The Art of Advent Calendars

19th Century German Lutherans counted down the days until Christmas by drawing chalk lines on their door; today we mark the days off with chocolate and trinkets.  Any way you choose, it’s all about enjoying the anticipation.  From drugstore calendars to family heirlooms; with religious intentions, or for just plain fun, there’s many ways to celebrate the 24 days leading up to Christmas. 

Google “advent calendar” and you’ll find tons of creative and beautiful calendars.  Traditional and simple; funky and intricate, there’s something for everyone, every space and every budget.

I am drawn to these simplistic designs…

 

advent cal2

advent4

source: mostlovelythings.com

source: loveoffamilyandhome.net

source: loveoffamilyandhome.net

Going from this inspiration, I put together a simple, hang-on-the-wall calendar.  24 mini paper bags and a few pint-sized stockings filled with tiny treats and trinkets for my 3-year-old to open each morning.

advent mine

Happy December!

What’s Happening This Weekend…Christmas Favorites


We’re not yet into December, but Christmas has sprung up all around us nonetheless!  Twinkling lights and decorations are beginning to make their annual appearances, shops are bedazzled (yes, I used that word) with toys and tinsel, and the cozy, mouth-watering smell of cookies and cocoa are wafting out of household kitchens.  And, of course, holiday happenings are going on all around Seattle and the Eastside.  Here are a handful of my favorites:

 

Wild Lights at the Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo is de”lighted” to present Seattle’s first ever winter lights festival!  WildLights features thousands of dazzling LED lights throughout the zoo grounds, creating a wild and winter wonderland for all.  See Santa’s reindeer, ride the carousel and have a “snowball” fight in the winterized Zoomazium!  Oh, and there are lots of delicious goodies to choose from, including cocoa, marshmallows and hot caramel corn. 

 

Santa Train

A Northwest tradition since 1969, the Santa Train instills in children the kind of Christmas joy we all remember from our childhood.  Departing hourly from the North Bend Depot, the 20-minute journey brings passengers to the Snoqualmie Depot, where kids can visit Santa and enjoy holiday treats in the museum’s restored railway kitchen and coal stoves.  Visit Snoqualmie’s local shops and tree farms before boarding the train for the ride back to North Bend.   

 

 

Garden d’Lights

Watch as the Bellevue Botanical Gardens blossom into a winter wonderland!  The impressive festival boasts over 1/2 million lights, transforming the gardens into a 3-dimensional fantasy of flowers and animals.  Bypass lines and purchase tickets online.

 

Snowflake Lane

 Every year the streets of The Bellevue Collection transform into the magical, snowy world of toy soldiers and winter delight.  The nightly show of dazzling light and holiday music lasts through December 31.

 

Gingerbread Lane

Get sweetly inspired!  Bring the family to Bellevue’s Hilton Hotel to view some of the coolest, wackiest, most imaginative gingerbread houses you’ve seen!  Local businesses and bakeries partner with KidsQuest Children’s Museum to create these custom cookie homes.

 

‘Twas the Night

Watch as this beloved holiday poen comes to live as ‘Twas the Night lights up Kirkland’s Studio East Theater.  This charmingly hilarious show is sure to please even the scroogiest of theatergoers.  Purchase tickets online.

 

Reindeer Festival @ Cougar Mountain Zoo

Nothing gets kids in the Christmas mood quite like a Reindeer Festival!  And Cougar Mountain Zoo knows how to throw a good one!  Meet Santa and his Reindeer team, wander through Magic Forest, sit in Santa’s sleigh, or write him a letter (and put it in his own personal mailbox)!  Elf storytime, face painting, Santa photos and candy-cane makers are sure to bring a big Christmas smile to your little ones.  An event not to be missed! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Reindeer

Reindeer Festival at Swanson’s Nursery

Everyone knows that from now until December 24th, Santa’s reindeer will be busy training for their big debut.  Today we caught a glimpse of Dasher and Blitzen (and a verrry curious camel named Curley) at Swanson’s Nursery.   Locally owned and enormously loved, Swanson’s has been providing exceptional garden plants and goods since 1924.  Today, the Nursery was dressed up for the Holidays, with Christmas wreathes and delicate ornaments, poinsettias and sweet-smelling pine cones.  And of course, the Reindeer. 

Reindeer feedings daily at 10am and 4pm

Along with the reindeer, Curley the Camel was out to say hello.  He’s known as the “curious” camel, and indeed he is!

 

My son loved the train in the gift shop.

…And the impressively enormous Koi near the Nursery’s Seasons Cafe was a big hit for the kids.

Reindeer Craft

I found this cute Reindeer craft via Pinterest.  Here’s the original source with directions.

And for the reindeer treat…

Reindeer Food!  There are many ways to make this, but I opted for the tastiest one.  (You can also make reindeer food out of uncooked oatmeal, glitter, sprinkles, etc…)  This one uses the Chex Muddy Buddies recipe.  I know kids like this, and I’ve heard reindeer do too.

After the Muddy Buddies are cooled, put them in a baggie or a mason jar and label it Reindeer Food, including directions on when and how to use it.

 

Here’s an idea using a bag with directions.

Happy reindeer-viewing!

All About the Rain: Where to go and What to do with kids

Today we saw the first big rainfall of the season, reminding us what’s in store for the next few (or 7) months.  These are the days– dark, damp and dreary– that seem to drag on for us moms and dads if we don’t have something on the agenda.  There are tons of indoor play areas scattered throughout Seattle.  From neighborhood community centers and trampolines to a huge indoor sandbox, these indoor play havens are a blessing to us all and will have you, if not looking forward to these wet days, at least not dreading them.

Rainy Day Indoor Activities

Action Packed:  For the kids who need more than a train table.  Be it trampolines, foam pits or inflatables, these places will make ’em sweat.

Skymania or Sky High Sports

Pump it up or 3-2-1 Bounce

Arena Sports

Climbing at Pump It Up

Cheap and Easy:  From open play times and “wear em’ out rooms” to shopping malls, there are a lots of options.  Community centers are cheap (averaging around $3) and malls are free.

North Kirkland Community Center, Queen Anne Community Center, Greenlake Community Center

Southcenter Mall Play Area

Bellevue Square Kids’ Cove

Northgate Mall’s Tot Area

Classic:  You can never go wrong with the Woodland Park Zoo or the Seattle Center.  The Zoomazium offers kids a giant treehouse and crafts, and both kids’ museums host a variety of hands-on play activities.

Zoomazium

Children’s Museum

KidsQuest Museum

Unique:  Seattle’s only indoor moving playground (WiggleWorks), a sandbox the size of a volleyball court, and A relaxed “nest” for moms and kids.

WiggleWorks

Sandbox Sports

Happy Nest

The “balloon room” at WiggleWorks

Coffee & Play:  Go for a double play- or a double latte.  Coffee, wifi and happy kiddos are such a good combo.

Twirl

Village Bean

Mosaic

For more kid-friendly coffee shops, click!

Rainy Day Craft:

I came across this cute craft via the DIY blog Lines Across.  Little Rainy Day Bags filled with fun crafts or little treats for the kiddos, saved especially for rainy days.

Rainy Day activities inside

All you need:  Brown paper sacks, Card stock (white and blue), Glue & scissors, Silver paint pen (or white crayon)

See directions here.

Rainy Day Treat:

Worms and dirt never looked so good!  Try this deliciously muddy treat at home.

Worms and dirt never looked so good

Ingredients:  Chocolate pudding, Oreos, gummy worms, cool whip

See recipe here.

So…now you can hold off on singing “Rain Rain Go Away.”  At least until until tomorrow.

All About the Leaves: Fall in Seattle

It’s all about leaves for this post!  If you and your kids haven’t raked, collected, jumped in or explored our Northwest’s beautiful version of Autumn, then get out there and do it!  Big, beautiful leaves in brilliant shades from yellow to sunset red can be seen scattered among city sidewalks and parks almost anywhere throughout Seattle, but here are some of the best places to see Fall!

 Washington Arboretum and Japanese Gardens  

source: Greg Vaughn

Seward Park 

Discovery Park

Lincoln Park

Bellevue Botanical Gardens 

Marymoore Park

Woodland Park Zoo (there’s more than just animals!)

Woodland Park Zoo

After heading home, get out the craft materials and try out these cute, fall inspired leave lanterns:

Perfectly Autumn!

Find directions here:

If you’re still in the mood for leaves, try these colorful, tasty cookies- perfect for a play date!  

 

 

Easy recipe here.

Happy Leaf-hunting!

 

What’s Happening This Weekend?

Another weekend is on the horizon!  Here’s my post for 425 Mom.  Look what’s happening this weekend on the Eastside!  (Plus one event at the Zoo).

Turkey Toss at the Woodland Park Zoo

It’s turkey-tossing time at the Woodland Park Zoo!  Following the same idea as last month’s Pumpkin Bash, kids can watch how the Zoo’s most beloved carnivores nosh on their Thanksgiving dinners.  And like the Pumpkin Bash, the Turkey Toss is part of the Zoo’s exceptional care program, designed to enrich the lives of the animals through mental and physical stimulation as well as the promotion of natural animal behavior.  So come and wish the animals a Happy Thanksgiving and watch them chow down!

Saturday November 17, 10am-2:30pm

Free with admission or membership

Didn’t know these guys ate turkey.

Hopelink’s 12th Annual Turkey Trot

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving on the Eastside without the annual Turkey Trot!  Grab your running shoes, jogging stroller and the family and head over to Marina Park for this 5K walk/run.  All proceeds go to Hopelink.  Participants will enjoy door prizes, music and goodies from participating vendors!

Sunday, November 18

Registration 10am; Run/walk 11am

$35 to register

Karl Johnson Portrait Silhouettes

This beautiful (and now rare) form of portraiture is still being practiced by renowned artist Karl Johnson.  Johnson cuts each silhouette freehand, catching the likeness of his subject, either live or from a photograph. Past clients include Tom Hanks and Katie Holmes, and his work has been featured in O Magazine, among others.  Visit Johnson in Bellevue this Friday and watch art in the making!  Perfect for a keepsake gift.

Friday, November 17

10am-6pm

Peek Aren’t You Curious @ Bellevue Square

Call 425-533-2104 to reserve your 5-minute appointment.

$25/piece

**Other places: Saturday/Bainbridge Island & Sunday/University Village

Reindeer Sightings at Swanson’s Nursery

Get in the Christmas spirit and take your kiddos to visit Santa’s Reindeer!  Dasher and Blitzen (very much alive!) will be making their home at Swanson’s Nursery every day until Christmas Eve, when they will be dashing away on their very important job.  Curely the Curious Camel will be joining them as well.  Daily feedings at 10am and 4pm.  Come wish the Reindeer a Merry Christmas!

Tim Noah’s Eats & Beats Concert

Emmy award-winning songwriter, singer and performer Tim Noah is stopping by KidQuest this Saturday for a rockin’ good time!  Sing, dance and hear some fantastic storytelling while you chow down on Jet City pizza and sip lemonade.  Kids and adults alike will enjoy this Eats and Beats event!

Saturday, November 17

5:30-8pm

KidsQuest Museum, Factoria

Advance Tickets: $8 members/$10 non-members

At the Door: $10 members / $12 non-members
$3 Jet City pizza & lemonade

Pre-registration recommended; call 425-637-8100 to order pizza.

Emmy-award winning Tim Noah

Rearranging Photos

I’ve been slowly redecorating our house over the last few months…little touches here and there.  It’s never ceased to amaze me how such a tiny rearrangement of an end table or hanging up a new photo can change a space so spectacularly.  Here are some of my influences:

Pinterest

Coastal Living

Pinterest

**Check out more of my favorite spaces on my Pinterest page.  

I’ve been going through my abundance of photos, and it’s dawned on me that I don’t have enough frames (not including the mismatched, soon-to-be-thrift-store frames I found in the garage).  I also hang my son’s paintings (marvelous for a 3-year-old, I shall say), and I started looking for a way to bridge the gap between framed photographs and artwork.  Alas, Printcopia.  Simply upload your photos, choose a canvas size and, wala!  Framed photos and kid’s artwork flow seamlessly throughout a household.  Stunning, precise, easy.  Check out the assortment of Canvas Prints here.

And now, back to rearranging…

Seattle’s Kid-Friendly Coffee Shops

Seattleites are happily spoiled when it comes to coffee, and we know how to enjoy a cup or two.  From the big boys like Starbucks to the much-loved independent coffee shops and neighborhood cafes that line our streets, there truly is something for everyone.  And thank goodness for the kid-friendly coffee shops!  Whether it be to chat with another adult over a latte while your kids play, find solace from the rain, or enjoy a coffee/cocoa date with your little connoisseur,  these spots are much-needed and appreciated!  Here are some favorites:

photo credit: Pinterest

Twirl Café  (Queen Anne)

One of the most kid-friendly coffee shops around, Twirl is a mecca for moms, kids and coffee.  A winner of many parent awards, the café offers delicious sandwiches, soups and salads, plus a full kids menu that includes lots of organic ingredients.   We tried the sunflower-butter and jelly sandwich with orange slices-  my 3-year-old loved it!  The play area is superb, with a jungle-themed tree house, train table and mini kitchen.  There’s also a multipurpose room on the upper level.  Twirl offers fun extras like monthly classes, preschool ballet and art workshops.  “Whine Wednesdays” are a hit, offering free wine tastings with a play admission, as well as supervised playtimes for when momma needs a break. 

*Playtime is $5 (with food purchase)

Jungle-themed play area

 

El Diablo Coffee Company  (Queen Anne)

Pop in to this eclectic java house for a whole new perspective on coffee.  Seattle’s only Latin-style coffee house, El Diablo is a haven from the rain; a refuge of playful, brightly painted walls, furniture and décor.  There’s a small play corner with toys and books, but the atmosphere itself might be enough to keep kids interested. The Cuban coffee is nothing like you’d find at Starbucks; with the beans roasted at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, the rich and robust flavor pops with a dash of caramelized syrup.  Tempt the kiddos with authentic Mexican hot chocolate or a batido, blends of fresh fruit and ice.  For an exotic treat, try the tropical fruit salad or Cuban toast.  Moms and Dads- keep this in mind for a topper to a date night; El Diablo offers wines by the glass or bottle and devilishly good desserts.

 

Devilishly good coffee

Corner play area

Snacks for the kids

Firehouse Coffee  (Ballard)

This modernly rustic Ballard coffee shop boasts Café Vita coffee, friendly service and a dedicated playroom.  Parents can sit and sip their java or check email while they watch the kiddos get their play out with a great variety of blocks, books and toys.  A kids menu offers classics like pb&j, grilled ham & cheese, Capri Sun and chocolate milk.  The pint-sized Italian sodas are pretty cute too.  The Firehouse has a great location, just east of the Ballard Locks, right next to Gymboree and down the street from Me ‘n Mom’s.

Cozy, rustic

The Little Chief’s Kid Cafe

Mosaic  (Wallingford) 

Set in a church basement with a name-your-price policy, this non-profit community coffee house is not your average cup of joe.  Nonetheless, it’s a neighborhood favorite.  The space is large, with a separate room dedicated to kids.  The play area is well-stocked with books and toys, and comfy places for parents to sit and converse.  Mosaic offers goodies from Little Rae’s Bakery and coffee from Fidalgo Bay Coffee, plus some pretty spectacular hot chocolate.

*Note hours are limited

 

Large kids area

 

Coffee to a Tea with Sugar  (West Seattle)

Coffee to a Tea and Sugar Rush Baking Company combined forces to bring you and your little ones a perfectly sweet spot to cozy up with a cup of coffee and a cupcake.  Warm and rustic, the shop serves both organic, fair-trade coffee and tea from local companies, as well as scrumptious treats fresh from their in-house bakery.  From the much-loved mini cupcakes to fancy layer cakes, coffee cakes and their famous lemon bars, there is a little something for any sweet tooth. The kid’s area is cute, with a brightly painted mural and pint-sized play tables, with lots of toys to entertain while mom sips java.   Reserve a weekend spot for “Afternoon Tea”  and sample a selection of full leaf teas while nibbling on mini scones and petite tea sandwiches. The Children’s Tea version includes apricot & marshmallow or bologna & cheese sandwiches with hot chocolate.   Yum!

photo source: seattle.citysearch.com

*P.S. Click here for a free mini cupcake from Coffee to a Tea!

 

The Village Bean   (Bothell)

Nestled in Bothell’s charming Country Village, the Village Bean is a welcoming coffee shop that encourages adults to sit back and enjoy while their kiddos play in the well designed, clean space.  A train table, little kitchen, magnet wall and ball & pipe maze keep the little ones happy, and the healthy, delicious made-to-order sandwiches keep parents happy.  There’s a full kids menu, as well as smaller snacks like string cheese and goldfish crackers.  On sunny days, sit outside near the fountain; there’s a cute little playhouse for kiddos, not to mention the entirety of Country Village itself.

 

And here are a couple of cafes worth mentioning.  Sit down for a coffee or a full meal.  Oh, and they’re kid-friendly…of course.

Vios Café  (Capitol Hill)

Enjoy authentic Greek food or a cup of coffee.  There’s a cozy play area with a cute mini kitchen, blocks and books.  The children’s dinner menu gives the little ones a tasty introduction to Greek cuisine.

 

photo source: http://www.vios.com

Serendipity  (Magnolia)

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this family friendly neighborhood bistro is a hit.  Mommy groups come for coffee and play time, families come for a delicious brunch, and couples linger over a glass of wine.  The play area features a chalk board wall and doll house.  Two things to try: the popular Steel Magnolia (hazelnut, espresso, milk and white coffee), and the delicious gelato.

photo source: http://www.city.com

Here’s to happy sipping!

What’s On This Weekend…425 Mom Style

Another weekend on the horizon, and with it comes the question, “What are we going to do?”  If you haven’t already got your days filled, check out my weekend post at 425 Mom.  There are some great options on Seattle’s Eastside, from an interactive musical and toy swap to a Fresh Beat Band concert and Holiday photo sessions.  Oh, and a great cooking class for a girls’ night out. 

Here are a couple of my favorites:

StoryBook Theater presents 3 Pigs, a wacky and interactive rendition of the classic fairy tale; sure to be a hit with little theatergoers.

Grab a girlfriend and head over to Sur La Table in Kirkland for a Girls’ Night Out Wine Country Feast, where you’ll learn delicious tips from the pros.

Kirkland’s Sweet Cakes is a Sweet Treat

This morning I promised my son a treat after I picked him up from preschool.  (Yes, there has been some bribery at times to get him from the house to the car to his cute little preschool on time and, better yet, with little or no tears.  He’s still new at this, and so am I).  So, as promised, we took a little stroll along Kirkland’s charming Park Lane, stopping in at Sweet Cakes for the much-awaited cookie.  

Sweet Cakes specializes in, well, sweet cakes.  From delectable cupcakes (red velvet, triple chocolate, salted caramel and snickerdoodle, among others) to cookies, dessert bars and more (they also offer gluten-free and vegan goodies).  The shop has been known to do a great birthday cake, and owner Susanne Park’s gorgeous chocolate on chocolate bundt Wedding cake was featured in Seattle Met.  Park chooses not to advertise, so word (or “taste” of mouth, as she refers to it) is how this yummy shop gains new customers.   So if you are ever on the Eastside, take a peek into one of Kirkland’s sweetest places.