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Lovely books from the Pacific Northwest


High quality non-fiction can be hard to find for children, especially at the lower grades. That’s why I was so excited to review these three new offerings from Seattle-based Sasquatch Books. They are fictional picture books, but include so many facts that a K-3 teacher could use them to support several of informational content threads from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Elliott the Otter: The Totally Untrue Story of Elliott, Boss of the Bay by John Skewes and Eric Ode gives kids a close look at life in Elliott Bay. From tugboats to orcas, Elliot the Otter explains all. He also describes what fish ladders are and why they are so important to salmon.


My daughter is five and a half years old and I feel like she learned a lot of science and social studies from Elliott the Otter. Technically this is a fictional book, because I’m pretty sure we don’t have talking otters in Seattle, but there were so many facts conveyed that it could definitely be used to meet Common Core standards for informational texts.

My daughter and I were both charmed by the colorful illustrations. Elliot himself is very loveable and altogether this was an enjoyable book to share.

Another collaboration from Eric Ode and John Skewes is Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea. When Larry the dog and his human friend Pete go to the beach, Larry sneaks away for a maritime adventure. Or perhaps I should say a “marine biology” adventure because this book is packed with science.

My family recently went to the Aquarium in Vancouver, Canada, and this was an excellent text to reinforce everything we learned about sea life. From the oceans of the world to how tides work, Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea explains crucial concepts with beautiful illustrations and a very cute dog.

I could definitely see this book being part of a K-3 classroom library supporting Common Core standards for informational text, but it’s also a fun book to have at home for bedtime read aloud.

Arrow to Alaska: A Pacific Northwest Adventure, written and illustrated by the talented Hannah Viano, tells the story of a six-year-old boy named Arrow who travels from Seattle to Alaska to visit his grandfather. Along the way Arrow rides on a salmon tender boat with his Aunt Kelly and sees a wide variety of ocean life.

Reading about Arrow’s journey immediately made my daughter and I think about our own trip to Alaska aboard a cruise ship. I wish we had been able to read Arrow to Alaska two years ago when we were on the Celebrity Solstice. Hopefully cruise ships take note and stock this book in their gift shops!

The illustrations in Arrow to Alaska are absolutely stunning and convey the beautiful of the Pacific Northwest in a stylized way. The only criticism I have regards the picture of the coffee mug that has “I Heart Mom” stenciled on the side. The way the “O” is drawn in stencil letters is very confusing for emergent readers and/or individuals with dyslexia. To them the stenciled O looks like a backwards C and they might read it as “M-C-M.” This can be really frustrating for children, especially when “Mom” is one of the first words they are consistently able to decipher.

Mom mugs aside, my daughter and I both loved Arrow to Alaska and would highly recommend it to anyone.

P.S. I received free copies of all three books from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

Rocky Reach Dam


On our way back from a camping trip in Lake Chelan my husband suggested stopping at Rocky Reach Dam along the Columbia River.

“No way,” I said. “That sounds boring.”

“Twenty minutes, my husband promised. “Tops.”

It turns out we stayed for two hours because the dam was so much fun.


First we checked out the fish ladder and juvenile fish bypass pipe. If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest you might not know what that is, but basically it’s a fancy way to keep fish safe from hydroelectric dams. The visitors center had a short and informative film to watch.

Give salmon a fighting chance

Giving salmon a fighting chance

Click on the picture to find out more information

Click on the picture to find out more information

The pipe is where the fish come out

The pipe is where the fish come out

Cooler than it looks

Cooler than it looks

After viewing the fish ladder we went to the museum about the Columbia River. It had a cool, “Mad Men” era vibe to it. I was really impressed by the museum because it had something for everyone: geology, archeology, anthropology and history.

Paging Don Draper

Paging Don Draper

Turn the crank to make the light bulbs turn on

Turn the crank to make the light bulbs turn on

Inside the dam

Inside the dam

Roll on, Columbia and keep our lights on

Roll on, Columbia and keep our lights on

Outside of the dam there are beautiful grounds to explore. The Chelan PUD really does an amazing job with the flowers. Not pictured is the American Flag planted out of petunias and lobelias.

This is a great place for picnics. The bathrooms were clean and there was an outstanding playground for the kids.

My kids were impressed by the gondola

My kids were impressed by the gondola

So it turns out my husband was right. Rocky Reach was a good dam reason to stop. –What? I couldn’t write a whole post about dams without at least one pun!




Boulder River Waterfall


Joan Burton’s fabulous book Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades has served us well again! Last weekend my family took a trip to Boulder River Falls.

Our drive along the Mountain Loop Highway offered us a sobering look at the devastating mud slide in Oso, as well as the tremendous reconstruction work in progress.


At milepost 41 we turned right onto French Creek Road. 3.8 miles later we found the trailhead packed with families just like ours, who were looking for an easy and fun hike to do with kids. As soon as our Northwest Trails pass was on the dashboard, we were ready for fun.

The hike to Boulder River Falls is relatively flat and easy. Burton says it’s 2.5 miles with a 250 feet elevation gain. My five-year-old daughter was able to handle it just fine. But be warned; there were a lot of bugs. In retrospect, we should have brought bug spray.

As close as I'll ever get to a weirwood throne!

As close as I’ll ever get to a weirwood throne!

The waterfall itself is breathtaking, but my kids’ favorite part of this adventure was throwing rocks into the river. This was good for an hour’s worth of entertainment. Then they discovered a patch of clay, and I knew my car upholstery would never be the same again.

On our way home we stopped by Fruitful Farm and Nursery and picked up some fresh local honey from Oso. It was a very “sweet” way to end the day.


Twin Harbors Beach State Park

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

The adventures continue! My “I Brake for Moms” column today was called Pirates weren’t part of the plan for this camping trip and was about Twin Harbors Beach State Park.  Here are some pictures, including shots of the massive die-off of velleas.

Velleas, aka "purple sails"

Velleas, aka “purple sails”




I think these were white mussels attached to a tire.

I think these were white mussels attached to a tire.


For more information about Twin Harbors Beach State Park, please visit their webpage.

P.S. I liked camping sites 262 and above best. They seemed to offer the most privacy–except from pirates.

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park


I still feel a bit guilty. Last weekend my family went to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon and we didn’t eat any beef jerky. Or smoked salmon. Or dog. Yuck! Okay, dog and horsemeat were never on the table but I did have some teriyaki jerky in the cooler. If we were truly going to immerse ourselves in the Corps of Discovery experience we should have been eating preserved meat.

At least we geeked out in the car. On our way down to Oregon we listened to chapter 32 of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times. Narrator Jim Weiss gave a delightful introduction to what we would find at Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark’s winter camp has been faithfully reconstructed.


The actual fort was a lot smaller than I had imagined–and darker. My five-year-old daughter objected to its “earthy” smell. I have a cute picture of her holding her nose, but I don’t share my children’s photos online. So take a look at the mens’ quarters and imagine the aroma of animal hide.


A cool part of the park is that they have rangers dressed up in period costumes giving demonstrations, like this one, where they actually fired a rifle.


As you might expect, Sacajawea has a major presence at the camp. I don’t know if the scale is accurate, but this statue of her and her baby “Pompey” is about 5 feet, 5 inches.


In the fort itself, Sacajawea’s family had their own room.



The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park is a fun place to spend between 2-4 hours with kids, but it’s not on the same scale as Plimoth Plantation. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think we would visit again unless we were camping at Cape Disappointment.


Here comes the lamb

Fresh Rhubarb!

Fresh Rhubarb!

By the middle of March I struggle to remember how much I love the Pacific Northwest. Snow is one thing. Rain is another. But the gray? That can really get you down.

They say March is “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” My daughter knows this expression too. That’s why she keeps yelling “I hate the lion!” every time we go grocery shopping in the rain.

But today, March 21st, a miracle happened: sunshine.

It’s hard to describe how the special color of light, and the warmth coming in through window panes, can change a person who is starved for sunshine.

Whoo-hoo! We made it!



Winning the Super Bowl and other milestones

I’ve never lived in a city that has won the Super Bowl before. It’s pretty intense. Everywhere you go and everyplace you look you see Seahawks paraphernalia. About 20% of the houses in our neighborhood have blue flags with the number 12 on them. A lot of people even put up blue and green Christmas lights.

The drive-through espresso stands have Seahawks cookies for sale. The grocery stores look like one big Super Bowl party.

Last night after the Super Bowl, the roads were packed. It was like work traffic, times ten. All of the DJs on the radio were going nuts. One station even played the same two songs over and over again on repeat: the Presidents of The United States of America’s song “This is a Blitz” and Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”. (Ben Haggerty is from Everett, Washington, btw.)

I’m not a big football fan, but the joy was contagious. I think all of Puget Sound was celebrating.

Speaking of joy, here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from yesterday’s Everett Herald: Both joy and sadness follow parenting milestones.

I hope you’re having a happy day too!

Polar Vortex Armchair Travel

Trying to stay warm? Add another log to the fire and indulge in a bit of armchair travel curtsey of Kendra Thornton, fulltime mom of three and former Orbitz Director of Corporate Communications.

Kendra is currently collaborating with bloggers to highlight hometowns around the country. She suggested we share our favorite things about her hometown and mine.

Stay tuned at the end of this post for my favorite things about Edmonds.

But first, here is Kendra’s introduction to Chicago:

Chicago Beach

Chicago Beach


The Local Experience For Your Visit to Chicago, by Kendra Thornton

Chicago is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks, sports teams and chefs, but if you ask people what they like most about this city, you’ll probably get “how nice everyone is.” Chicagoans have a lot of time to bond during the harsh winter seasons and enjoyable summers, but it’s also because this Midwestern metropolis has some incredible arts and culture, restaurants, architectural wonders and luxurious hotels for pretty affordable prices. In fact, many of the sights are free to enjoy. Here are some of the best places to check out when you’re visiting Chicago and want a genuine local experience.

Ah, That Bascule Bridge in Downtown

The Michigan Avenue Bridge is a rather famous landmark for Chicago being that another one of its names is the “City of Bridges.” However, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is arguably the most famous one. It was finished in 1920 and features impressive sculptures on four pylons that recall major Chicago events like the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812. The bridge goes across the Chicago River in downtown. It’s a great place to walk for an afternoon or at least take a ride to get to connecting parts of downtown.

Chi Boat Tour

Chi Boat Tour

Restoring the Beauty in Chicago

It was once a wasteland, but in 1997, Mayor Richard Daley decided to change something about downtown Chicago that had been forgotten about. He took an area that had been abandoned and gave it a purpose. Now it’s known as Millennium Park. This public park is now the heart of the city. It features modern architectural pieces, sculptures, landscape design and all kinds of art. There are also a few different free cultural programs to enjoy every week. If you want an afternoon to explore and take photos, Millennium Park is one of the best places to do it in Chicago.

A Place for Chefs

Chicago is well known for its food. No one can deny the goodness of a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, but when you’re looking for variety, there’s no end to the type of restaurants that you’ll find across Chicago. The South Water Kitchen is one of the most ideal places to catch breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it’s located right in the Loop. The chef is a native Chicagoan, so the menu is mostly American classic fare. However, you’ll find something for every kind of eater in your party, particularly if you have some children traveling with you. The restaurant is open for early breakfast at 6 AM as well, and it has pretty fair prices for the amount of food.

The Chicago Skyline at Night and Where to Stay

If you’re going to visit Chicago, you’ll be upset if you miss the chance to see the Chicago skyline. There are a few hotels in downtown that can provide you with this incredible view. The Drake Hotel is a historic spot to stay that is also quite luxurious, but if you want to compare all of the different luxury hotels and check out ratings, you can use a site like Gogobot.com to find the right hotel. It’s easy-to-use and has all of the different Chicago neighborhoods to select from so you find the ideal place to stay.

Now here’s a little bit about my hometown, Edmonds, WA:

Merry Christmas from Edmonds!

The Edmonds-Kingston Ferry

Welcome to Edmonds, by Jennifer Bardsley

Everyone has heard of Seattle, but do you know about Edmonds, the quaint little town in Washington State that’s thirty minutes north of the Space Needle? With a population of about 40,000 people, Edmonds is hometown to such notable figures as Rick Steves, Rosalynn Sumners and Anna Farris. Edmonds boasts mountain views, art galleries and beaches. Parking is plentiful, and there are activities for every price point and age level.

A walk down Main Street is a great place to start. Here are some family favorites:

Nama’s Candy Store on 5th Avenue is an old time candy store that smells good as soon as you open the door.  They sell bags of taffy for as little as a dollar, plus they have old fashioned candy sticks for ten cents each.  So no matter what your allowance, there is fun to be had.

Also on 5th Avenue is Baicha Tearoom. Four dollars will get you a huge pot of tea to share with your whole family. Another four dollars will buy my daughter’s favorite lunch of all time: a sandwich, grapes, and her own personal pot of hot chocolate.

If you are in the mood for a healthy treat, try out Revelations Yogurt on Main Street. My kids love Revelations because they get to taste all of the different frozen yogurts available, and then serve themselves. There is also an extensive topping bar full of candy and fresh fruit. You pay by the ounce at Revelations, and the prices are comparable with Dairy Queen.

Down the street from Revelations Yogurt is Teri’s Toybox, an Edmond’s icon. You won’t find any junky toys in Teri’s Toybox, just classic toys and cool things from Europe. But FYI! Don’t take kids into Teri’s Toybox unless they each have ten dollars to spend. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for drama.

Glazed & Amazed is also on Main Street, and is a really fun place to go with kids of all ages. It’s a paint-your-own-pottery store that also offers the opportunity to do fused glass. My kids know that a trip to Glazed & Amazed is a really big treat because it costs about fifteen to twenty dollars a kid. (There are less expensive options to paint, but the piggy banks are hard to say no to.) Another fun thing about Glazed & Amazed is keeping an eye out for the store cat.

If there is a particular place on this list that you really want to see, be sure to check the store hours before you visit. At the time of this blog post, Nama’s Candy Store is closed on Mondays and Baicha Tearoom is closed on Sundays. Revelations Yogurt usually isn’t open until noon on most weekdays in the winter.

But guess what’s open every day of the week? Brackett’s Landing. This is one of my favorite Puget Sound beaches and it is right by the Edmonds ferry dock. Even when it is pouring down rain, it is fun to park the car and watch the ferry come and go. If you’re lucky, you might even see a train go by.

Olympic Mountain View

Olympic Mountains

The Sleeping Lady, in Leavenworth


Washington state has its own bit of Bavaria right over Steven’s Pass in the little town of Leavenworth.

Winter in Leavenworth is especially magical.

Leavenworth at night.

Leavenworth at night.

Right in front of the Danish bakery. Notice anything?

Right in front of the bakery. Notice anything?

My own family went on a three day trip to Leavenworth this past December courtesy of my grandma. We stayed at the very beautiful Sleeping Lady resort.

Our room at the Sleeping Lady

Our room at the Sleeping Lady.

The ladder up to Bruce's loft.

The ladder up to Bruce’s loft.

The loft!

The loft!

Free activity books for the kids in the hotel lobby.

Free activity books for the kids in the hotel lobby.

The best part of the Sleeping Lady is the truly outstanding Kingfisher Restaurant. All of the food is local, organic, fresh, and delicious. Alice Waters herself would be impressed.

Now we’re back to reality and my cooking. Sigh….

Life Sciences Extravaganza!

Fresh ideas from the Pacific Science Center

The best science fair you’ve ever experienced!

We are all really tired, but my whole family had a lot of fun at the Pacific Science Center today. There were scientists from all over Puget Sound presenting hands-on activities as part of the Life Sciences Research Weekend.

Extracting strawberry DNA

Extracting strawberry DNA

Touching a real sheep's brain!

Touching a real sheep’s brain (up at the top)

I wish I had the energy to share more inspiration from today, but I’m pretty zonked.

Here are a couple of projects I’m tagging to look into later:

Sing about Science and Math was there from the University of Washington. I really want to find out more about them, because their project sounds interesting.

There was also a booth from the Seattle Science Foundation’s Kids in Medicine program.

The Pacific Science Center is awesome to begin with. So the Life Sciences Research Weekend was like icing on a very good cake. No wonder I’m exhausted!

Only one section of the many exhibits.

Only one section of the many exhibits.