Friday, December 25, 2015

Our 2015 Christmas Eve Adventures


Well, 2015 is coming to a close, but it can’t end without our usual Christmas week fun and games. Since Evie was born, we haven’t missed out on our little tradition once. It all starts with a trip to Build-A-Bear to get the latest addition to Evie’s family of BAB’s, then we head off to a nice lunch before catching a movie and heading home. Once in a while we throw in some changes to the plan, which is exactly what happened this year.

Our day started with a trip over to Alderwood Mall. We were going to start with the “forced Santa photo” until they told us that they only sold packages starting from $35. We really just wanted on photo for Evie’s album, but that wasn’t going to happen. We decided to blow that off after Evie said she didn’t even want to do it anyways. So off to Build-A-Bear we went.


Evie picked out a pink ‘rockstar’ rabbit for this year’s choice. The rabbit was named Risa, but Evie decided that Kellie fit it better and that was that. She went through the usual filling and stuffing ceremony, brushed her out and created her birth certificate. All in all, it was a good trip in and out as usual.


From there, we hit the Nordstrom’s Cafe for lunch, which was simply amazing. From the crab bisque to the hummus, the food was stunning. Great flavors, great service and the perfect stop for us. Even Evie at all her lunch!

After we finished off lunch, we checked on movie times only to have Evie protest again. Then Ara came up with the idea to hit Snowflake lane, since it was the last night for the celebration. We did a quick stop at Target to grab Evie a sweatshirt and headed south to Bellevue Square.


Snowflake Lane was once again perfect. Though the organizers could have done a much better job at telling people where they could and couldn’t go. We arrived almost a full hour ahead of the parade and got a spot right at the front of the fencing. It was perfect, right next to a drummer with a full view of the street, or so we thought. As the parade time neared, they opened up the street for people to stand in one lane and watch the parade. That took our perfect front row seats back a few notches to say the least, but it was still incredible – and we were in the right place to get ‘snowed’ on this year!


When we finished at Snowflake Lane, it was time to find some dinner. Of course, since we had such a late lunch and Evie actually ate it, she wasn’t hungry until 5 minutes after we left the restaurants that were still open. That didn’t phase the night one bit though as we swung into Haggens and grabbed some super tasty food to bring home to eat while they decorated Santa’s cookies. It was the perfect ending to a great day.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Heart By Heart Comes To Lake Tye


There’s nothing I like more than a nice little concert, except maybe a free nice little concert. Tonight we were lucky enough to have the City of Monroe bring us Heart By Heart at Lake Tye. For those that aren’t aware of who they are, it’s a band made up of some of the original members of the band Heart and a few newbies that completely rock out to the classic rock band’s greatest songs.

You can check out a few of the performances on my YouTube channel, but needless to say, the show was stunning. I will also say that it was really cool to have been on the same stage as 2 members of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Back in 2000, our old band, Opera Angelicus played this exact location during a multi-day Christian music festival. It was pretty cool to think that my drum kit was in the same place as Mike Derosier’s!

Again, there are a few songs on my YouTube channel if you want to check out some of the music from that night, and check out Heart By Heart online and mark the date if they ever make it to your neck of the woods. They really are amazing people that do a great job with the classics.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Disc Golfing With Friends


On a gorgeous Saturday night, we decided it was time to hit the links with some friends for a round of golf. Ok, well it wasn’t really a round of golf, and this place hasn’t been a links course in quite some time, but when you give a group of people some frisbees and some baskets to throw them at, craziness is sure to rear its head.


With about 4 people that had played in the group of 12 – and that’s counting the two kids that were playing along – it was a blast to watch. Some had decent form while others just threw it and hoped for the best. The great part was that Tall Firs Disc Golf Course in Monroe offered the perfect place to introduce everyone to this crazy sport.


The experienced players just had some fun and threw some crazy shots. The inexperienced ones found the beer at the pro shop to be a very delightful way to enjoy the course. Of course, by the second tee, the trees weren’t quite as funny as they were on the first.


It was a great time, even though we finished when it was dark. The kids had a great time and the adults, well, we became kids too, before the round ended. Throwing each other’s discs, sometimes at each other, and just plain old having a great time. It was everything that friends should do, and it was an absolutely great time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Birthday Surprise

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I have to admit, when I put my mind to something, I kind of have to go all in with it. For Ara’s birthday this year, I decided to do just that… She didn’t have a gift list or a trip that she really wanted to make. It was just her usual birthday wish of seeing some fireworks. Normally that means a trip to Bellevue or maybe a weekend getaway to Port Angeles, but this year I decided to throw her a major curve ball.

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I started off the day with nothing special, in fact it was downright funny. No major road trips, fun activities or anything that would make her think we were on an adventure day. It was a nice and simple morning with a few trips around town and then we sunk off to the pet store to look at some fish options. Nothing weird or different. I then took her home so she could go get her nails done with a friend before we went out for the night.

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As she left the house, the plans unfolded as I unpacked the party from the garage (which Evie and I had hidden so well for 48 hours!) One by one the guests showed up as their nail appointment went longer and longer. It was about as perfect as the plan could have gone. After everyone arrived, Ara and Denera finally made it home to one of the biggest surprises that I have ever seen her experience.

It felt great to give someone something that was so special. It was her friends and those she loved gathered in one place, at one time, to celebrate her. I know it surprised the heck out of her, but now, how can I top this next year? I think I’m in trouble now…

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Fourth Recital: Ballet And Acro


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Four years… It doesn’t seem like that much time, but when you think about the fact that someone that is 6 years old has been doing an activity for four of them, it gets to be quite a big number. Yesterday, Evie completed her fourth year of ballet and added a year of Acro to her long list of dancing accomplishments.

The performances were once again amazing to watch, even when timing was a bit off or the group didn’t quite know what to do next. The excitement of seeing Evie and all her friends on stage one more time outweighed any worry about things not going well.

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The Acro routine was definitely the more fun of the two, but there is something about seeing 10 mini-ballerinas on stage that just makes me smile. Even at such young ages, they are starting to show the poise of a ballerina and the strength that goes along with it. I hope that this is just a long line of many more of these performances for Evie and that she continues to grow and love dancing as much as we love watching her dance.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekend Roadtrip To Bayview State Park


It was time for another little roadtrip. This time, since the weather was good, we decided to hit Bayview State Park, near Mount Vernon, WA. This 25 acre camping park is located on Padilla Bay, well north of Seattle. It features nearly 1300 feet of shoreline and camping to fit almost anyone’s needs. The camp area has 46 tent spaces, 29 utility spaces and 4 cabins. Of course, we can’t just drive from Monroe to Mount Vernon without a few stops first.


Our first stop along the way was at the NOAH Center just outside of Stanwood. NOAH is a no kill animal shelter and hospital. We found a few kitty cats that might have needed to come home with us, but we passed since Lu Lu would probably eat it if we did. They were still cuter than all get out and NOAH is an amazing place to get one if you are wanting to add to your family.


From there, it was time to grab some lunch. We stopped off at one of our favorite lunch places along the way. The Skagit River Brewery is always a treat when we can stop by. Their great burgers and of course, the Burrito Bowl, are great options for lunch and if you make it in for dinner, you have to hit either the Bangers and Mash, the Pot Pie or the Shepherds Pie. While you’re there, try the root beer or one of the many local brews they have on tap.


Overall, the day was quite sensational. The weather was good, the beach was clear and the water was really cold! Still made for a great day or sand castle and rock tower building and kite flying though. If you get a chance to head north on I-5, you should definitely make the trip. We loved the drive out.

Links: Bay View State Park, NOAH Center, Skagit River Brewery

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I Have A First Grader!

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I know there’s a few more days left of school, but Evie officially went through her Kindergarten graduation last night. It’s been an amazing year watching her grow, learn and start turning into her own person. There are times where I wonder if we are doing as much as we can for her, but then I realize the truth something my parents said to me, “We can’t make you grow up, we can only help guide you along the way.”

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I hated that answer growing up with two older brothers that were always able to do things before me, but I get it now. She’s the one that has the job of growing up and turning into who she is going to be. We’re just the guard rails (or bumper bowling things) to keep her on the right path. I’m thankful tonight that Ara was able to spend so much time with Evie this year in class and that Evie had such an amazing first teacher. I’m also feeling very blessed that she was able to find a home at her first school and hope she doesn’t have to leave it until she has to.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Kid, The Dancing Queen

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Most of you know that my amazing kid has been dancing for years now. From an almost 2 year old in baby ballet to today, it’s been fun watching her learn and grow. This year, she decided that she was ready to step it up a notch and try out for the Platinum Dance Center Mini Elite Team. We decided that it wouldn’t be too much of a commitment, so we went along with the idea.

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The tryouts were held on a one night basis and all of the potential dancers went through a full audition, including learning choreography and a routine for the parents to see that night. It was a bit intimidating for us as first timers, but a few of the other parents calmed us down pretty quickly. At the end of the night, a stunning team of 8 Mini-Elites was chosen and our kiddo happened to be one of them.

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I’m sure there are going to be many more adventures with competition dancing on the horizon, but for now, our little mini is so happy that we had to have a quesadilla for dinner at our favorite Mexican place downtown, Las Tres Marias, while she showed off her new accolade.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Trip Back In Time: Trains, Lakes And Old Towns

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If you haven’t figured it out yet, taking day long road trips is one of our favorite things to do. We ventured out to Skykomish this weekend to see the Railroad Museum. We love that little roadside town out past everything on Highway 2 east of Monroe. Not only is there some fun stuff for kids, but there are some decent stops along the way and a few different scenic routes to drive home on.

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To start our adventure, we hit the Sultan Bakery for breakfast. It wasn’t the best food on the planet, but the baked goods sure did look nice. I’d recommend hitting there for a cup of coffee and a pastry and moving on for lunch. The breakfasts were decent, but not really worth it, or the wait. There are quite a few other options for fast food along the way, but save room for lunch instead.

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From there, it was a quick drive east to Skykomish to see the trains. The coolest part about this place is the fact that you can ride around on scale models of real trains with the kids. It’s a totally fun time and completely free to visit. There’s also a full museum onsite and knowledgeable volunteers that staff it regularly. The stories you’ll hear are worth the trip alone!

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After a nice trip (or 10) around the rails, we ventured further east to Lake Wenatchee, which is no short haul, but it has a great park to run around at and a gorgeous lake to visit, regardless of the time of year you hit it. During the winter, it’s an empty area where the snow park people visit for lunch or to meet up before heading into the hills. During the summer, it’s a bustling crazy-ville with more people than you know what to do with, but it never seems ‘that busy’.

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We continued the drive east and south and visited the town of Plain, which really is a blink and you’ll miss it type place. Wondering around though, you find some amazing things like this old bridge that is now closed to motor vehicles. That won’t stop you from pulling off the road at the roundabout and walking across it for some gorgeous views though!

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We wrapped up the day with a drive home back on Highway 2. It’s always a blast to see where we end up on our little trips, and this one was no exception.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Break At Cama Beach


Celebrating Evie’s first official Spring Break from school, we ventured out to Cama Beach for a few days to stay on the beach in one of their waterfront cabins. We had checked them out back in February, but actually spending the night there just seemed like such a great idea.


The cabin sleep 3-4 pretty easily, and more can fit if you snag one of the double bunk bed options. We opted for the 2 single beds, which worked fine for us, but families should consider the fact that if you get the higher capacity rooms, you won’t have as much room to breathe if the weather turns. Our little room had plenty of space, and a nice heater to keep us warm on the colder spring night.


Cama Beach has plenty of trees to climb, beaches to walk and hiking paths to explore. There are also volleyball courts, paid showers and a restaurant on site for when you just don’t want to cook in your private kitchen, which is known as a microwave and small fridge.



The day’s were great at Cama. Filled with running around, kite flying, and a new found favorite, Geocaching. The nights were where I really had an amazing time. As darkness fell, the beach turned gorgeous shades of red, orange and blue. And then it was time for some campfires. Cama features burn rings that cabins share, but due to the fact that it was a bit early in the season, we didn’t run into any major issues with people borrowing our heat.


Another remarkable part of Cama was the evenings on the beach. As the stars came out and the temperatures fell, I was able to check out planets, stars and just really enjoy the evenings after Ara and Evie headed inside to warm up. Just a simple cup of coffee and a starry evening does wonders for keeping me happy.

Cama Beach was a great way to spend Spring Break, and it is definitely on the short list of where we will head back to next year. The cabins are comfy enough for colder stays and the the perfect weather we had this time around sure makes me want to try it again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Trip Through The Cascade Mountains

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Normally, this time of year, taking a trip like this requires about the same amount of preparation as a deep sea diving adventure. That being said, normally we wouldn’t even try it. Since we’ve had such a mild winter, and 60 degree temps in February, we figured we would hit the road and do some shooting with the trusty old HTC One M7. This was the first shot I took heading eastbound on Highway 2 out of Monroe.

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There wasn’t much snow to be found anywhere, but I did manage to squeeze some into a front facing camera shot with myself.

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We drifted down the road to Leavenworth and stopped at the 59er Diner for lunch. Frito Pie was on the menu and soon was in our belly. Great place to stop for lunch and an even better place to stop for milkshakes!

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The diner has some oldies on the jukebox, so bring your quarters to fire it up.

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The littlest touches make the 59er special. Like bringing the check on a 45!

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The mountains around Leavenworth were gorgeous. Sunshine and warm temperatures made for a great walk around the town.

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Of course, no stop in Leavenworth is complete without seeing the Santa Store! We even got lucky enough to catch Santa in the air.

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There are quite a few little details around Leavenworth that are worth photographing, so keep your eyes open. These are the street lights near the center of town. Very cute and really pretty under the right conditions!

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We were lucky enough to find this little beauty a block off the main drag. The Gingerbread Factory has some gluten free options and some pretty darn tasty cookies to boot!

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The road headed south over Blewett Pass was just as clear and just as nice. A bit more snow was piled up on the sides of the roads, but nothing like it should have been.

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As we finished up our nice long drive, we almost got to enjoy a double sunset, but we made it over the pass a bit too quickly. Sounds like we will head south west for our next adventure – Poulsbo, WA.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Weekend Road Trip To Birch Bay State Park

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We began our search of summer camping locations early this year as most of the awesome spots tend to book out very early in the year, if not the year before. What we’ve found is quite a few places where we have the camping that we love and a summer beach to hang out at.

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Birch Bay State Park was the third or fourth place on our list due to the fact that it was pretty close to home (about 2 hours away) and it had 75+ spaces available for a stay. There were no cabins like Cama Beach, but it had better beach access than Camano Island State Park. So, it was a bit of a mix of the two.

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The weather at the beach was windy enough to do a bit of kite flying, but not so bad that it was freezing. This shot was actually done while I had the kite tethered about 3 feed from my head and I was trying to shoot it while it was moving all over. It was a challenge, but I like the result, especially with the sun behind the rear of the kite.

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The beach front gave plenty of area to play in the sand, though much of the water line was rock. It appears to be one of the best places for clamming around as there were quite a few people out digging for them in the time we were there.

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The sand didn’t lend itself to making castles, but we did a pretty good job making some driftwood and rock houses to entertain ourselves.

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Off the path away from the beach, there is a small ‘river’ that runs between the campground and the beach. A small bridge allows direct access from the edge of the camping area right over to the recreational area at the bottom of the hill. It’s a short walk to get there and couldn’t be much easier. Overall, Birch Bay is on our short list for summer stops.

We didn’t stay late enough in the day to see the sunset, but we could only imagine how amazing it must be to see it over the water. It brought back memories to our road trip last summer and the gorgeous sunsets we saw on the Oregon coast.

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Overall, we can’t wait to make Birch Bay State Park a stop on our summer road trips again and will probably be booking a camping site here later in the summer!