Category: Adventures in Life

Woodland Park Zoo

One of my fondest memories as a kid was going to the Woodland Park Zoo with my grandparents. When my grandson was born, I put taking him to the zoo on my goals list. 

It didn’t work out for summer time, but we finally had a clear Saturday in late October and we took advantage of it. Here’s our iteneria for uor trip with a few tips. 

  • Our grandson spent the night so we could make an early start. We timed it perfectly, arriving at the zoo just as it opened. The weather cooperated with no rain but very overcast to keep the crowds at bay. 
  • We stocked up a cooler with snacks. Next time, we would definitely bring more food. We banked on getting lunch at one of the restaurants. That woked but I think our grandson would have been happier with his favorites from home. 
  • The best choice we made was borrowing a wagon from a friend. This worked great. Throughout most of the day, our little trooper pulled it himself through the park so it worked to keep him close. We also loaded it with our backpacks, cooler and eventually our grandson tired enough to sit in it. 
  • We did sort of a random route through the park. Next time we would maybe study the map a bit more and be sure to hit everything we wanted. Overall, not a tragedy though as we made it to the penguins, sea otters and bears. 

Building Relationships

“Do what you can to show you care about other people, and you will make our world a better place.” – Rosalynn Carter

When I think about my purpose, relationships are the top of the list. Material objects fade. I want to concentrate my time and energy on the family, friends and strangers that touch my life. 

Here’s a few ways I stay connected and build those relationships. 

1. Reach out

A classmate of mine passed away a few years ago. I remember it clearly because he lived alone and his body was discovered several days after he died. I don’t want that to be my obituary. 

I know that is up to me though. Each day, I have reminders on my phone to reach out to specific friends. When I first started doing this I felt like I was cheating, as if there was a secret guidebook stating I needed to remember without assistance or it didn’t count. 

Now I believe reaching out is the priority and if there is a way I can make that easier it just means I can reach out to more people. 

Are you a texter? Send a quick text. Prefer phone calls? Set aside time to do some chatting. Like writing letters? Stock up on greeting cards on the dollar store. 

2. Track information

Not only do I set reminders but I track information. Did my friend mention her grandson’s birthday? Put it on my calendar. Does my nephew have a favorite chocolate? Add it to his contact information. I also do my best to track the last time I sent a card or shared a photo. 

3. Make “quality” time

There is not enough time in the day to reach out to every single person so when I do spend time with someone I try to make it count. For example, my niece is always eager to hang out. I could have her over once a week at least but it would be boring trips to my house and I would be tired from work and unmotivated to really interact. We would probably just watch a movie and go to bed. So instead, I wait and make sleepovers an event. We go for a walk, make dinner together and play a game. I’m prepared and have energy. And hopefully, she will treasure it. 

4. Choose to

In order to build relationships, you must make a choice that it is important. If your priority is your career, than that is what you are going to build. Take a minute to inventory your time. Where ddi you spend it this week? Who did you spend time with? How did you log your hours? Be intentional about the way you invest your time. 

5. Listen

Anytime you are with someone, listen to them. Set aside distractions. Put away the cell phone. Listen to their words. Mimic their movements. Repeat back what they say. All of the active listening techniques. Dont build relationships just because. Build relationships because people are creative and fascinating. You’ll be blessed. 

Weekend Bike Getaway

My husband and I added electric bikes to our transportation fleet earlier this year. So with the weather being cooperative, we decided to do a bicycle getaway weekend. After some frantic last-minute searching, Port Townsend won our reservation based on proximity to our place – not too close but not too far, connection to a highly-recommended bike trail and the availability of a campsite at the nearby state park.  

Here’s a quick rundown with a few dos and don’ts for planning your trip to the Key City. 


Fort Warden is a beautiful park. The bathrooms were clean and in excellent condition. Be sure to tour the lighthouse and learn from the friendly docents about the light which guided sailors for more than 100 years. The lightkeeper’s former quarters are available to rent and tops our list for a future Port Townsend trip. 


Because this was a last-minute trip, the only available spot was in the Beach Loop. Be prepared if you make a reservation in this area, with a cinder block wall to use as a windbreak. When the campsites aren’t reserved, I’m fairly certain they use the area to test wind resistance for airplanes. 


The Larry Scott Memorial Trail is a winding trek that runs for about 7.5 miles from just outside Port Townsend. I am not an avid bicyclist, but this was the first ride where I was actually disappointed to see the mile markers countdown back to the trailhead. There is definitely some elevation gain, so I was grateful for that electric assist. 


The trailhead is a little innocuous. Don’t be put off.. Push through. The ride is worth it. 


Because of the hurricane-level wind at our campsite, we headed into town to explore Water Street. Walking downtown was delightful. Our favorite finds this visit: ​an Alaska book for my grandson (William James Bookseller), bike-friendly directions to our campsite (Broken Spoke bike shop), a Swiss orange dark chocolate chip waffle cone (Elevated Ice Cream), chicken avocado bacon melt (Sirens Pub) and endless mimosas (Quench Waterfront Kitchen & Bar).


Reservations for the ferry will save you time and anxiety. Check out the website and confirm your spot. After almost 2.5 hours of waiting, we just barely made it on the ferry for our ride to Port Townsend. So many miles of missed cycling adventures. Sigh. 

Winning Weekend

It’s a Monday morning, and I just got back from a two-night trip. It went surprisingly well. I felt like I was prepared for what I needed to do and had the items packed that I needed. Wow! I better document this for posterity. So here you go. My rundown of a successful weekend getaway for my future benefit and your amusement. 


Win –  I actually started contemplating what to pack before my trip this time. Now don’t go crazy with that. I didn’t actually pack. This was just mental contemplation of the weekend and what I may or may not need. Sort of like Olympic athletes who visualize winning the race or successfully jumping over a hurdle the height of a skyscraper. That was me. I clearly saw a vision of a well-packed bag by somewhere around mid-day Thursday. 

Win – I also took the step Thursday to buy a handful of road trip snacks. I even included some of our snack items in my Sunday grocery shopping. (Should I award myself a bonus point for that? 

Loss – As you may know from my other posts, I have discovered a successful snack bag includes items that I like but that are considered disgusting by my traveling companions to avoid sharing. So this was a fail for my weekend. I did not purchase any black licorice, so I did have to share my chocolate-covered almonds. 

Half-win – I got all of the clothes I needed for the weekend washed. Docking half a point because I did fall asleep before they were dry. 


Win – Packed my bag with the clothes from the dryer. Successfully got everything I anticipated needing into my duffle bag without having to do any strength-training exercises to get it zipped shut. I even tossed an extra outfit into the mix so that I’d have an option that I knew I wouldn’t wear for Sunday morning. I only had to take everything out once and repack it due to my lack of folding ability. 

Win – We left the house at our scheduled time, and here’s the real win – we were still talking to each other. Leaving for a trip can be stressful for my marriage. Surprisingly (if you are a newlywed or have never dated), my husband and I don’t really have the same priorities before we leave home. 

Win – I got to the hotel and actually hung up some of my clothes so they wouldn’t be quite as wrinkled on Saturday and Sunday. This is something I do mainly because it makes me feel like I made an effort without having to iron. 

Win – I remembered my toiletry bag, so I had all the essentials. Now that I finally have two of everything and just leave what I need in my travel bag, this has been less of a problem. 

Win – Charging cords for all of my devices were in my duffle bag. It was a beautiful sight. Before I climbed into bed, there was a line of cell phone, laptop, etc all happily gaining energy with cords that I brought myself.  


Win – The outfit I chose for the day matched the weather of our destination. I wasn’t sure this would work out because I really wanted to wear a fall outfit that makes me feel confident, and the calendar says it is early spring. But I made the plunge, and the skies cooperated with some clouds and a nice October-like breeze. 


Win – I got everything back in my duffle bag. It actually zipped even easier, which made me a little hesitant because I thought I might be missing something. 

Win – Despite the zipper situation, I didn’t leave anything in the hotel that I noticed or required a call from the hotel to come back and get. (You know who you are.)

So that’s 9.5 wins + a bonus point and one loss. I’ll call that a winning weekend getaway. 

Avoid the tulips: where to go this weekend

It’s tulip time in my neck of the woods. That means a lot of visitors are headed to the Skagit Valley to view the beautiful fields of color. It’s an incredible sight, and everyone should see it at least once. Some of my favorite pictures of my kids have tulips as a backdrop. 

But if tulips aren’t your thing, you might need something else to do this weekend. Hre are a few options that are a day trip away from the greater Seattle area. 

With all of these destinations, be sure to follow my five rules for a day trip: Pack a snack your copilot doesn’t like so you don’t have to share; plan games for the drive (check out my list of car games here); find a restaurant with interesting architecture; learn a historical fact about the area; and visit the local library. 


Transport yourself to a Bavarian village for the day. There are shops and restaurants aplenty on the main street. The nature trail that parallels the main street down along the river is something I look forward to. Need a longer excursion? Hikes abound in the area.

Guemes Island

This small island is accessible via a ferry from the north end of Anacortes. A quick trip takes you over the channel. Just feet away, you can have lunch at the Guemes Island General Store. They have food, beer, and a great outdoor seating area, perfect for pets or kids. For an adventure after your lunch, take a scenic drive around the island, or if you are feeling athletic, bring a bike or your walking shoes. 

Langley (Washington)

The fastest way from Seattle is a ferry ride to this destination as well, but if you have the time, a scenic drive to this town is possible as well and includes the incredible Deception Pass Bridge. While in Langley, wander the small shops downtown and grab a bite to eat. Take a breather and enjoy the views from a bench along the waterfront trail and spot some wildlife or maybe a Navy jet doing maneuvers. 


Lake Sacajewa Park was the highlight of our trip to this charming town. You could spend the whole day having a picnic here, wandering the 3.5 miles of trail system, kayaking, fishing or playing games in the grass. If you do pull yourself away from the park, visit the historic downtown area. You can download a walking tour map from the city website. The Carnegie library building is a beautiful spot to visit. 


The ocean beaches of Washington are a great place to spend the day, and Aberdeen is a good starting point to find them. The area has seen some hard times since its founding in the late 1800s. Of course, our visit didn’t have to do with the history; my husband wanted to see where Kurt Cobain grew up. Be sure to visit the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, and you can view the house where he grew up. 

Table for Two: Disneyland Tips for the Pair of You

Headed to Disneyland with your partner? Now that my husband and I are empty nesters, we recently headed to the happiest place on Earth – just the two of us and we had a blast. You don’t need a caravan to enjoy the attractions – though I’ll share tips if that is the case in a future post. Here are a few takeaways from our trip as a couple:

Make a list of Must-Do’s

This was an ongoing list for us. We created an initial list before our trip. As we walked through the park, we added to it. It included rides, souvenirs, and edibles. This was sort of our go-to as we planned our day. It made decision-making a lot easier and gave us a sense of accomplishment when we headed home with every item crossed off the list.

Be flexible

Having two people in your group usually made getting seats together on rides simple, but you still had to wait in line. With the Cars ride, we noticed there was a much shorter single-rider line. We also noticed the majority of single riders were in the same car. We risked it, and it worked out great. (We did communicate a meeting place for if we were separated.)

Ask questions

Restaurants were prominent on our list of Must-Dos. While we attempted to get reservations through the Disneyland app a few months before our trip, we hadn’t succeeded. We found by asking the helpful cast members at the actual locations that each restaurant handled walk-ups a little differently. By asking questions, we were able to eat at all of the restaurants on our list during our stay.
We’ve heard Disney has made some changes to this system since our visit, so our takeaway is still the same – ask questions. The cast knows the ins and outs. Trust them!

Share food

For this trip, I really wanted to try a lot of foods. I also wanted to avoid gaining a pants size. Michael and I did lots of snacking and sharing to make this happen. Instead of ordering two full-size meals, we just ordered one meal and two forks. Then later in the day, we would get a single meal or item to share. It worked great.

Nothing is set in stone

With just two adults, we weren’t obligated to eat at traditional times. It was nice to avoid lines by eating lunch at 3 p.m. or dinner at 9 p.m. With just two people voting, it was easier to decide when to stop for a break or a snack and then just make it happen. Super long wait for the Star Wars attraction, switch gears, and head over to Adventureland for a Dole Whip and a Jungle Cruise.


This is a tip for every travel experience. Decide before you go what you will be spending. This isn’t to make your life miserable but to help minimize the decision-making headaches of being a tourist. You already have so many things to decide every day … what to wear, where to eat, when to wake up, when to rest, what ride to go on, and what souvenir to purchase. By having a budget in place, you can make souvenir shopping much less stressful. It will also put you and your traveling partner on the same page so there are no surprise bills when the trip ends.

Less baggage

One of the greatest joys I discovered on this trip was the reduction in accessories that had to be brought. We carried a small backpack with some essentials. The freedom of moving around the park was such a blessing and made the experiences more enjoyable and made the transitions that much smoother.

Car Games

I am a create-a-game person. Time with people for me is more than just being together. I need action, energy, and something to do.

So games are my go-to. You can play a game with a lot of materials or none. You can play with young people, old people, in-between people, or a mixed-bag of people. You can play when you have 10 minutes or 10 hours.

On a side note – my games don’t typically include prizes because I strive to keep games away from being about winning or losing. I tend to focus on goals such as getting to know each other, passing the time, or learning something new vs. crowning a victor. If you can’t avoid a prize, I encourage rewards such as choosing the next song you listen to or being first in line for dinner. Easy awards that don’t require money or materials.

So let’s begin. Here are a few of the games that keep my family and friends on their toes when they ride along with me.


Instead of answering the classic “When will we get there?” question, I make my passengers guess. We all cast votes. Using your navigation app is optional. Sometimes this makes it too easy, but sometimes, it gives a good starting guess, and you never know what will come up along the way to change the destination time.


You can count almost anything on a ride: blue cars, cows, houses with garages, emergency vehicles, road signs, or out-of-state vehicles. Try to gauge what there actually might be a lot of on the ride. This game is a little more discouraging if you are counting Minis and you are in Eastern Washington, for example.

Would You Rather?

This is a simple game. Find an app with questions or have everyone create their own. There are no winners or losers, just a chance to get the conversation going.

 “It’s Yours!”

 I honestly don’t know what the attraction to this game is, but it has kept us busy on numerous road trips. Players simply pick a number. You then count cars (or houses or street signs) that you pass. When it gets to a participant’s number, they claim possession. For example, if I choose the number 4 and the fourth car we pass is a garbage truck, I’m the happy owner of an imaginary garbage truck.

Road Name stories

As you come to a street or road name or even city name, everyone comes up with a theory for why it was named that. Depending on your crowd, you may need to set a time limit for this one. Talkers really love to get going on this and can take advantage of their captive audience. For a bonus, look up the real answer when all the guesses are in to see who came closest. I love hearing the creativity and unusual stories that are generated. 


Let’s keep the stories rolling. For this version, have each person say a single sentence of the story. For an added challenge, you can require a certain keyword or maybe a main character, but I wouldn’t worry much about rules. This one is great fun as you start with a preconceived notion of where the story might go and then are jolted into reality as your nephew turns the whole plot line in a completely different direction. The benefit of this game is not just in the ability to tell a great story succinctly – you only have one sentence – but it also develops flexibility. Participants need to roll with the story and be able to adjust their ideas to whatever turn the narrative takes. 


The most common method for this game is to choose a topic and then think of a word for each letter of the alphabet. Variations abound. Instead of an alphabet, do the letters of your destination or a player’s full name. For topics, try animals, foods, city names, last names, Bible personalities, celebrities, cartoon characters, places-that-don’t-exist-yet, first names for a science fiction novel, or annoying habits. Need to kill more time? Have each player recite the answers from the previous players. This is one versatile game. 


License plates were the thing to search for when I was younger. Depending on your route, this may or may not be an option. There are lots of variations, though. You can search for the letters of the alphabet. You can search for items that begin with the letters of your name. For example, I would look for a Mini Cooper, ice cream shop, lumber yard, lawn, irritated driver, sign, signal light, and an animal. You could also search for a number of items – one passenger, two trucks, three highway signs, etc. Or search by colors of the rainbow – something red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and indigo. 

Twenty or So Questions 

Choose something and then give your carmates a chance to guess by asking you questions. This is great with just the classic rules. I don’t like to count the questions, so we just play until an answer is found or everyone gives up. Another way to do questions is to ask them about each other. You can find conversation cards online or make up your own to fit your audience. Be thoughtful. What would you like to learn about the people you are with? What do you want them to learn about each other? Cater your questions to match your goal. 


If you have paper, writing utensils, and smoothish roads, try this twist on the telephone game. Take a piece of paper, write a word on it, fold it in half, and pass it to the next player. This player looks at your word, draws it, and then folds it again before passing it to player 3. Player 3 only looks at the drawing and writes what she thinks the word is. Play continues until a player is unable to fold the paper, and you see if the last entry is anywhere close to the first entry. 

Quiet Game

Had enough of games? Need a break? The Quiet Game is here for you. Savor some moments of peace with this jewel. You can set a timer, or my preferred method is to alternate miles. First mile, no talking; second mile, you can talk; third mile, no talking. Be sure to set your ground rules early, so you don’t lose the game by having to explain why Player 4 was disqualified. Some ground rules to consider – Can I pinch another player? Does laughing count as talking? Can I fall asleep? There’s a lot to consider. 

Send me your thoughts and reviews. What do you play in the car to help the miles tick by? 

Who’s ready for a road trip? I’m ready to get out there and play some road games. I just need somewhere to go. 

Snow Day Ideas

What do you do when the snow falls and getting around is a little harder to do? I realized today that I didn’t have a strong list of ideas so I’m prepping for my next snow day. 

Here’s 10 ideas for an unexpected day off:

  1. Organize – I’m a minimalist and I still have the stacks of photos and papers that collect in piles in my closet. Inside days are a great time to spread everything out and make some sense of the chaos. Be brutal. What do you actually need to keep and what is just taking up space? 
  2. Walk – Get outside and experience the beauty of the snow. Take some pictures and just savor God’s creation. It is also a good time to test out your cold weather gear and see if anything needs updated.
  3. Eliminate – My husband works in IT and he is legendary for his slimmed down inbox. Mine not so much. I’m constantly getting warnings from Google that I have exceeded or I’m about to exceed my storage space. Take a minute and go through your emails and purge away. And when the emails are sorted, move on to files, photos and apps. 
  4. Dust – Maybe the chandelier, the ceiling fans or the knicknacks on your shelves. I’m sure there are a few things that get missed in the every day cleaning. Take a minute to spruce up the place and let the dust mites find a new home. 
  5. Clean – And if you are still inspired after all that dusting, keep it going by cleaning some of those spaces you don’t typically get to. Have you pulled out your dryer or refrigerator lately? Maybe under the bed or the window tracks need some TLC. This extra time could be a great opportunity to make even the dimly lit areas of your home sparkle. 
  6. Write – Letter writing is a great way to spend an indoor day. Send off some overdue thank you cards or just encouraging notes to someone you haven’t seen for awhile. Not sure who to write to? Scroll your social media thread. Text five of your friends and ask how they are doing. Go through your contact list or your address book. And don’t worry about being fancy. A folded sheet of paper with a Bible verse or piece of poetry will be a pleasant surprise in someone’s mailbox. 
  7. Craft – Finish up one of those projects that has been waiting for some free time. Don’t have a craft ready to go? Gather possible craft materials you already have in the house and then search the internet for ideas. Create a masterpiece for a neighbor or grandparent.
  8. List – It’s time to plan out the rest of your week, month or year. Take some time to list activities you want to accomplish. Plan your meals and make the list of groceries. Plan out your next shopping to buy clothes or home improvement supplies. Have special events coming up? Write out what you need to do to prepare. Make a list of gifts you need to make or buy for the year. 
  9. Color – I have a stack of coloring books and it feels nice to just sit and fill in the space. Let your thoughts wander as you concentrate on making beauty. Staying in the lines is optional. 
  10. Read – Ahhhhh. This is my favorite. Curl up in a comfy chair. Grab a blanket and plow through your next read. In fact, now seems like a good time to do just that. 

Family Time

When my kids were younger finding ways to connect with them was difficult. Here’s a few things we did and we wish we would have done more.

  1. Board games- Be sure to let your kids choose and lead on this. I love word games and strategy games but my kids weren’t into them so I intentionally let them take the lead. I have played more Sorry than I would wish on my worst enemy but some of the best memories with my son are when he sent me home with a dimple and an apology.
  2. Picnics – something about changing the setting of your meals makes it easier to connect and takes away the stress and tension that may be hanging out at your living quarters. When you are sitting in the grass or you have sand at your toes it is harder to get in an argument about a messy room at home. (You can still do it, of course, it is just a little more difficult.)
  3. Video games – I am not a gamer. I just quite get into it. But after I read the book SuperBetter by Jane McDonnell I had a new respect for the digital game world. We spent hours as a family playing different games but we were intentional about the time. I always asked what my kids learned from it and we set time limits; we weren’t playing until all hours of the night or taking fake sick days at work.
  4. Car rides – Studies show that conversations just go better when you are in a car. This is especially true for tough subjects. Neither of you can escape but you aren’t looking right at each other so it is easier to be honest, apparently. For the cost of gas, go for a quick tour of the neighborhood or better yet plan a bit of a getaway. Use the time to bring up some tough topics with a balance of fun times and singing together or telling stories. Look for another post about games to play in the car.
  5. Family Meetings – Don’t be rigid with this. Let it evolve. Try different elements and again, be sure to let your kids be involved. Taking a few minutes each week (ish) to get on the same page can save so much stress. Different agenda items for us were looking at the upcoming calendar; bringing up blessings from the week; complimenting each other; giving menu suggestions; planning family vacations; and chore schedules.

All of these ideas aren’t new and search the web for even more ideas and ways to individualize these. Most importantly reach out to the parents with older children in your life and ask them what they have done or what they would have done differently. There are so many great methods out there. Keep searching until you find the one that is right for you.

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