Free Family Fun; Bellevue Botanical Gardens and the "Gnome Home"


After all the garden goodness last week, my birthday girl decided to spend the day exploring the beautiful botanical gardens in Bellevue. This garden is open to the public and has a wonderful walking path that takes the visitor past not only gorgeous plant life, but waterfalls, ponds, bridges and a very whimsical 'gnome home'.

No joke. There's a gnome home. A tiny little cellar door built into the side of a garden and beside a great tree.

There's plenty of room for toddlers to run around without causing any harm to the plant life.

The gnome home was originally the previous owner's root cellar but now, children enjoy knocking at the door in hopes someone will answer.

My kids begged me to ask the gardener what was inside the door, "for real", but even the gardeners are devoted to keeping the magic alive. He looked me straight in the eye and with a great poker face replied "ma'am the gnomes live there and only come out at night to plant weeds".

I heard the distinct huff of disappointment from somewhere behind me. Hahahaha.

Knock, knock.

Pro tip:
If you have a toddler (like me), bring a bottle of bubbles in case you need to distract them!

The Bellevue Botanical Gardens address:
12001 Main Street
Bellevue, WA  98005

(425) 452-2750

Beach combing in a PNW storm, literally


As a follow up to my last blog post and prompt to encourage everyone to get outside for a great low tide weekend, I failed to notice what my oldest already knew...we were expected to have a very serious wind storm. I wish he'd told this ditz before we left for the beach on Sunday. But, all in all it was an absolutely terrific time, safe and full of adventure!

Here are the pictures to prove it!
We found a city of sea snails.
The foreman barking orders at daddy.
Poor seagull thought he could relax with the beach to himself.
Absolutely drenched but exhilarated!

Experiencing the incredible, raw force of nature left quite an impression on these two. As parents we don't want our children to learn to be fearful of nature but rather have a profound respect for its unpredictable and unyielding power. Gale force winds have a way of teaching that. (wink)

My littlest man was smart and stayed in his smooth sea cave sheltered from the wind waiting for me to come back and boil some water for his hot chocolate!

He loves me more when he knows hot chocolate is brewing.

Sharing some hot chocolate and warm apple crisp before we headed home - cheers!

This day was a memorable adventure and full of surprises. There was no shortage of sea snails, crabs, high winds, beautiful scenery, sea caves, tons of laughter and ended on a high note with some warmth in our tummy's and a quick change into dry clothes. That's beach combing in a Pacific Northwest storm!

Family fun: Explore Low Tide this weekend!


Exploring low tide is one of our favorite family activities with the added bonus of learning! I wrote a more complete blog post back in July if you'd like to take a look:

This weekend is one of the best 2 days for exploring in Washington State this month because the low tide time of day is realistic for weekend exploring.

Simple tip:
If you want to have a great day exploring low tide, take a look at your local areas tidal charts and try to find a day where the 'L' number is as close to zero or -0. Low tide occurs twice a day. Reviewing the tidal chart will help you find a time of day that's realistic for your family adventure.

Click here for Low Tide Charts for Washington State. On the tidal chart webpage you'll be able to click on the area you'd like to explore and get accurate times to plan your day.

Previous blog post on exploring low tide

Low Tide Charts for Washington State

Printable Field Guide for Puget Sound Beaches

Parent Map article; & tips for Low-Tide Beachcombing with Kids

Have a fun and safe weekend!!!

The Secret Garden Birthday Party


Birthday traditions for our kids is all about the birthday morning that they wake up. They go to bed with excited anticipation about how the house will be decorated on their special day because its always a surprise. I admittedly go to lengths to show my kids that their day of birth is absolutely a celebration and I want them the feel incredibly loved.

After the joy of The Secret Garden book and movie, I decided I would go with that theme for my sweet girl. This was one of those parenting moments where I knew I had to let go of how I would like to see it decorated and instead, give her what she would find amazing...right down to the gawdy lace, fine china tea cups and intricate silverware.

This gorgeous rose gold silverware (though plastic) was not planned at all - I stumbled on it at Michael's. I couldn't believe my eyes how perfectly it would go with her Secret Garden theme.

She asked for a four layer cake, thinking that I would never make such a thing. I opted for the easy way out and simply made boxed cake...because time is not plentiful and I had so much decorating to do. So, 2 boxes of cake mix and 3 tubs of frosting all cobbled together to make this whimsical cake. The flowers are gently laid in the lip of the cake plate. In order to keep my cake layers from toppling over I put three small skewers through the cake layers.

The leaves with birthday wishes, kind words and memories of her birth were scattered all over the floor by each of us.
I'm thrilled that my kids get more pleasure out of this experience than they do from receiving gifts, because I do give them that option but they always want their special birthday morning surprise! (and a small gift)

Here are the details in case you think you may want to recreate something like this, and I always have a budget and reuse in mind. I was lucky enough to walk into Michael's during a 50% off sale and the rest was salvaged from fabrics around the house and simply stretching everything I purchased as smart as I could.

Fake florals; ivy, peonies, roses, fillers and dangly things & ivy.
Ombre paper packs in pink/orange, orange/yellow, and green/blues
Fairy and fox/squirrel garden decor
Giant fake skeleton key
Small fake skeleton keys
Satin ribbon
Ornate pink blush plastic utensil pack sold near the baking goods
Pink beads for cake topping

Wire wastebasket from spot isle

Ornate tea cups (only about $1.99 ea.)
Small picnic basket
Glass cake platter

Fabric Store:
Burlap for a runner and to stuff into wire wastebasket (because you can shape the stems through to hold)

I had exactly enough burlap to cover the table surface, then laid 1 yard of lace (fake cheap lace) diagonally (this is all for texture). Place another folded, crumpled burlap into the wastebasket and begin weaving the dangling flowers through the outside of the basket to hold each one in place. After that I simply bent a few stems and placed the rest of the flowers inside.
I strung our Christmas lights around the strands of ivy (4 x 4' long ivy) and hung it loosely over our ceiling fan so that it hung low to create a little magical ambiance. The picnic basket was used as a gift box so I filled it with her new garden seed packs and hung the giant key with a satin ribbon from the handle. The ornate tea cups were placed at random on the table with small fake skeleton keys for decoration and detail. Unfinished birdhouses that were laying around our house were sprinkled on the table and hung from the lamp. The last key element was the paper butterflies and leaves. I took my paper to Ben Franklin and used their amazing die cutting rollers to create 3 different shaped butterflies using my multi color packs. I taped all of those beautiful shapes on the walls and fireplace and watched the room come to life. The leaves were scattered all over the floor after we each had filled out as many as we could with birthday wishes and kind words for our very loved little girl.

She was floored.
Naturally, we spent the afternoon exploring the nearby botanical gardens!

The Secret Garden book and movie


The Secret Garden is one of my favorite books from my childhood so I had to share it with my kids. I was checking out at Michael's and it was only $1! I know it's a condensed version, but for my reader it was the perfect level.

Start to finish it took 3 bedtimes and I made sure to end each night on a hook so that she'd be excited to hear more, and she was. On the evening we finished I surprised her that I had ordered the movie from Amazon and it would arrive after school the next day - which was Friday, a perfect night for a movie.

Reading a new book and then following up with the available movie has been more fun than I ever anticipated. They love it, I love it and it provides a great chance to discuss what we liked about the book versus the movie - as you could probably guess, the book always wins! The poor movies never stand a chance. *wink, wink

I bought the book above at Michael's $1 (a condensed version)

If anyone has suggestions for book/movie combos, please, I'd love to hear!

Here's links to this movie and book if you're interested...let me save you the trouble.
The Secret Garden movie from Amazon 
The Secret Garden Books from Amazon

Most important rule about hiking with kids


We put him in nature's jail for being mischievous. He thought it was hi-larious.

Make. It. Fun.

Hiking is super fun with kids. They are so energetic, genuinely intrigued by nature and usually have the cutest reactions to things we probably would never have appreciated along the trails.
That being said, I'd like to share the most important rule about hiking with kids, from the parent's handbook (after safety), for those of you who are thinking about hiking with your kids.
Make it fun or they will NEVER go back. 
Boiling water on a 'Jetboil' for hot chocolate after we came back down.
'Is it boiling yet?'  Almost as annoying as 'are we there yet?'   Luckily boiling water only takes a few minutes.

This is why my backpack has the "kid essentials" for a short day hike;
1. Toilet paper & dry alternative mittens/socks/hats
2. Snacks and water (stay ahead of the hunger at all costs)
3. Bribery items. Do what it takes, candy, toys, whatever.

I assure you, the sweet little children at the beginning of your day hike WILL turn on you like Kathy Bates in Misery if they are cold, wet, hungry or generally unhappy.

So, before you judge the movie size box of DOTS in this backpack, let my words sink in. Think of Kathy Bates...

Pack the fun. Make the fun. For your own sanity, have a plan to make it fun and it will be.
by mlekoshi