Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Night: Friends And Family Edition

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One night of the year we can become kids again, dress up and enjoy a night of being a candy collecting 10 year old. Well, not exactly, but pretty close. Fortunately, Evie is pretty creative about nights like Halloween and she had a plan. Our family would go as the characters from Little Red Riding Hood. This included herself as the Wolf, Mama as Red and me as Grandma. Yes, that’s me being Grandma up there…

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Our night stated off with dinner at our friends. We met up with more friends and ended up with three littles ready to get their candy collecting on. We had the Zombie/Vampire thing going. Our wolf thing was also on. Then we had one of the best Anna of Arendales that I have ever seen. Well played guys!

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The darkness settled in and we were off and running. The first house went off without a hitch with all the girls figuring out the system pretty quickly. It was Jozy’s first Halloween night, so it was a bit of a learning curve for the oldest in the group, but she had it down in no time. We then moved around the neighborhood at a good clip trying to beat thee weather.

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Some of the houses really did Halloween up. This one felt more like Christmas than Halloween, although the creepy blow-ups were not exactly Santa and his reindeer. Still the kids loved it and it is definitely on the list for next year.

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Around the corner, there were more houses done up with the front yard decor. This house had an amazing ‘graveyard’ scene going complete with Slash from Guns N Roses and a decapitating skeleton. It doesn’t get much better than a skeleton holding a severed head on Halloween does it?

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Overall, the night was amazing. We spent a good evening with great friends and the kids had a blast together. The night ended with tons of candy, so the last kids to come to the door got a nice surprise – an entire bag full of candy – and then some. Hopefully we can do it all again next year, but the question will be, what should we do for our costumes?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our Last Visit To An Old Favorite Pumpkin Patch

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One of our yearly traditions is to visit the Marysville Rotary Club’s Children’s Literacy pumpkin patch every year. It was where we purchased all the pumpkins for our wedding d├ęcor, where we took Evie since she was around and was just a fun place to go without having to spend a fortune for some fall fun. Unfortunately, when we arrived this weekend, we found out it might be our last time for this great place as the host facility, The Plant Farm, is closing.

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The MRC does such an amazing job every year setting up the bouncy houses, hay rides, the little train, the petting zoo and even just having the best pumpkins placed out in the field. Then you add in the fact that they have a great little concessions area, amazingly low prices, some of the friendliest people around to help you and you can’t help but want to go. Of course, then the best part about everything, they donate the profits to help kids.

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That’s right, this little gem of a place, where you ride the MRC train around the fields donates the cash they make to children’s literacy in the Arlington and Marysville area. Books, tutors and anything else that kids need to read are provided by this program and it is simply amazing that these folks keep it up year after year.

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Evie has been coming here with us for 5 years now. In the 8+ years that the wifey and I have been together, I think we’ve missed it once, but I’m not sure on that one. We’ve taken friends’ children with us to The Plant Farm and even jammed a few friends in to the car to get them there as well. It’s the family tradition.

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So, before all the little 2 for a $1 pumpkins are gone, and The Plant Farm is closed for good, take the family up I-5 to exit 206 and head west. Turn in and go past the crazy shopping area and visit the little pumpkin patch on the side of the freeway. Encourage them to find a new home and let them know what they do is amazing. It’s time for them to get a new home for next year and the best way to encourage that is to visit them right now.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Help Me Out By Shopping My Amazon Store!

Hey blog-following friends!

If you are someone that shops Amazon regularly, would you do me a favor? They have an affiliate program that pays me a referral on every sale that I make (about 2-4%) and the only thing that someone has to do is shop through my link. You are still ordering from Amazon and you still have access to all the same items you would with the same prices as usual. The only difference is that it tracks through my link instead of just going to them.

All you need to do is shop via this link instead of the usual Amazon on you have bookmarked:

http://www.amazon.com/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=myli0a6-20&linkId=NTZNHENCAL7WBGKW

So, get ready for that holiday shopping season, bookmark my Amazon page and help me get my online store growing!

PS - Share the link with your friends too! The more the merrier!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It’s Been A While…

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So 2014 is so almost done, or at least summer is. I’ll be doing some make up posts that I should have made here in a bit, but for now, I wanted to share a bit of the first week of September with everyone. First up, there have been two device changes in the last few months for me. In May, I took a trip back to Android and the HTC One M7. After falling in love again with HTC’s gorgeous hardware, at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive a brand spanking new HTC One M8 for Windows.  So keep that in mind when you start viewing the posts from those time frames.

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The end of summer is usually started with the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe. We’ve been with Evie every year since she was itty bitty, but this was the first year she was tall enough to ride almost every ride in the place, by herself. After a few minor freak-outs on my part, I settled in and enjoyed the fact that she was able to ride the rides and have a blast doing it.

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Moving backwards to the middle of August, and my birthday, we took a family adventure to the Experience Music Project in downtown Seattle. The exhibits they had for the weekend were about Jimi Hendrix’s London trip and the history of Punk/Grunge music. Both were pretty cool, but the downstairs ‘fantasy’ exhibit was even more fun.

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The weeks before that were met with one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. We decided early in the year that our summer vacation would be spent taking a road trip to California to see the Redwoods and then a few days spent relaxing at the Oregon Coast. It was one of the most awesome times I have had on vacation and I can’t wait to take another road trip like that in the near future.

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Evie turned 5 in July. I can’t believe how fast she has grown up. She’s already starting Kindergarten and loving it. I can’t wait to see how bold she becomes as she gets used to things like sharing and reading. It’s so amazing to see her grow. I just hope she doesn’t grow up too fast.

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We spent the 4th of July in Bellevue at their Family 4th Event. Even with the weather not completely cooperating, the day was fun.

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We spent Ara’s birthday on a road trip to places where we will cross of the list for a while, but it ended up with gorgeous night at Lake Tye to finish out the day.

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In June, Evie completed her 3rd ballet recital. This was for her combo, ballet and jazz dancing class. She has come so far in the program and was actually picked to perform with the Petite Elite team this year, but we decided that it wasn’t the right time with so many new adventures to be had in 2015. 

That brings us back to Father’s Day, which was the last post that I had in the books here. I’ll update more on the individual adventures soon, but for now, I’ll sign off and get back to life.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Day On The Rails…

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On another gorgeous Sunday, we decided to take the car on another practice trip for the big road trip coming up at the end of July. We didn’t have a particular destination this time, so we just hopped on Highway 2 and started heading east. As we drove, we passed the small towns of Sultan and Gold Bar before ending up in the little town of Index for a quick snack stop. After checking out the little town, which is obviously a favorite for the outdoors-type (think rafting, fishing and hiking,) we moved onward to the east to find our next stop.

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After cruising through Index, we came up on Skykomish, and the Great Northern Railroad Museum. This once thriving railroad town is now a shell of what it once was. That said, the people of Skykomish are doing a magnificent job of bringing people back to their little town. The defunct rail station is now a museum. They run small model trains, and when I say small, I mean big enough for people to ride on, but not be in. They have a great candy store, a few places to grab lunch and some of the most picturesque views around.

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Of course, even with all the amazing photo opportunities around Skykomish, the biggest attraction for the little ones is the train museum. Today, we were even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the steam engine they had in for a visit. We had the chance to ride the diesel/electric that had been up previously, but never the steam engine. Of course, there’s something special about this little guy…

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It’s only about 6 feet long. Yes, this is a real steam engine with a ton of power. It’s also baby sized. The engine runs off a small, yet very hot fire, just like a real steam engine would. I tried to sneak around back while he was stoking the fire for an image, but there was just no real chance to get in tight to see it.

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As you can see in the image above, the tiny locomotive really is a miniature version of a real steam powered train. The part I found amazing about it was the amount of force it generated. The straight away speeds and the acceleration was almost double that of the other engine.

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We finished up at the Rail Road Museum with another ride and decided it was a good time to head where ever we were heading. What ensued was a road trip of epic food, gorgeous weather, and strangely stopped traffic…. Of course, our ultimate destination was the candy shop just shy of Leavenworth, so we just powered through the short jaunt over and stopped in for some taffy and general fun. After that, it was time for some lunch, so we back tracked to the 59er Diner.

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About the time we reached the 59er Diner, it was definitely lunch time. They advertised their shakes on the wall, so of course I had to snag one. I also grabbed their twist on the Philly Cheesesteak. I’ll start with this – yes, the shakes are worth the wait. Next up, the food was amazingly delicious and not what I expected from a road side diner in the middle of virtually no where. After watching the kiddo hula-hoop for a bit, jamming out to the oldies on their sound system and enjoying a perfect afternoon in the North West sun, we realized how late it had become and we started for home.

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The drive was insanely gorgeous. The majestic trees, rapid filled river and sunshine just made for a perfect scenic drive. I can see why so many trip guides recommend this drive to people from out of state. Then, just about back to Index is where the traffic got nasty. With a need for a potty break, we pulled in to another popular roadside attraction – Zeke’s Drive-In.

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Zeke’s was a rather quick stop for us before getting back on the road and heading back to Monroe, but they had some good shakes – I splurged on the Green River one. Not as good as the 59er Diner, but pretty decent none the less. After a cool down and a snack, we jumped back in the car to wait out the traffic mess that was headed west back to our home. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a much better road trip.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Our Father’s Day Weekend Road Trip: Day 2

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Day two of our little adventure was hardly as exciting as day one. First off, we were all pretty tired from all the running around on day one. Second, there is only so much one can see while driving. Of course, that didn’t stop us from getting off the highway in a few spots to check out the local sights. One such stop was Greenbank Farm.

We actually stopped to check out the cheese shop, but since it was closed, we ventured in to a few of the art galleries and the little restaurant before jumping back on the road. From there, Ara only had one thing on her mind – Coffee in Langley and ice cream for the kids.

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Our first stop after arriving in Langley was Sweet Mona’s Chocolate Boutique. They have amazing gelato and truffles. It’s a bit pricey, but a little bit goes a long way.

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We sat down to enjoy a bit of a frozen treat for the kids, and a free Father’s Day truffle for me. Then it was a quick walk up the road to hit Useless Bay Coffee for that cup that dreams are made of.

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Yes, here is the perfect cup of coffee. Twice we have been there and twice they have delivered on every food and coffee dream we have had. After filling up the kids on quesedillas and fries, along with ourselves on that perfect cup of coffee, we headed down to Clinton to catch the ferry back to Mukilteo and finish the last leg of our weekend.

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The ferry line looked quite a bit worse than it was. We actually stopped at the 90 minute wait marker first, but then rolled forward quickly. We only waited about an hour total for the boat, which for a holiday weekend was pretty good. Once on board, the girls wanted to see the boat, for about 5 minutes before they  got cold and became too windy for them.

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Even with the cold and wind, I did manage to demand a ‘groupie’ with them before we went inside and got back in the car for the drive home. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend and a great practice trip for the Redwoods this summer! Scary to think that we are only 6 weeks away from hitting the road for that trip!

Our Father’s Day Weekend Road Trip: Day 1

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With our new car ready to take a few trips this summer, we decided that Father’s Day weekend would be a good test drive to see how well the kiddo could handle life in the new car – and how much we could fit in the trunk. We were lucky enough to have a second little guest along for this ride, so we kept it a bit on the shorter side – Anacortes, Oak Harbor and back home. A two day, one night adventure to Whidbey Island.

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Our first stop in Anacortes was Guemes Island. It’s a smaller island about a 5 minute “ferry” ride from the town. We managed to time things about as perfect as possible, which meant we were on the first boat over and had almost no wait to get on. After we arrived, on the island, we stopped at the General Store, which was really nothing more than a 7-11 with a restaurant attached to it.

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After settling in, we checked out the menu. It was pricey, but the food was good and the place was warm and dry. That was about all we needed before setting out on our little island adventure.

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A quick drive around the island (it’s only about 10 miles to do the entire loop) revealed some serious elevation changes and some gorgeous scenery.

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Even the wildlife was well represented on our little voyage, although I still don’t know how they got to the island to start with? The mystery’s never end at Guemes Island.

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After the drive around the island, we stopped at the beach near the ferry dock to see the sights there. The kids took the time to write their names in the sand, run wild and get the boogie on before we jumped back in the car again.

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Another great thing about the beach, especially on a day where the tide was at record lows, was seeing things like the purple starfish on the beach. The kids were able to get up close and personal with them and see quite a few things that normally would have been underwater.

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From there, we caught the ferry back across and headed down Highway 20 to Deception Pass. Deception Pass has an amazing park and bridge setup. I totally recommend the Highway 20 drive for anyone coming to the northwest, and Deception Pass is one of the amazing photo opportunities on the route.

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After a quick run through the woods, we were ready to head to our final destination – Oak Harbor. A word to the wise as far as the woods go, the trails in the park are pretty steep, so if you aren’t a hiker, take it slow.

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We arrived in Oak Harbor about 30 minutes later and checked right in to our hotel. We decided on the Best Western Harbor Plaza due to the fact that it had a pool and a free hot breakfast. About the only bummer deal on the accommodations was that the pool was not heated and since it was so cool the day of our trip, it really wasn’t usable. Other than that, the staff was amazing, the rooms were nice and they had kid friendly services like a DVD lending library and cookies in the evening.

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As the evening settled in, we decided we were hungry enough to head out for some food. Using our combined searching powers, we discovered that the Chinese restaurant in the parking lot was one of the three highest rated places in town, so we went to check it out. We were not disappointed. China City delivered an amazing dinner that even the kids devoured. After dinner was when the real treat happened though…

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We found a DRIVE IN! Now for those of you that don’t know me, the Drive In is where I used to spend many a night catching a double feature in Everett. Even dating back to elementary school, the Valley 6 was a regular hangout for us. I absolutely love the Drive In and still can’t believe they are all gone. Fortunately, the Blue Fox in Oak Harbor ponied up the cash to switch to a digital projection system instead of shutting their doors and I couldn’t have been happier.

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The Blue Fox takes the Drive In experience to an all new level from the Drive In’s in my past. They are equipped with a full video arcade – though many of the games were broken or had some kind of issues – and a GoKart track. They also have very reasonably priced concessions and good deals for locals to get refills on soda and party packages.

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It was just our luck that How To Train Your Dragon 2 was playing for the kiddos. It was about the most perfect ending to a great day that I could have hoped for. The night ended with two very tired girls and two very happy adults making the 10 minute drive back to the hotel and passing out. It was a good day.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Burger Time: Our First Visit To Five Guys Burgers And Fries

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After hearing all the hubbub of Carl’s Jr. and Sonic only to have them be just another fast food joint with decent fries, I didn’t get my hopes up too much for the latest conquest of burgerdom – Five Guys Burgers and Fries. There was a small line when we arrived at the new location they just built in Monroe, but it wasn’t bad for a rainy, opening weekend night at all. Of course, even if the line had been huge, it wouldn’t have mattered as they made my day by having shelled peanuts available while you waited for your food. Glancing up at the menu, I saw the model that more burger joints should follow, buy the burger for a higher price and we will put whatever you want on it for no charge. Simple, clean and easy. I like menus like this. I ordered up a double patty, bacon cheeseburger with my smattering of toppings. A little hot sauce, jalapenos, some barbeque sauce and a bit of mayo to cool the whole thing off. Now we wait.

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The wait wasn’t all that bad as the line apparently decided to show up about 5 minutes after we ordered. Even still, food was coming out of there quick. We sat down and ate some peanuts and waited. The restaurant itself was very bright and friendly. The cleaning crew was doing a great job bussing tables and keeping the floor clean. Pretty much everything at Five Guys was red and white, which if you like bright read and white buildings, you have found your new hangout. To me, it seemed like an attempt at bringing Johnny Rocket’s back to life without the singing waiters and smiley faced ketchup plates. The place was loud, but not quite Red Robin loud as you could still carry on a conversation over the top of the other patrons and the music that was playing.

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Finally, the food arrived, and I don’t say finally because it took so long, but rather I am sitting in the corner of the place just drooling over the smells. The aroma of burgers on the grill and the tons of different sauces drifting through the air made the 5 minutes seem like 5 days, especially to the hungry ones in the room. When the food was called, a big brown paper bag was given to us and we opened it up to find two “small” burgers, a hot dog and their “large” fries. Beginning with the fries first, this large fry was more like 2 or 3 large fries elsewhere. There were three of us working on it, but we still didn’t make it through it all. Then the split grilled hotdog as perfectly done. Split grilling always tastes so good, but this one was just delicious even plain. Even the kiddo ate 3/4’s of the full size hot dog.

Then we get to the burger that I ordered. Opening up the foil revealed a gorgeous two patty burger, medium well done, with two pieces of American cheese, a layer of bacon and some of the most delicious sauces I have ever tried. There was the BBQ sauce that strangely resembled Sweet Baby Ray’s, but with a bit more kick. There was also the hot sauce which vaguely reminded me of Franks, without as much kick. Then the fresh cut, non-cooked jalapenos and a light coating of mayo came in on the bottom bun to tie it all together. The burger was fantastic and well worth the $5.69 that it cost.

As a family, we spent around $30 for dinner at Five Guys. This makes it about on par with a trip to Denny’s and a bit cheaper than a burger place like Red Robin or Blazing Onion. Of course, you have some additional options at those places, so I’m not sure what to compare Five Guys to other than Burger Madness here in Monroe. Given the quality of the burger, the amazing fries and the customization options for your burgers, I don’t see how Madness can even attempt to keep up. In fact, the burgers at Five Guys were so much better than the char-grilled ones from Madness, I feel pretty comfy in saying that we probably won’t be back there anytime soon.

Overall, Five Guys Burgers and Fries definitely did the job well and crafted us a few good burgers for our first experience. We will see how it goes next time we visit, which given our first trip in, should be rather soon.