked for about 30-minutes and had enough strawberries to make a huge batch of strawberry shortcake for dessert that night. I think about six-pounds. Unless you’re really going for it, intending to pick buckets and buckets of berries, I’d consider this a morning or afternoon activity, rather than an all-day affair.

6. Learn to pick the right berries: The gal running the stand gave us a few pointers, including that the dark strawberries were probably too mushy to pick (she was right) and that the strawberries that came off with their stem should be eaten today.

7. Get in there for the best berries: You really have to dig into the plants to get the best berries. The ones along the border of the plants were often yucky, with the gems tucked away under the protective leaves. Don’t be afraid to get in there… and to let your kids get in there. I didn’t seem like you could hurt them very easily.

8. Make plans: Our plan was to make shortcake with our berries, but if we hadn’t, we still would have needed to eat or freeze the berries that we picked, pretty quickly, as I don’t think they would have lasted more than a couple of days on their own.

9. Head straight home: We made the mistake of running a couple of errands after we picked our strawberries and I think that they were pretty ripe by the time we got home!

10. Wash as you eat: Did you know that you shouldn’t pre-wash strawberries? It makes them go bad quicker. Wash them as you’re eating them, in smaller batches, to prevent gross, squishy strawberries.

Strawberry Picking

Like I said, we picked our strawberries at Boxx Berry Farm (6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale) and we loved it there. They were nice and helpful and the strawberries were gorgeous. For that half-full crate of strawberries, it was about $10, FYI.

Autumn of Playing House Full Time suggested we check out Barbie’s Berries (7655 Melody Lane, Ferndale). She said she appreciates their spray practices and that their berries are delicious, as well. I think we’ll give them a try! (Thanks for the tip, Autumn!)

Any berry picking tips to share?
What’s your favorite u-pick strawberry farm in Whatcom County?

Bellingham Bucket List

The spray parks are open (and they’re cold!)

spray park

I thought we’d hit the jackpot when I realized that the spray parks opened on the first day of summer vacation.

The weather wasn’t great when we got to Fairhaven Park, but it wasn’t cold either. We could sense the rain hovering in the thick clouds overhead, but it was otherwise calm, and nearly balmy.

The kids ran right into the water… and lasted about 10-minutes before they all ran back to us with chattering teeth and goosebumps. We tried to convince them that if they stayed in the water, they’d be warmer, but the damage was already done.

Eventually, Ev did head back into the water… in his fleece and swim trunks. And, of course I didn’t bring an extra pair of clothes with us, so he rode home in his underwear. It was basically his dream come true.

Long story short, the spray parks are open for (chilly) summer fun at both Fairhaven Park and Cornwall Park. The water is on from 1-7 p.m. daily through Labor Day.

And, as they make very clear on the Parks Department website, the water used in the spray parks is not recycled, but fresh. Which is great, because sometimes your kid is the kid who pees. Not that I’d know anything about that.

Did you brave the spray parks yesterday?

bellingFAM Bucket List Widget

Revisiting the Bellingham Bucket List for summer

bellingFAM Bellingham Bucket List Logo

It’s here… summer.

I’m not sure that I’m ready, in all honesty. I was certainly ready for school to be over (we all were!), but I haven’t done as much pre-summer prep as I’d like, especially after dealing with a bit of a plumbing disaster this week (we still don’t have water at home, eek!).

But, it’s summer, nonetheless, and after spending a morning recovering from the hustle and bustle of the last two weeks of school, my kids are itching for adventures and fun.

I’ve revisited the Bellingham Bucket List for summer, make notes and adding links to the things that are on our to-do list. Plus, I’ve decided that Bellingham Bucket List posts will be shorter and sweeter, rather than full of detail. I’m certain that you don’t have time to read a novel of a post for each adventure, so I think a new format will be lovely… for all of us!

What’s on your summer bucket list in Bellingham and Whatcom County? I know I’m still missing some great adventures on our list and I’d love more ideas… keep them coming, friends!