Summer Pickins’: 13 U-Pick Berry Farms in the Seattle Area

Summer is in full swing, and what better way to celebrate the long-awaited blue skies and long, lazy days than picking buckets-full of juicy, sweet, sun-ripened berries, straight from the vine?


Strawberry season is peaking now, and blueberries follow in late July. Here are 13 awesome U-Pick farms to take the kiddos to, collect buckets of berries, and make summertime memories (not to mention same pretty great jam)!

(Link to ParentMap article that I wrote)

For the Love of Valentines! (9 Cupid-Inspired Avtivities)

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. To parents, February 14th could mean anything from a makeshift candlelight dinner squeezed into a busy schedule to an after-Valentine’s Day, 75% off box-o-chocolate special. Maybe you’ve planned ahead and called 6 months in advance to reserve a table at a romantic restaurant (good for you!) or maybe you won’t do anything at all (gasp!).

But to kiddos, Valentine’s Day means glitter and glue, heart-shaped everything, and the excuse to wear pink and red for days on end. Sugar cookies and pink frosting are household staples for the first half of February, and loooove is in the air. Whether your cupids-in-training are creative valentines, sweet valentines or active valentines, we’ve got a little something sweet for everyone.

Check out my Red Tricycle article for some kid-friendly, cupid-inspired Valentine’s activities and events!


The Perfect Christmas Tree

It may be the most monumental of Christmas holiday traditions: the choosing of the tree.  It must be the perfect tree; precise height and width (of course, not forgetting the need for ample space for maximum presents), superior in color and fragrance, with branches suited for flawless ornament-hanging.

Sometimes dad picks it out, hemming and hawing about how he would most effectively secure the tree to the roof of the car.  Maybe mom picks it out, secretly delighted with her Martha Stewart eye and knack for choosing a tree which will a). continuously give off that fresh pine-needle scent, and b). not continuously shed pine needles all over the floor.

This year it was our 3-year-old who picked the tree.  Out of rows and rows of beautiful trees, our son zoned in on one, waaaaaayyyy down towards the other side of the U-Cut field.  He ran to this perfect, special tree, unseen yet by us, only on his radar, his pointer finger leading the way.  When we finally reached it, our son with a big, satisfied grin on his face, we all agreed: we had found our perfect tree.

We visited McMurtrey’s Red-Wood Tree Farm in Redmond, a beautiful tree farm with over 20 years of Christmas tree experience.  McMurtrey’s sells from both their U-Cut field and their pre-cut lot.  (The U-Cut has closed for the season- it’s so popular that it only stays open for a couple of weeks.  The pre-cut trees are available and ready to go)!  For U-Cutters, McMurtrey’s offers hand saws and wagon rides from the field back to the lot.  The staff is incredibly helpful, and will shake & bale your tree for free, as well as secure it to your car.  The complimentary cocoa and candy canes are always a plus. 

McMurtrey's Tree Farm

McMurtrey’s Tree Farm

Some Christmas Tree trivia from the McMurtrey’s experts:

Douglas Firs do the best at low altitude and are the traditional tree in this area.

Noble Firs are the “premiere tree.”  They last the longest, so are a good bet for families that like to buy their tree right after Thanksgiving, keeping it up through the New Year.

Fraser Firs are more popular on the East Coast, with needles that are blue on the bottom and green on the top.

Grand Firs have softer needles that are flat and strong, great for ornament-hanging.  It also has a strong citrus aroma.

The perfect tree!

The perfect tree!

With Christmas trees on the mind, get out the craft supplies!  Here’s a simple craft from, perfect for younger kiddos.  Find directions here. 

Perfect for preschoolers

Perfect for preschoolers

Now how about some ornaments?  I found this cute snow globe ornament craft on  Find directions here.

Snow globe: Easy

Snow globe: Easy

Taking the snow globe craft a step further….. Find directions here.

Snow globe: Easy/Intermediate

Snow globe: Easy/Intermediate

And we’ve got to have that sweet treat!  Here’s a tasty Rice Krispie treat from Positively Splendid.

xmas tree treat

Happy Holidays!

Weekend Holiday Events on Seattle’s Eastside

More Holiday Happenings around Seattle’s Eastside…check it out!


…A timeless classic!  The hour-long adaptation of Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol is a colorful, musical and exciting ensemble, sure to please both young and old.

Second Story Repertory Children’s Theater, Redmond

Saturday, December 8 @ 1pm and 3pm

christmas-carol-112712[1] (2)


…A whole ‘lotta gingerbread houses!  Come and vote for your favorite at the Bellevue Hilton’s Gingerbread Lane

Bellevue Hilton Hotel

Saturday, December 8 @ 11:30am


…A holiday canvas painting while enjoying tasty treats and cocoa at the Canvas and Cocoa Workshop!  The workshop includes all materials, a Smart with Art instructor and gift wrapping for your kiddo’s masterpiece!

Bellevue Arts Museum

Saturday, December 8 @ 2:30-4:30pm


cocoa[1] (2)canvas cocoa


…A watercolor collage at Bellevue Art & Frame’s Holiday Make and Take!  Paintings will be gift wrapped and will go home in a 5×7 glass picture frame.

Bellevue Art & Frame

Saturday, December 8 @ 10am-1pm drop-in

$8 (cash or check)


Breakfast with Santa!  The whole family can enjoy breakfast with the Big Guy and his elves.  Photo opportunities too!  Call 275.7609 to reserve your spot.

Mercer Island Community and Event Center

Saturday, December 8 @ 10am-noon

 $9 for Adults / $7 per child (18 and under)

…Tea with Santa!  The Woodmark Hotel is hosting the 4th Annual Santa Tea, full of sweet holiday treats and scrumptious sweets!  Live music, a cookie-decorating station and photos with Santa!

The Woodmark Hotel

Sunday, December 9 @ 1pm-3pm

Cost: Adults $45 / Kids (12 and under) $20

santa tea

For the Love of Gingerbread Houses

It’s an art form in parts of Europe, a Christmas tradition in our home, and it tastes pretty darn good, too. Gingerbread’s long, sweet history begins in the Middle Ages, when the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis brought the sweet bread to Europe. During his stay in France, he taught Gingerbread cooking to French priests and Christians, and soon baking guilds were sanctioned by the government in cities spanning from Germany and Poland to the Czech Republic and France. Gingerbread houses became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published the fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.”

Today in North America there are so many crafty creations of the traditional pfefferkuchenhaus (named after the witch, Frau Pfefferkuchenhaus, in Grimm’s fairy tale).  Here are a few favorites:

gingerbread small 2


gingerbread house1


gingerbread house[1] (2)



And then…. there’s ours….ahem.

my gingrbrd

Happy Gingerbread-making!

Say Cheese! Santa Photos Around Seattle

Long lines?  Stuffy malls?  Crying kids?  Expensive photo packages?  Bring it on!  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the infamous Santa photo!  Though it can be a hassle, it’s a beloved tradition for families all around, and so cool to collect the photos from over the years (yes, even the scowling, screaming ones). 

santa photo

The Classic Santa

Despite long lines and expensive photo packages, these Santa venues deliver a hefty dose of holiday spirit and remain a beloved tradition for many families. 

Downtown Nordstrom

Awesome displays, the magic of Downtown Seattle at Christmas, and Elves who hand out cookies and hot cider…it couldn’t be anywhere but the Downtown Nordstrom.  The line will most likely be long, but get this– Nordstrom will take your name and page you when it’s your turn to see Santa!  There are eight rotating Santas on the schedule, including an African-American Santa and an Asian Santa. There’s even a Santa that knows ASL (American Sign Language). For special needs kids or large groups, Santa can meet you in a smaller room, away from the crowds.  Call Santa Lane at 206-628-1000 for more details.  **All photos are in film, available for pick up (or delivery) in about 5 days.




Santa Claus will be settling in on the 6th floor this year, along with his elves and reindeer.  Have your kids write Santa a letter to mail in his own personal mailbox.   

macys santa


Bellevue Square

Santa’s Workshop is in full gear at Bell Square.  The line wanders through Santa’s shop, and kiddos can get a sneak peek of what the elves have been up to.   Santa’s life-size sleigh (reindeer and all) soar above the shoppers, and outside, Snowflake Lane celebrates nightly at 7pm.  As with all large mall venues, it’s best if you can rally a grandparent to switch off standing in the line, so you can take your antsy kiddos to play on the 3rd floor boats. 

Alderwood Mall

This Santa has a reputation of being one of the most realistic, long beard and all.  He’s been around for nearly a decade, and has gained quite a following. 


Redmond Town Center



Forget-the-Mall Santa

Here are a few photo venues that are a step outside the box , or rather, mall.

University Village

Well, it’s an open-air mall at least.  Fittingly situated across from Fran’s Chocolates, Santa’s little cabin is cozy and perfect for one-on-one discussions of toys and wish lists. Don’t miss the covered play area and Santa’s sleigh near Ben Bridge.  **Every Monday Santa takes photos with pets and a portion of sales from pet photos is donated to the Seattle Humane Society.

village santa


Lake Forest Park

Bring back memories from your childhood while you make memories with your own kiddos.  The Town Center at Lake Forest Park has the original Santa set from Downtown Seattle’s Frederick & Nelson. 

Space Needle

After visiting Santa in his ultra-cool “workship,” kiddos are invited to the cookie decoration station on the Observation Deck where they can decorate a complimentary Christmas cookie.


You won’t find Santa sitting around here.  He’ll be up and about every weekend, mingling with shoppers, stopping to pose for photos.  The entirety of Molbak’s is like a shrine to Christmas.  Always gorgeously decorated, moms will enjoy shopping while kiddos get a kick out of the Christmas villages and Santa himself.  Be sure to bring your camera! 

Beautiful Poinsettia Christmas Tree

Beautiful Poinsettia Christmas Tree

Swanson’s Reindeer Festival

See Dasher and Blitzen during the Reindeer Festival, and take photos with Santa in this neighborhood gem.

Issaquah Reindeer Festival

Visit Santa’s Reindeer team and stop by Santa’s personal post office to mail a letter on your way to his workshop for a photo.  There is a ton of holiday excitement going on at the Reindeer Festival @ Cougar Mountain Zoo!

reindeer issaquah santa


Santa Paws

Don’t forget your furry friends when it comes to Santa photos!  Here are a few venues that cater to your four-legged little ones. 

santa pet

Home 4 the Holidays & Santa Paws at Seattle Humane Society
December 7-9

The Seattle Humane Society will offer adoption discounts, festive carolers, pet pics with Santa and more at Seattle Humane’s Home for the Holidays Extravaganza!  For three days only, adopt one kitten for $50 or two for $90. On Saturday, Dec. 8, have your pet’s photo taken with Santa Paws from 11 am – 2 pm ($20 suggested donation for digital download).

Adoption fees are waived on all cats 1 year and up and all critters through December.

Woodinville PetSmart

Bring in your pet for a photo with Santa for only $9.95 with Pet Perks®. Plus, $5 from every purchase will be donated to the local animal-welfare organization participating that day!

Santa Paws at the Alexis Hotel

It’s time again for a fun annual holiday tradition. Bring your pets to the pet-friendly Alexis Hotel in downtown Seattle the weekend of December 8-9 to have their photo taken with Santa Paws! With a $15 donation, you’ll be sent a wonderful keepsake digital photo, ideal for printing and framing. All proceeds benefit the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) and our efforts to help enrich the lives of shelter animals.

The event takes place Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m

Happy Santa Photos!!

santa photo

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 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


Peek Aren’t You Curious @ Bellevue Square

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


**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


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