Seattle Travel Mom is Now Seattle Local Mom Blog- Seattle’s Premier Lifestyle Blog for Moms!

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Hello all! I started Seattle Travel Mom a year ago this month, and I’ve had a blast exploring our city and searching for the best family-friendly spots! Now I’m teaming up with Megan Thomas of 425Mom to bring you Seattle Local Mom Blog, our city’s premier lifestyle blog for moms! From scoping out the best pumpkin farms for fall to the newest and coolest indoor play spaces, I’m all about helping other moms (and dads!) get out there with their kiddos and explore! And I won’t just be covering kids. Parents need their time too! I’ll be highlighting some great options for date nights and other “parent-only” events, as well as stuff just for moms (think spas, shopping, mom-time, great reads, etc.). There will also be a space for local moms to connect and contribute to Seattle LMB. Last but not least, I’ll be posting bits about my own journey as a mom with twins on the way! So, in a nutshell, Seattle LMB will be a little bit of everything, with a local twist.

So from now on, I’ll be posting 5 days a week on Seattle Local Mom Blog.

Check out more about Seattle Local Mom Blog, read my full interview with Megan Thomas, and learn about the Local Mom Blog Network (soon to be arriving in cities nationwide) and how to start your own!

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Date Night: 8 Ways to Find Romance At Home

We all love (and fondly remember) those romantic candlelit dinners and nights out on the town, but these days, date nights are few and far between, leaving you longing for some serious one-on-one time (and I don’t mean with your toddler)! If you can’t snag a sitter, no worries! I’ve got a few creative (and romantic) tricks up my sleeve to give you and your hubby the date night you deserve…at home!

Classic Candlelight

You can’t go wrong with this classic. Dust off your finest silverware and linens (no plastic forks or placemats here!), turn down the lights and switch on your flameless candles to set the mood. Conversation is the key here. As hard as it is, refrain from bringing up hot topics like kids, work, schedules, etc. Stick to stuff you’d talk about when you were first dating. (Can’t remember? Try travel, goals, fave movies/books/shows, the crazy outfit your neighbor was wearing…whatever!).  Notice I didn’t mention the menu. Fancy steaks and fine wine are fabulous, but your candlelit dinner can be just as romance-inspiring with mac and cheese or Chinese take-out.

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Bring on the Board Games

They may conjure up images of cheesy family nights or trendy coffee shops, but board games still made our list! Spice up Monopoly or go deep with a question game. No grown-up games in the house? Candy Land and Mouse Trap can work just as well. Or for an awesome selection of adult games, from simple to sexy, check out Nookii.com. Game on!

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Italian Night (Parisian Night, Islands Night, etc.)

It’s the classic candlelit dinner, Italian-style (or any country of your choosing). Transform your home into a Spanish vineyard, Italian pizzeria or a beach cabana. Create your menu around that theme and pick a movie to go along with it. Examples: Italy: Homemade pizza, Chianti & gelato followed by classic Italian movie. France: Baguettes, cheeses, fruit and dessert crepes, followed by a French movie (I love Amelie).  Mexico or the Caribbean: Fish tacos and pina colodas (don’t forget the cheesy paper umbrellas).

Parisian Picnic

Parisian Picnic

Spa Night

You don’t have to book a couples massage to enjoy the spa together. Pamper (and get pampered) at your in-house oasis. Replace tub toys with bath salts, candles and flowers. Add fresh berries or pineapple to a glass of chilled champagne, soak, and enjoy! Now is the time to dust off those massage oils. Don’t have any? Make your own (recipes here). Top your night off with some chocolate dipped strawberries and lavender-scented sheets.

 

Sports Night

Your man will love this one. DVR a game (preferably of a sport you both enjoy), throw together a meal of nachos (complete with Velveeta cheese), hot dogs and cold beer, and get comfy on the couch. Root for your team together or make things interesting with a few bets.  It’s cheap, it’s simple, and it’ll have you both cheering for more at-home date nights.

 

Fort Campout

As a mom, you’ve probably made your share of pillow forts for the kiddos. Put your expertise to work and help you hubby construct an adults-only fort in your living room. Spruce up your cozy castle with twinkle lights or candles, turn on some mood music and grab your coziest pj’s. Set up a picnic and make S’mores for dessert (recipe here). Talk, scheme, giggle…make it a slumber party for you and your man! No kids allowed!

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Scavenger Hunt

These aren’t just for summer camps and birthday parties! Keep your partner guessing with a scavenger hunt, a la date night. Hide clues around the house, each one containing a piece of the date. Can be anything from popcorn-and-movie date to one of the date nights listed here!

 

DIY Date Night

Date nights don’t need to be all high heels and romance. Show your handy side and tackle a household project that’s been on the back burner for weeks (or years).  Much needed paint touch-up in the living room? Always wanted to distress that coffee table or bookcase? Roll up your sleeves, get the paint brushes out, turn on some tunes and have some fun. Hey, one more thing to cross off your to-do list!

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What are some of your favorite at-home date night ideas?

A good list of kid-friendly coffee shops never gets old. Bring on the lattes.

Seattle Travel Mom

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:

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…

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There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (Unless You’re at Costco)

We’ve all done it.  Or I tell myself that, anyway.  Attempt to feed our children (and ourselves) lunch–and a healthy, well-balanced one at that–solely on free samples at Costco.  Why is it that kids (at least my kid) are such picky eaters at home, but suddenly develop an impressively vast pallet upon entering the doors of Costco?  Macaroni and cheese at home?  Only if it’s shaped liked dinosaurs.  Yogurt?  Only if it comes in a tube with Sponge Bob on the front.   Vegetables with texture?  Forget it.  But at Costco:  Chicken Parmesan?  Well of course!  Tomato bisque?  Bring it on!  Spinach dip and fancy, aged cheese?  More please!

On a recent trip to the Free Samples Warehouse, my son was acting as if we’d been starving him for the past week.  He couldn’t get enough of the chicken parmesan, and as I waited in a line longer than that of a new Halo release, people actually shoved and reached and cut in front to get their hands on a paper cup of microwaved noodles.  Just as I was reaching for the coveted sample, a hungry family of five swooped over the red tray like vultures, licking and smacking their lips, saving their sporks for round two.

The third time I went back for the chicken teriyaki meatballs I actually removed  my red jacket in hopes that the sample guy didn’t recognize me and withhold my skewer.  I watched the workers, cheerfully donned in plastic gloves and hair nets, and I wondered about the thoughts that must be running through their heads as they witnessed, day in and day out, the swarms of greedy, pushy, desperate Costco customers, unable to keep a line formed, worse than school children.  I wonder if these sample providers look at the human race in a different light than others.

What is she really thinking?

What is she really thinking?

Sampling at Costco is, apparently, a very popular, well-known and widely-covered subject.  Upon Googling “samples at Costco,” you’ll be provided a variety of information from guides to free food grazing and New York Post articles revealing the best days to get free samples to ways that you can save a whopping $2000 a year by taking advantage of Costco samples.

As one Yelp-er laid out the rules of sampling:

To All The People At Costco Eating The Free Samples:

1. Can you not go up to the free sample table with your big ass cart, and/or surrounded by your entire family??
2. Put your cart out of everyone’s way, get your sample, and move on.  Don’t stand there pretending you’re going to buy it when you know all you wanted was a free bite. 
3. Don’t stand there forever talking with the person giving out samples about the product. Most of the questions you’re asking can be answered by just reading the damn box. 
4. Don’t get greedy. One sample is enough. If you like it that much, buy the product. Or go to the food court and buy a cheap hotdog/churro/chicken bake.

These quarter-sized portions of food that we already have in our freezers (sometimes for months) somehow become irresistible to us and, within the safe walls of Costco, we forget our professionalism, class and manners, turning into something else.  Something that can only be explained through the novelty of the words “free” and “sample.”  No matter what our income is, what nationality or religion we are, or who we voted for…  When it comes to free samples, we’ve GOTTA GET US SOME!!**

** This is a reflection on myself and the other sample-searchers I see at Costco every time I go.  To those of you who get in and get out with just your grocery list: you have awesome self-control.

Small Hands, Big Impressions: Volunteering Opportunities for Children

Following my recent blog post about embracing the little, simple things, I wanted to include a post about volunteering with little ones in tow.  Though pint-sized, our children possess a great ability to bring joy to others; to help those in need and bring a smile to anyone’s face. 

The act of helping others also is an immensely important life lesson, teaching empathy and nurturing the compassion that I believe all children are born with.  As parents, we are in a wonderful position to continue to cultivate this compassion by presenting opportunities, being good examples and showing our kids that volunteering can be fun.

Here are a few ideas:

Book Drive

Have your kids round up some of their old books to donate to local hospitals or shelters.  Get your friends and neighbors involved too!

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Get Creative

Contact a local nursing home or hospital to see if they’d welcome having children make cards for residents.  Cards can be for birthdays or holidays, or just to say “I’m thinking about you!”

Senior Centers

Contact a local nursing home or senior center to see if they would welcome cards, crafts or baked goods from your children.  There’s nothing like a smiling 5-year old holding a plate full of home-made cookies to brighten someone’s day.

Secret Shopper

The next time you head to the grocery store, grab an extra basket and have your kiddo pick out some (healthy!) items.  Then drop them off at a local food bank or shelter.

Partaaayy!

Host a toy drive.  Make a fun, themed party and ask each guest to bring a new, unwrapped gift (doesn’t have to be big or expensive!).  Then have your kids come with you to donate the toys to a Children’s Hospital.

Make a Blanket

Fleece blankets are easy to make and don’t require sewing. The blankets can be donated to a Children’s Hospital or a daycare center.  Easy blanket-making instructions here:

Love Your Animals

Most kids will love this one: head out to a local shelter or humane society and give your furry friends some love!  Donations of toys, food, litter, old towels, etc., are always welcome, and many shelters allow people to volunteer as dog walkers or cat cuddlers. 

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Get Outdoors

Let your kids play Park Ranger for a day.  Your local Parks and Recreation Department may need help on trail clean-up.  Kids can help staff clean and/or create trails, plant trees or flowers and maintain park facilities. 

Here’s one of my favorite volunteer/charity ideas:

Both My Stuff Bags and Bags 4 Kids provide “comfort bags” to children when they have been displaced due to neglect, abuse or abandonment.  During the transition between their home and the shelter or foster care, these kiddos often have nothing of their own (or sometimes transfer what belongings they do have in trash bags).  These charities assemble backpacks and duffel bags (stuffed with blankets, books, toys, toothbrushes, etc.) and hand them off to social services, police stations, crisis shelters and foster agencies, where they are then given to the children upon their arrival.  The bags are a symbol of comfort, hope and new beginnings to these children; something they can call their very own. 

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Here are some great volunteering resource websites, specifically geared towards family and children volunteer opportunities:

Kids Serve Global

Doing Good Together

 Big Hearted Families

The Volunteer Family

And here are 25 more awesome volunteer resources from Red Tricycle.

Please share some of your own volunteering ideas or experiences!

 

 

 

It’s Not Just a Blog Post: Renewed Inspiration for the New Year.

I’ve been suffering from a bit of writer’s block lately.  Partly from being so busy with the holidays and many other family functions and gatherings, but mostly, I have to admit, from lack of inspiration since the Newtown tragedy.  Since that day, it’s been difficult for me to put much effort into writing about holiday happenings, kid-friendly events or rainy day crafts.  In comparison to the magnitude of loss and suffering, I saw any potential post quite unsubstantial and pretty much meaningless.

But as Christmas came and went and we welcomed another new year, it became apparent to me that these small and ordinary posts are actually, in their own way, very much important after all.  Whether they be my own ideas of the best indoor play areas,  another mom’s post on a DIY Pottery Barn play kitchen, or someone else’s best homemade play dough recipe, these are the small, happy and simple moments that we must cherish with our children.  These are the moments in time that will stand out to us, clear as yesterday, as we drop our kids off at college, when we walk them down the aisle on their wedding day, while we hold their own babies.  These are all the sort of moments that we must collect like grains of sand in an hour glass with not enough hours, and imprint on our hearts like homemade play dough. 

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So, from the evil that the world witnessed last month, let’s turn our eyes more than ever to the good.  From helping others, which we have already begun to do and see, many of which through the 26 Acts of Kindness; to putting our phones, computers, tablets and i-anythings down for a bit, and devoting 100% of ourselves to the world of our little ones.  Whether it be visiting an indoor play area, making a DIY kitchen, or playing with your homemade play dough.

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And more to come.  Check back for some great kid-friendly volunteering opportunities!