Jun 102014

seattle summer activities sq

Something I try to do each year at the beginning of the summer is make a list or calendar of all the different Seattle summer activities there are to do with my family. Sometimes it seems like just about everything fun to do around here happens in July and August – we really have to take advantage of those two months of sun to soak it up for the long grey months ahead. Here’s my list for this year: we won’t do nearly everything on the list (since there’s more than 150 things), but I can look here when I’m looking for things to do, and you can too! Let me know in the comments if there’s something your family especially likes to do in the Seattle area during the summer, and I’ll add it to the list.

Festivals, Fairs and Parades


Cultural Festivals

Street Fairs and Farmers’ Markets

Country Fairs & Carnivals

Fourth of July Celebrations

Art, Music, Culture, Cinema

Family Concerts

Movies! Movies! Movies!

Children’s Museums

Child-Friendly Museums

Sporting Events

The Great Outdoors

Zoos and Petting Farms

Amazing Playgrounds and Spray Parks

Urban Hiking, Beaches and Natural Parks

State / National Parks

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Cars and Trucks and Things that Go

Air Shows

Fun Day Trips

Downtown Seattle

Going Farther Afield


I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ‘em out!

 seattle summer activities

Asparagus Tamales at Los Hernandez Tamales

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May 282014

a collage of pictures of Los Hernandez Tamales shop

This past weekend we loaded up the kids and dogs into the ol’ family truckster and headed east toward Union Gap and the land of sunny skies and desert vistas in search of asparagus tamales. Union Gap is in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington (one of the premier asparagus growing regions in the US) and the season for asparagus is a short one – it can be just six weeks long. Earlier this winter I saw a blurb in the AAA magazine for the asparagus tamales at Los Hernandez Tamales. I love tamales in general, and asparagus too, so I pinned up the article to save for springtime.

When we got there there was a steady stream of customers, and all of the seats in the small restaurant were full. I had a brief moment of panic when the counter woman said the asparagus tamales were sold out, but it turned out she just meant the frozen ones. We ordered a dozen asaparagus, plus two pork and two chicken tamales for the kids.

asparagus and pork tamales from Los Hernandez Tamales

The tamales were delicious – stuffed with chunks of fat asparagus spears and subtly spicy pepper jack cheese. We ate our picnic lunch at a shady table near the playground at the lovely Yakima Greenway and then took a leisurely drive home via Chinook Pass, where there was still a good 10 feet of snow on the sides of the road.  Who knows how much longer the season will go this year, but we’re sure happy we got a chance to sample the tamales!

May 022014

clean eating turkey chile recipe

Since it’s springtime and summer’s just around the corner, I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier and shed some of my winter padding. Luckily for me I have a preschool friend who’s become a Beachbody rep (the company behind P90X and Insanity) and she recently hosted a clean eating challenge on Facebook complete with a meal plan and ‘clean’ recipes. All of the recipes she shared were quite good, but the Clean Eating Turkey Chili was the recipe my whole family enjoyed the most. Now the idea behind the clean eating movement (at least as I understand it) is to eat fresh, unrefined food with lots of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins and to avoid most processed, premade foods, caffeine, alcohol and refined grains and sugars. Sounds pretty sensible and it’s the way we usually tend to eat at home anyways but it’s always nice to have a little more accountability and encouragement, especially around weight loss, so I joined in for the week.

Of course I have trouble sticking exactly to any recipe, so like always I put my own spin on this one. I mean, what’s the fun in cooking if you can’t improvise a bit? I kept the heat from the spices pretty low so that I didn’t get any complaints from the little ones, but I like to add pickled jalapenos to my own serving for extra kick – a little hot sauce or salsa would work nicely as well. If you really want to make this recipe ‘clean’ you can cook the beans from scratch and roast the green chiles (use Anaheim or Poblano chiles) instead of using canned ones.

Clean Eating Turkey Chili
Serves 6

  • 1 TBS Vegetable oil
  • 2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange) chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and chopped
  • 1.5 lbs lean turkey, ground
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 7oz. can diced green chiles (with their juice)
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (or use other beans of your choice)
  • 2 cups water
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or other large pan over medium high heat and add the onion and bell peppers, sauteing for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and browned.  Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more, then add the diced tomatillos and cook, stirring constantly until the tomatillos start to soften and give up some of their juice. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

2. Add the ground turkey to the pan and season with kosher salt, pepper, and the cumin and chili powder. While stirring, use a spoon or spatula to break up the turkey into small pieces. Once the turkey is cooked through and browned in some spots, add back the vegetables along with the crushed tomatoes.

3. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix in the browned bits from the vegetables and turkey. Add the diced green chiles with their liquid, the beans and the two cups of water, mix well and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

4. Serve as is, or accompanied with pickled jalapenos, minced scallions and sliced black olives as toppings.


clean turkey chili

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ‘em out!

Making Homemade Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

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Apr 232014

chocolate frozen yogurt

As happens a lot lately (since we’re home alone together so much of the time) my little guy requested that we make something. The specific thing he wanted to make this time was homemade ice cream. He asked me if it was true that when Papi and I were married we had gotten an ice cream maker as a gift. I assured him it was true and boy did his eyes get wide and then when we went to the closet and I showed him the machine he wanted to make up a batch of ice cream immediately. Much to his disappointment we had to chill the bowl (for at least 24 hours) first, but after that we were good to go.

I decided we would make frozen yogurt instead of ice cream (mainly because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a custard base) and started searching for a recipe online. One of the first recipes for chocolate frozen yogurt I came across was this one from Chocolate & Zucchini and it sounded delicious so that’s the one we went for. The recipe was easy to follow and I think it turned out great, but it did use dark chocolate and no one else in my family is much of a dark chocolate fan (no big deal – more for me then!). I probably won’t use this same recipe again the next time I make chocolate frozen yogurt – I think we’ll do strawberry next time anyways – but I did have good results with it.

Cook the Collection #9: Better Homes & Gardens Cookies Cookies Cookies

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Apr 212014

Cook the Collection Header

Better Homes and Gardens Cookies Cookies Cookies is an older cookbook (published in 1992) which is a bit of a novelty book – half of the book is called “Any – Day Treats” with basic recipes for peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles and when you flip the book over and turn it upside down you have “Christmastime Treats” with more elaborate shaped and decorated cookie recipes. It’s a pretty no-nonsense book generally, with spare header notes and straightforward, easy-to-follow directions.  I’ve had this book for 20 years and I don’t know that I’ve ever baked anything from it before (why do I hold on to these books? It’s crazy, I know).

My little guy wanted to bake Chocolate Chip Cookies the other day and  instead of just using the recipe off the back of the chip bag like I usually do, I pulled out this book to give it a try. The ingredient list was pretty much what I was expecting except that it called for a half cup of vegetable shortening – which I don’t usually keep on hand and didn’t want to buy just for these cookies. What I did have in the pantry was a jar of coconut oil so I substituted it with a 1:1 ratio. It ended up giving the cookies a subtle coconut flavor, but I thought it was quite a nice addition. After baking these cookies I’ll probably give another recipe from this book a try since the one I tested was easy and successful.

chocolate chip cookies

(Disclosure: The cookbook link in this post is an affiliate link and if you happen to make a purchase via the link I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

Meatloaf Cupcakes

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Jan 062014


meatloaf cupcakes

My daughter has been wanting to make meatloaf cupcakes for awhile now, ever since we saw a picture of them somewhere (probably on Pinterest, right?). Whenever my kids make a dinner request that isn’t complete junk food I try to accommodate them so last night we made up a batch. Now, I didn’t go all out with piping on the mashed potatoes a la frosting on top (and I think while that would add to the presentation it seems more appealing to eat the potatoes on the side). There are some changes I might make next time to make them a little more cupcake-like – a more domed-top, and maybe trying to find a way to get the sides a bit more browned/less steamed, but it was a good dinner and it’s nice to have little pre-portioned serving sizes.

They were easy to make – almost as simple as a regular loaf. I used my go-to meatloaf recipe from The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated – of course as always with a few changes. I had to use beef only instead of a meat mix because the local butcher (which sells an incredible meatloaf mix) was totally crazy this weekend and I walked out without getting anything. Then instead of forming one big loaf I just rolled the mixture into balls and put them into muffin tins. I used metal tins and didn’t prepare them at all (no greasing, etc) and I didn’t have any problems with the cupcakes sticking to the sides or bottoms. One regular meatloaf recipe yielded 11 regular sized cupcakes (and it doesn’t need to be exact – you could end up with 10 bigger cupcakes or 12 smaller ones). If you give this a try, do make sure to put the muffin tins on a cookie sheet in the oven to catch any overflowing fat.

Introducing Pisco!

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Jan 022014

pisco bed

I just realized that I’ve not yet introduced you all to the new guy in my life – Pisco the puppy! He’s a German Wirehaired Pointer, born on a farm in Eastern Washington. We got Pisco when he was just a 9 week old bundle of fluff, and now he’s a tall, skinny 6 month old. He’s a big part of the reason I didn’t post much at the end of last year; between him and the four-year-old (and the two of them together) I just didn’t have a lot of quiet time for making things, much less writing about them. Now that he’s a bit older and more calm I’m hoping to get some time to myself again.

pisco sitting

Even though he’s been keeping me busy here at home we all love him and he’s the kids’ best buddy. He’s a total lap dog who’s snuggled up with them right now watching a show, and once they’re in bed he’ll come snuggle with one of us.

pisco closeup 2

He loves to get into things he shouldn’t (sleeping on the warm laundry pile is a favorite no-no) but with that face we can’t get too angry.

 pisco laundry

I mean, look at that.  He could get away with murder.

pisco closeup.jpg

He’s smart as a whip, which is awesome except when its not. We taught him to ring a bell to go outside in about 3 days – he taught himself to open our bedroom door by jumping up and turning the handle in about 30 minutes. He learned to sit right away, but he also learned to identify an unsecured roll of toilet paper in under 15 seconds. He’s great fun though!

Gearing Up For Christmas

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Dec 032013

Wow, the Christmas season is upon us again – I can’t believe another year is almost over!

We worked hard this weekend to get the Christmas decorations up and we’re almost done; of course NONE of the outdoor light strings worked out of the box this year so I still have to get those up but otherwise we’re set.

We started our advent calendar on Sunday – we made one a few years ago using assorted tea and candy tins and it attaches to our fridge with magnets.

advent magnet cans

I fill it with a mix of candy, little gifts and notes about any fun Christmas experiences we have planned for that day. I also include a few larger gifts in the advent (holiday pajamas, a holiday movie, a new book) which they find via scavenger hunt clues.  The kids absolutely love the clues, but by the end of the month it does get hard to think of good hiding spots – plus I didn’t do myself any favors by starting with rhyming clues, so it’s expected now.

advent calendar magnets

I’m not sure what homemade gifts I’ll do this year but I usually like to do at least something little for people so I’ve got to get on it. Are you making any gifts this year?