Hello, October! Coffee Date.

Let’s pretend we’re on a coffee date, shall we? IN PERSON! I know, I know, crazy thought – but this is the internet + imagination and we can do what we want. (Thanks to Ashten for posting her own coffee date post a while ago, reminding me how much I like them!)

If we were on a coffee date…

+ I’d tell you that I can’t believe it’s a week into October. OCTOBER! The last quarter of the year! I love September (generally) but this year it was ruined because of smoke. And October… all of the emojis with heart eyes. It’s just the best. And arguably the last good month of weather in the PNW until the late spring.

+ I’d talk about homeschooling and how well it’s going. I truly love it. Granted, I’m only homeschooling preschool and kindergarten for my older two girls, but it’s just so fun and the flexibility really fits in with my general life perspective and lack-of-scheduling. I’ll do another mini-post about homeschool… maybe. (Lisa, if you read this post in the future, this is a reminder to write the dang post!)

+ I’d ask you what your plans are for this fall. I, for one, have zero plans. I mean… maybe we’ll go to a pumpkin patch? If we don’t have anything else to do, maybe we’ll go several times. (HA!) Other than that, I plan on watching football and going on a few hikes and spending time outside as much as possible… but no big plans over here – yet!

+ Speaking of football, I’d ask what you think of the ‘fake’ crowd noise they play during the games. Surprisingly, I like it! I mean, it’s a little weird, but a completely silent stadium would be way weirder.

+ I’d say that we went camping last weekend and we had a blast. We bought a travel trailer a few months ago and I love it way more than I thought I would. This past weekend we went to Battle Ground Lake State Park. The campground / park was so much fun that we didn’t even leave for 3 days! We played in the lake. We paddleboarded. We roasted s’mores. We ate a lot. We rode bikes on trails and roads. It was as relaxing as a camping trip with kids can be! We went with friends, and it was nice to just hang out in a ‘normal’ way for a bit.

+ I’d roll my eyes thinking about how awful those few weeks of smoke were for us on the west coast – acknowledging that we didn’t even have the worst of it up here in Seattle! I’d probably end up on a tangent about climate change, but mainly I’d share that I don’t think moms in other parts of the country understand what it’s been like on the west coast – where we’ve been largely shut down because of Covid, and then were also trapped inside our houses for weeks because of wildfire smoke. It is a new level of anxiety to not be able to breathe the air in your neighborhood, and a lot of my mom-friends have shared that they were on the brink of losing their freakin’ minds & sanity with everything going on. September was HARD.

+ I’d perk up when sharing that Phoebe is 18 months old and just the cutest and sweetest little nugget… still! I’m loving the time I get to spend with her lately. The girls + Tim went on a backpacking trip a few weekends ago and Phoebe and I were on our own back at the house, which I loved! I realized that big kids make WAY bigger messes than toddlers (at least at my house) and that toddlers are pretty boring one-on-one. How many times can I read the same book over and over without going crazy was pretty much the game we played for days on end.

+ I’d acknowledge that although I do truly love our life’s rhythm/routine right now, I miss having a bit more margin in my life to get some ‘extra’ things done. Like write blog posts! Edit pictures! Print photos for picture frames! Create Phoebe’s one-year book! All of the things. I work part-time and have the kids full time, and with the activities thrown in (homeschool, gymnastics, outdoor school), I am BUSY like never before. There is nonstop action in our house and my to-do list only gets longer. I’m going back to bullet journaling for the first time since March, which I think will help.

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Adventuring with Kids: The Oregon Coast

Earlier this summer we finally made it down to the Oregon Coast, and it was everything I expected and more. The last time Tim and I had been to the coast was in 2015 when Clara was an itty-bitty baby.  Ah, such fond memories. That trip is actually what convinced us to move to the PNW – but I digress. The point is, I couldn’t wait to return to the Oregon Coast, and it turns out exploring the Oregon Coast with kids was even more fun than when it was just Tim and I + a baby.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

Here’s What We Did:

+ Stayed near the beach in Manzanita. We used Airbnb to find a rental (use my referral code for $35 off your first trip!) and were not disappointed. We found Manzanita to be a more affordable area to stay in than Cannon Beach. However, I think if you’re willing to stay a bit outside a town, you can find even cheaper places to stay. Especially since we went during a time of social distancing, it wasn’t necessary for us to be near any restaurants!

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Enjoyed the wiiiiiide open beaches near Manzanita. There is so much space on the Oregon Coast and it was really easy to ‘socially distance’ ourselves from others.

+ Took pictures near Cannon Beach – because how could we not stop there on our way down?! It is a breathtaking place. One of my favorite memories of the entire trip was watching the girls run into the water near Haystack Rock.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Hiked to Short Sands Beach (in Oswald West State Park). The girls were able to do this easily and we shared the trail with a lot of surfers carrying their boards – which was fun! The hike itself isn’t anything too special, but the beach was wonderful. We watched surfers, we played in the sand, we saw a waterfall and played on rocks (during low tide)… it was everything we could want in a beach! Getting there was also super-easy as it is right off highway 101 and only minutes away from Manzanita.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Played in the sand at Cape Kiwanda. It was an overcast day when we went to Cape Kiwanda, and honestly we ended up there because our original destinations were all closed because of Covid! However, we did love the beach and the haystack rocks that were there. Fun fact: one is actually taller than the rock at Cannon Beach, but it doesn’t look that way because it’s so much further from shore. If the girls were a little older (or maybe if the day was clearer) we would have climbed the dunes. We ordered lunch nearby at Ben & Jeff’s Burgers and Tacos and ate on the beach, which was fun!

+ Hiked Cape Falcon (in Oswald West State Park). Tim and I did this 5-mile hike as a day date. It was an easy hike and the views were wonderful, especially since we went on a sunny day! The parking lot is the same you can park in to get to Short Sands Beach and the hike actually overlooks the beach at a lot of viewpoints. It was neat to see the beach from up above!

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Ate pizza from Marzano’s Pizza in Manzanita. We brought most of our food to the trip because 1) we wanted to avoid eating at restaurants and interacting with too many people and 2) we have kids so #1 applies whether we are in a pandemic or not! But we did order pizza one night and it was delicious and fun to eat on the beach! (Or, it should have been fun. Really, it was chaos because it was windy and the kids were too cold (even though I told them to wear pants and not shorts!) and the sand was everywhere… I mean, if it was just adults, eating on the beach would have been fun! I still recommend trying the experience). While we were in Manzanita (in June) most things were closed during the week, I’m assuming because of the pandemic, so if you’re traveling there in the next few weeks/months, maybe be prepared to make your own food.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Drank coffee from Manzanita Coffee Co. It was delicious, and they had a lot of bagel options, too! Full disclosure: I wanted to try Bread and Ocean (the reviews are great!) but it was closed during our trip. When we go back I’m going to get coffee from all of theplaces – for some reason, coffee in Oregon just tastes better. (Shhhh don’t tell Seattle I said that!)

There are so many places to explore on the Oregon Coast, I highly suggest a trip down there! I may make it an annual tradition for us! I wish we could have gone further south, but the 4 hour car ride was long enough for my crew this year. There’s always next time!

I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re traveling during the pandemic, be responsible and follow the local guidelines so you can limit exposure to yourself and others. I think it’s really easy to visit the beach and not interact with others at all, but be prepared for more closures than normal, potentially even of state parks. It’s best to check the Oregon State Parks website ahead of time to avoid any frustrations. I didn’t check the website and we drove for quite a few minutes out of the way only to find a closed park.

Happy Adventuring!

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Kid-Friendly Hikes Near Seattle: Whatcom Lake & Whatcom Falls

There is truly nothing I love more in the summer than hiking – and this year is especially fun because the girls are getting older and can do a bit more miles with a little less complaining… sometimes.

Last week we did two new (to us!) hikes. Both of the hikes were in the same area, near Bellingham. It was a little over an hour from Seattle, but the change of scenery was very worth it and we easily spent a few hours at each place. We did them on separate days, although it’d be easy to make a long day and explore both areas.

Lake Whatcom Park

Our first adventure was at Lake Whatcom Park, where we took the Hertz Trail along Lake Whatcom. If you’re familiar with Seattle, picture the Green Lake trail but much less crowded and even more scenic! Also, Lake Whatcom is much bigger and this trail doesn’t even come close to getting all the way around the lake. According to the WTA, this trail is 6.2 miles round trip, which is an out-and-back trail. We turned around at a little over a mile, because the girls were much more interested in finding a spot to swim than they were in ‘hiking’. The great thing was, there were tons of places that the girls could get in the water from the trail! Of course it was a whole ordeal getting them into swimsuits… but that’s another story. Even within a mile, though, we were able to see a covered bridge and a fairly impressive waterfall and just enjoy the gorgeous scenery across the lake. We parked in the parking lot and had to look at the map to find the correct trail which we took to meet-up with the actual Hertz trail. There is probably a more straight-forward way to get on it, but from where we parked there were a few different trailheads, so just make sure you get on the right one! We even brought a stroller (so we could easily haul the swim stuff + Phoebe) and it was a bit rough on the initial trail but was absolutely fine on the Hertz Trail.

Whatcom Falls Park

On the other side of Lake Whatcom is Whatcom Falls Park, which is a great place to stretch your legs if you’re just passing through the area (it’s pretty near the expressway), or for a nice little day trip. Apparently there are 3.5 miles of trails through this park, but we got stopped very quickly when the girls saw the main attraction: a large stone bridge just a few yards from the parking lot, followed by the falls! The best part was that there were calm swimming areas between waterfalls, and older kids were even jumping from the falls into the swimming area. (It was maybe 6 feet high?) So fun! The water was shallow enough for the girls to easily play in, but next time I’ll bring their life jackets so they can jump off the falls. The only caveat I have for this place is that it got crowded on a Thursday afternoon, so if you go, go in the morning. When we originally arrived we had plenty of space to ourselves, but then some large groups came and keeping distance from strangers became difficult, so we had to leave – womp. Still, it was worth the trip and if the swimming area is too crowded, head on to the hiking trails! As soon as we left the girls asked when we could go back.

Both of these adventures convinced me that I need to spend more time exploring the Bellingham area! When we go hiking we tend to go straight into the mountains, but for kid-friendly hikes near Seattle, I would definitely check out going north instead of east for a change of pace. Even though you won’t get the mountain experience, there are lakes, waterfalls, and rivers. We’ll definitely be back!

Happy adventuring!

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Books I Read in 2019 (all 88 of them…)

I just realized my last book recommendations post was over a year ago! What the heck?! I swore I wrote a 2019 book recap post but alas, it appears I did not.

A friend recently demanded suggested that I write another book recommendation post, so here I go! I’m going to do a 2019 recap post first, and then I’ll do a post on the best books I’ve read this year (pandemic reading! yay!). Better late than never is my life motto today and always.

It looks like I read 88 books in 2019. 12 more than I read in 2018! I credit a healthy dose of insomnia and a lot of breastfeeding / newborn cuddling.

I acknowledge that this list isn’t *SUPER* helpful in determining what to read because I’m not including info about the books. There is no way I’m going to do summaries / recaps of all 88! However, if you’re looking for something to read, just peruse the lists of 5, 4, and 3 star books and pick one to read! The 4 and 5 star books are seriously really good. I’m including the authors in case those are helpful to you.

If you want a specific list of book recommendations, leave me a comment or DM me on Instagram.

The best books I read in 2019

Book Recommendations (From What I Read in 2019):

* Ranking system: 5 stars – I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who asked. 4 stars – It was worth reading but it wasn’t as life-changing as other books I read. 3 stars – I was entertained but I wouldn’t tell someone to go out of their way to read it. (In most cases, these are page-turner fiction books that I enjoyed but which didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.) 2 stars – I wouldn’t recommend it at all. 1 star – A complete waste of my time. In many cases I don’t finish/record 1 star books.

** Summaries of books taken from Amazon, because they do it better than I can.

*** Listed in no particular order within the ratings.

5 Stars

Tiger Woods (Jeff Benedict)

The #1 New York Times bestseller based on years of reporting and interviews with more than 250 people from every corner of Tiger Woods’s life—this “comprehensive, propulsive…and unsparing” (The New Yorker) biography is “an ambitious 360-degree portrait of golf’s most scrutinized figure…brimming with revealing details” (Golf Digest).

In 2009, Tiger Woods was the most famous athlete on the planet, a transcendent star of almost unfathomable fame and fortune living what appeared to be the perfect life. But it turned out he had been living a double life for years—one that exploded in the aftermath of a Thanksgiving night crash that exposed his serial infidelity and sent his personal and professional lives over a cliff. In this “searing biography of golf’s most blazing talent” (GOLF magazine), Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian dig deep behind the headlines to produce a richly reported answer to the question that has mystified millions of sports fans for nearly a decade: who is Tiger Woods, really?

Drawing on more than four hundred interviews with people from every corner of Woods’s life—many of whom have never spoken about him on the record before—Benedict and Keteyian construct a captivating psychological profile of a mixed race child programmed by an attention-grabbing father and the original Tiger Mom to be the “chosen one,” to change not just the game of golf, but the world as well. But at what cost? Benedict and Keteyian provide the starling answers in this definitive biography that is destined to linger in the minds of readers for years to come.

Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.

Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Talking to Strangers (Malcolm Gladwell)

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true? 

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed – scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout”. 

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world. 

East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

The masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. Adapted for the 1955 film directed by Elia Kazan introducing James Dean and read by thousands as the book that brought Oprah’s Book Club back, East of Eden has remained vitally present in American culture for over half a century.

4 Stars

A Man In Full (Tom Wolfe)

Rush (Lisa Patton)

Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)

The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran)

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (Laura Markham)

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings (Laura Markham)

Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy)

Puddin’ (Julie Murphy)

How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind (Dana White)

The Secret Life of Violet Grant (Beatriz Williams)

The Perfect Couple (Elin Hilderbrand)

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret (Craig Brown)

The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss)

Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly)

The Stranger In The Woods (Michael Finkel)

Daisy Jones & The Six (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

Juliet’s School of Possibilities (Laura Vanderkam)

Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs)

Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer)

The Gown (Jennifer Robson)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Lori Gottlieb)

Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie)

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman)

Ask Again, Yes (Mary Beth Keane)

123 Magic for Christian Parents (Thomas Phelan)

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Patrick Radden Keefe)

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog (Dave Barry)

Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor E Frankl)

Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)

3 Stars

All We Ever Wanted (Emily Giffin)

Chances Are… (Richard Russo)

Lost Roses (Martha Hall Kelly)

The Unhoneymooners (Christina Lauren)

Mrs Everything (Jennifer Weiner)

The Wife (Alafair Burke)

Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty)

The Secrets of Midwives (Sally Hepworth)

The Last Time I Lied (Riley Sager)

The Kiss Quotient (Helen Hoang)

The Kind Worth Killing (Peter Swanson)

Home Front (Kristin Hannah)

Winter Garden (Kristin Hannah)

Camino Island (John Grisham)

All These Beautiful Strangers (Elizabeth Klehfoth)

Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

The Queen of Hearts (Kimmery Martin)

Inheritance (Dani Shapiro)

The Sisters Brothers (Patrick deWitt)

Tiny Little Thing (Beatriz Williams)

Along the Infinite Sea (Beatriz Williams)

Heartland (Sarah Smarsh)

The Postnatal Depletion Cure (Oscar Serrallach)

This Will Only Hurt A Little (Busy Philipps)

Listen to the Marriage (John Jay Osborn Jr)

The Hating Game (Sally Thorne)

One Day in December (Josie Silver)

Then She Was Gone (Lisa Jewell)

The Last Mrs Parrish (Liv Constantine)

Ugly Love (Colleen Hoover)

When All Is Said (Anne Griffin)

Save Me the Plums (Ruth Reichl)

The Last Romantics (Tara Conklin)

City of Girls (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Now That You Mention It (Kristan Higgins)

Miracle Creek (Angie Kim)

2 Stars

Unsheltered (Barbara Kingsolver)

Roomies (Christina Lauren)

Meet Cute (Helena Hunting)

Zero Day (Mark Russinovich)

The Peacock Emporium (Jojo Moyes)

99 Percent Mine (Sally Thorne)

The Wife (Meg Wolitzer)

The Dinner List (Rebecca Serle)

Maybe In Another Life (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

The Wife Between Us (Greer Hendricks)

Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)

A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

All Your Perfects (Colleen Hoover)

The River (Peter Heller)

Never Have I Ever (Joshilyn Jackson)

1 Star

The Mister (E.L James)

Phew, I hope that at least gives you some reading inspiration until I release a new list of maybe-helpful recommendations! Instead of making ‘to read’ lists, I just add all of the books that look interesting to my library hold list directly. It helps that I now read almost exclusively on my Kindle so they get delivered to me without the library actually needing to be open. If you’re a Kindle user and aren’t using the app ‘Libby’, look into it, ASAP!

Happy Reading!

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Making changes, because Black Lives Matter

Life is heavy lately. I was already worn out by all things pandemic and now I’m grieving about all of the recent events (and hundreds of years of events) towards our Black community. There was yet another murder this weekend – another one! My brain is spinning because I want to do all of the things to educate myself, my children, and figure out what I can (realistically) do to help end systematic racism in our country (and world). It is such necessary work.

Here are some helpful resources I’ve found been directed to:

+ Podcasts which have done a great job about covering current events: Code SwitchPantsuit Politics, The Daily, First Name Basis

+ One of my favorite books of all time, which has changed the way I think about our justice system: Just Mercy

+ The book I read with our church group. It led to some good discussions: White Awake

+ Next on my to-read list because of all of the recommendations: White Fragility (although I have also heard that we should be buying/reading more books on racism by Black authors, and the author of this book is White)

+ Next on my to-watch list because it’s been highly recommended by friends: 13TH

+ The book I purchased for my kids because a friend said it was awesome: A Kids Book About Racism 

+ A great resource for parents (with very helpful book lists & articles) that is worth supporting via Patreon: The Conscious Kid  (their Instagram is also excellent with a lot of free resources)

+ How I’m purchasing books to support local businesses (specifically Semicolon in Chicago, Chicago’s only black-woman owned Bookstore): Bookshop

+ The organization I heard about when I read ‘Just Mercy’ years ago, and which I have been donating to ever since: Equal Justice Initiative

+ An article worth reading: When All Of This Is Over: On The Narrative Of Protest And Progress

+ A post on systemic racism (race & Christianity) by Tim Keller: Racism and Corporate Evil – A White Guy’s Perspective

While I know this list is far from complete, it’s my starting point and I hope it provides you with some ideas to keep moving forward! This movement is a marathon, not a sprint, and if every week we just do a bit more, we’ll get there. (There: equality. peace. permanent change. the end of systemic racism.)

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