Julia Turns 2

My baby turned 2 this week and is growing up much faster than I would like (I’m sure every parent thinks that), but it’s amazing to see her develop. Here are some things she’s doing now:

  • She transitioned to the early preschool class at daycare a couple of weeks ago. I dislike the lack of a permanent teacher at the moment (and the resulting absence of many photo updates during the day) but the substitutes are very nice and Julia loves having a bigger class to run around in and more friends to play with.
  • She loves her independence. Some of her favorite words and phrases (other than “Mine” which is #1) are: “My do it,” and “JuJu hold it!”
  • She’s sleeping reasonable well. Yay! She had trouble going to to sleep without being rocked for awhile after we took away the pacifier in January. Finally one night I just couldn’t take the crying for Mommy after I put her down, so I went in and explained that Mommy and Daddy needed to go to sleep by themselves, and she needed to help Elmo (she has this Elmo doll) go to sleep, but that she could read Elmo a book or sing to him. She accepted the logic surprisingly easily and now we put her blanket on and she says something to the effect of “Mommy Daddy sleep self. JuJu sleep self” while she fluffs her pillow.
  • She is so loving and sweet. She gives hugs and kisses to all of her friends at daycare, loves to carry around her Dollar Store dolly in a “baby carrier” made out of one of my scarves (she pats it and gives it kisses on the head – so sweet!) and she yells various iterations of “I loo Mommy! I loo Daddy!” at the top of her lungs, while giving us the sweetest hugs and kisses ever.
  • She has an impressive memory – I told her about the whale watching trip around December when I booked it, and she remembered every time I asked her what we were doing for her birthday and would say “whale birthday.” She also remembers the location of things really well – we walked by the community center where she was taking swimming lessons on a regular day and she pointed out the pool and said “Juju swimming!”

There was an article on Pregnant Chicken (I love having them on my feed even when I’m not pregnant – so funny!) recently that pretty much summed up my feelings about toddler and babyhood. I’m always torn between wanting Julia to stay my tiny, sweet baby (especially that snuggly, sleepy newborn stage, minus the sleepy mom part), feeling excited and proud of all the new things she’s doing, and needing occasional moments to myself to regroup and recharge. Here’s my favorite line from it:

“I want ten more minutes of snuggles, one more whiff of that sleepy-sweaty-toddler smell, the weight of his arms wrapped around me, the honor of being the only thing that lets him release and rest his strong, soft little body.”

Wishing you all the sweet child snuggles you can get and off to sneak in some of my own!


2018 Camping Reservation Time!

We’ve lived in Seattle for over 4 years now and have been admittedly really terrible at taking advantage of the rich camping resources in the Pacific Northwest. I love being organized, but most of my organizational skills (read: energy) go into planning our one major international vacation per year, which has historically left little advance planning time for camping. Combine that with the fact that campgrounds in our area usually book up 6 months in advance and we usually end up sticking around town or taking day trips rather than staying overnight. I also found it overwhelming to think about camping with a baby when Julia was little (all the extra stuff, the distance from a large store to acquire anything we’d missed, etc). We finally made it out with her late summer/early fall last year and she had so much fun. I resolved to do better this year – making myself a list in October/November, setting a calendar reminder, and then booking a few extra spots as they opened. All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.

All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.

2018 Camping List

Moran State Park

We’ve only been to the San Juans once while we’ve lived here. I kept reading about how beautiful the campgrounds are, but it seemed like a waste to just do 1 night after all the effort to get there, so I booked a 3 day weekend and set yet another calendar reminder to pre-book our ferry reservations. We’re tentatively planning to bring our kayak on this trip, since our last San Juan visit included a beautiful short kayak trip.

Fort Worden State Park

Peter’s family had a reunion here several years ago and everyone raved about staying near Port Townsend. We have loved our day trips to the area and I’m looking forward to staying near the beach (we’re in the Upper Forest Campground, though, because I desperately need shade when possible), checking out the fort and the lighthouse, and probably skipping the camp stove in favor of eating out with the money we’ll be saving by camping instead of staying in a hotel. Maybe we’ll check out the Marine Science Center, too.

Sequim Bay State Park

A couple of summers ago, we were lucky enough to have friends who rented a house a block from the beach in Sequim and invited us to join them for a night. We loved the area and I’m really looking forward to going back for a camping trip. This will be another opportunity to strap the kayak to the Subaru since there’s supposed to be a great calm bay. I would also love to check out the lavender fields nearby.

Salt Creek Recreation Area

I read about the tidepools at this spot on the Peninsula and got so excited about taking Julia, especially since she’ll be big enough to actually pet the anenomes gently (I’m thinking of the Finding Dory scene with the touch pool with the crazy kids hands grabbing the poor animals, so we’ll be practicing our gentle touching). I accidentally booked us at Saltwater State Park instead, so I ended up cancelling and rebooking, but was a little late in the game and there weren’t many spots left. I looked up AirBnBs in the area, but even though our relatively last minute (because 4 months out is last minute here) campsite will basically be a square of grass next to a bunch of RVs, it will still be less significantly less expensive than staying indoors and we’ll be close to the tidepools. For one night, I think I’ll be able to live without the giant outdoors that I love about camping.

Beaver Bay Campground

A friend on Facebook posted about these amazing looking Ape Caves in the Mt. St. Helens area and when I kept looking in the vicinity, there’s also a swinging bridge and a boardwalk on the Trail of Two Forests nearby (Julia loves running down a good boardwalk). That sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I found a campground about a 15 minute drive away and booked two nights. We’ve never been to Mt. St. Helens because a 3 hour drive each way seems like too much for a day trip, so it will be great to finally get to explore a bit.

Cougar Rock Campground

We did a (long) day trip down to Mt. Rainier National park last year with my parents to hike the Bench and Snow Lake trail and it was so beautiful with all the wildflowers and mix of open and shady trail areas. I can’t wait to go back in late August to try some new trails and be able to stay overnight so we can get in some extra hiking through the meadows.

2017 Camping List

Penrose Point State Park

We stayed here in late August last year with family (we were in site 75) and had a great time. We brought our kayak and went out in the very calm water where we could actually reach down and touch the sand dollars from the boat. The campsite was a good size and flat so Julia and the cousins could chase each other while the adults enjoyed a beer. We also loved stopping in Gig Harbor on our way home to kayak, where we saw starfish and several harbor seals.

Dosewallips State Park

We came in mid-October and were lucky enough to be here on one of the few sunny weekends that month (we also stopped in Port Gamble on our way over for lunch and loved exploring the town). We stayed in a cabin and were very grateful for the heat and the fact that we didn’t have to bring and pitch a tent, particularly because this area is very popular with the local elk who love to leave their droppings everywhere (no joke, I had to bring a flashlight everywhere at night to avoid stepping in them). It was a really magical weekend – we saw the end of the salmon life cycle in the Dosewallips River and walked out to the shoreline at the end of the afternoon to play in the dirt and on the cool lookout tower. While Julia fell asleep, Peter and I checked out the stars in the meadow, which were particularly bright that night. Julia was up early the next morning, so we walked back to the shore while Peter slept in. We were fortunate to see a herd of elk grazing and paused to take each other in before continuing on and enjoying the cold, crisp morning. It was just one of those moments where you hug your baby close and are so grateful for time with them, especially if it’s outdoors. Our cabin, C6, was a reasonably short walk to the bathroom and was pretty close to the trail towards the shore, so it was a good spot for us.

Wallace Falls State Park

We stayed in a cabin here in 2015 when I was pregnant with Julia and loved the area. It’s pretty residential, so it feels like you’re escaping the city without abandoning all the city comforts (there are power lines over the first part of the trail to the Falls, which was a little surprising when we first visited). The cabins are really nice and have a private little “yard-like” area around them, as well as a really clean restroom and showers. We stayed in cabin C1 on our first trip, and in C2 recently. On our return trip last fall, it was nice to have a space where Julia could run around while we made dinner without worrying that she was going to dart into the road. There was a also a group next to us that seemed to be a fun girls’ trip. In our experience, the groups are really polite and keep the noise to a minimum, so it wasn’t a problem to have them next door with Julia sleeping. Our most favorite part of the whole stay is always eating at Wallace Falls Cafe. The Mi Quang Pho is literally the best comfort food ever – the broth is so flavorful and the pork rib just melts in your mouth. On our last visit, they were unexpectedly closed at night, so we went to the La Hacienda, the Mexican restaurant up the street (also delicious, but just not the same as steaming pho). When we drove by in the morning just to check, they were open and even let us order pho for breakfast since we’d missed out the night before. Julia devoured the broth and the noodles and I might have to order her a bowl of her own next time.

More Resources

Here are some of the websites I consulted when doing my research last year:

Parent Map – Last Minute Camping
Red Tricycle – 7 Tent-Worthy Campsites
Cascadia Kids – Campgrounds with Playgrounds

Are you planning camping trips with your kids this year? Where are your favorite spots to take them?

Seattle Museums with Kids – Washington State History Museum

Okay, so technically this one isn’t in Seattle, but Tacoma’s Washington State History Museum has an amazing Toytopia exhibit going on through June that was definitely worth the drive.

We arrived on a Sunday right as they opened at 10 a.m., so there wasn’t a line at all (they even let us come in the building a bit early since it was sunny, but chilly outside). Make sure to show your AAA card if you have one since you get a 15% discount on up to 2 adult tickets.

Since we didn’t know how long Julia would be interested and Peter had plans around lunch time, we went straight up to the top floor to see Toytopia. If we’d had more time, we would have started with some of the other exhibits, but will have to save most of them for another day.

The front of the exhibit focuses on toys from the 1960s and prior. Julia loved the dollhouse and rocking horse and would definitely have run right in to play with them if the museum hadn’t brilliantly put up a plastic window (it’s like they might know toddlers…)

So focused on the rocking horse

Next, we made it into the area with Lincoln Logs and Legos. I had a serious bout of nostalgia – we didn’t see my great-aunt and uncle often as kids since they lived in metro Chicago, but whenever we visited, I got to play with my second cousins’ old Lincoln Logs in the basement and loved fitting them together. They also just have a certain smell to them that is so reminiscent of childhood to me.


Julia’s favorite part of the whole exhibit was definitely the next room, which housed a giant playhouse/dollhouse and a keyboard you could walk and jump on (I didn’t get any pictures of it because I was too busy jumping and cartwheeling on it myself). She poured me about 45 cups of tea and served me lunch on the keyboard while Peter and I practiced chopsticks and scales on the piano.


Peter ran off to the arcade like a teenager, and Julia and I followed after I managed to rip her away from the dollhouse. They had a rather large variety of arcade games (and a fun theme song guessing game, which Peter scored 100% on) with free play turned on, so all of us had fun playing Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, and an awesome driving game that Julia was obsessed with.

She’s not allowed to be my DD anytime soon, but man she loved this game so much

The last room had a giant Etch A Sketch (that didn’t seem to work), Connect 4, Jenga, and a few other games. Peter and I had fun playing Jenga together while Julia beat herself at Connect 4.


We had a few minutes left before we had to leave, so we also ventured into the Model Railroad exhibit on the same floor (which also gave us views over some of the other exhibits that I’d love to come back to). It’s really very impressive, with at least 4 trains and a detailed layout that looks pretty historically accurate and relevant to the Pacific Northwest’s logging history. Julia loved it because she could count the train cars and name their colors.

We spent about an hour and a half here and could have spent more, but I find it’s always best to leave a little before toddler crazy time (aka nap time). It was Daylight Savings, so Julia should have stayed awake longer, but she was asleep in her car seat about 5 minutes after we left because she’d had so much fun running around and exploring.

I would love to come back to check out the other exhibits at this lovely museum, especially since I didn’t grow up in Washington and learn the history in school. Honestly, the exhibit was so cool that I would even consider coming back just to see it again.

What toys from your childhood do you remember most fondly?


Lisbon With A Toddler – Part 2

This is a continuation of my travelogue about our trip to Lisbon last year. If you missed Part 1, catch up here.

Day 3

My husband grew up sailing regularly with his dad, so whenever possible, I try to get us on some kind of watercraft on vacation. There are a variety of sailing tours you can take in Lisbon, but after a lot of research, I chose Lisbon by Boat because they had great reviews and seemed very family friendly. We made our way out to Belem on Tram 15 from Cais do Sodré and walked to the waterfront, where we met the boat crew (“In a van, down by  the [Tagus] river” – Matt Foley, motivational speaker). While we didn’t specifically request or pay for a private tour, we ended up getting one because it had been a cold and wet February. The weather was perfect and sunny for us, and while my husband was disappointed not to have a stiff breeze (we mostly motored around rather than really sailing), it was a perfect day to be out on the water. We had a captain (whose name I can’t recall) and a “captain’s assistant” named Monica. They were the perfect hosts and it was so easy to chat with them about life in Lisbon, with bits of detail about the monuments we passed along the way. They also treated us to a delicious crisp white wine with cheese and crackers, and Monica sweetly offered to hold Julia while we ate. There’s a small cabin with a restroom below deck where I was able to easily change Julia’s diaper. She could have napped down there as well, but was too excited about being on the boat for that. The 2 hour sail was a good length of time for us – Julia started to get antsy towards the end of the trip, so I was glad I had brought along a few toys for her, and she loved getting to steer the boat.

Listening to our guide tell us about the scenery

Captain Julia taking a turn steering the boat

We felt refreshed and happy after our sail, so while we had initially planned to return Belem later in the trip to see the other sites, we opted to visit Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery while we were in the neighborhood. I honestly could have skipped the Tower. It has a lovely water view, but there isn’t much to see inside and the line to go to the top was quite long and slow moving, so we didn’t go up. The Monastery, on the other hand, was beautiful. The line to get in was on the longer side, but they let us skip towards the front because we had a baby with us (and the line was moving rather quickly anyway). The architecture inside was so ornate, and having a beautiful space for the adults while having room to crawl for Julia was amazing.


We capped off the afternoon with a visit to the Pastéis de Bélem café. We opted to get our pasteis da nata to go rather than wait for a table, and dug in right outside while we waited for our tram back to the city. We ate dinner at Time Out Market (again) and headed back to the apartment for the evening.


Day 4

We woke up relatively early on our 4th day in town for our day trip to Sintra. It was really easy to pop over to the Rossio train station a block or two from our apartment and hop on a train that takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to Sintra. Once there, you walk out of the train station and follow all the other tourists to bus #434 that, for about 5 EUR/person, will take you on a one way circuit to most of the major castles.

Standing around on the Sintra train (before it departed) like a big kid

Not knowing how Julia would do on a long trip, I prioritized the Moorish Castle and the National Palace of Pena. Both palaces are stunningly beautiful for their own reasons. At the Moorish Castle, we walked through a beautiful wooded area to get to a castle that looked like it should have knights walking along the crenelated walls and watching for invaders. We only brought the baby carrier with us, which worked perfectly for climbing what seemed like thousands of stairs to get to all the towers in the castle.


The walk from the Moorish Castle to the Pena Palace isn’t that long, so we opted to take a short hike up the road. We headed straight to the palace interior and loved the walk through the beautiful rooms and peering out at the view of the intensely colored walls from all of the balconies. I lusted over the giant kitchen, which reminded me that I was starving and it was getting to be naptime. We would have like to see more of the gardens, but they appeared to be too far of a walk for a baby that was getting tired.

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The bus ride back to town was not as much fun as the way up – the bus was really crowded and Julia, who was at an age where she hated being in the baby carrier while the wearer was sitting, was really upset that the bus driver sweetly made sure I had a seat (the man he asked to move was none too pleased, either). She screamed for the last 15 minutes of the ride while I desperately tried to get her to take a pacifier or eat. We got a default pass to the front of the exit line and sat on a bench while I fed her and she quickly fell asleep. In true Portuguese fashion, the bus driver came over on his break to make sure everyone was okay. So sweet! We took advantage of the free wifi in town and searched Yelp and TripAdvisor for a restaurant for lunch, landing at Incomum by Luis Santo. We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful weather with wine and lunch while Julia napped in the baby carrier. She woke up half way through the meal to share my risotto and some bread, and everyone always feels better after a nap and a snack.

We took the train back and rested at the apartment before heading out to Cervejaria Ramiro for dinner. The seafood restaurant is really well rated on TripAdvisor and has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show. They don’t take reservations as far as I know, but they have a very efficient waiting system. You go in and get a ticket with a number, which is announced in multiple languages when it’s your turn and displayed on a screen above the door. You can purchase beer to drink while you wait (and try to avoid the smokers). We waited close to an hour for our table, so while Peter and Julia charmed some tourists hanging out on the sidewalk, I watched the screen like a hawk. Once we were finally seated, service was really quick and attentive. They don’t actually have fin fish that I could tell (all shellfish, so if you have an allergy, this is not the place for you) and pretty much everything is ordered by weight. If you’re concerned, don’t worry, they can help you figure it out. We ordered crab, barnacles (just for me and Julia, Peter passed), garlic shrimp and some amazing grilled bread (the insides of the crab were delicious on top of the bread). The servers kept bringing Julia candy, which I wouldn’t let her eat, but she loved shaking the package of Nerds. After the shellfish was cleared away, we ordered a steak sandwich to top it all off. The sandwich was amazing and loaded with garlic. The bill was pretty hefty, especially compared to all the other meals we’d had. Overall, the food was good, but I think we would have enjoyed another low-key meal at Churrasquiera da Paz more.

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Day 5

This day was a total bust. We had originally planned to go to the Aquarium, so we took the metro out that way and decided to stop at a park nearby because Peter was feeling tired and wanted a short nap. I entertained Julia on the playground and felt the beginnings of severe gastric distress. I ended up getting sick by side of the road as we made our way back to the metro, so we had to go back to the apartment. Peter was a saint and went to the little market up the street to find me some lemon lime soda, yogurt and crackers, and then disappeared for a nice long walk with Julia. They came back for her nap, and Peter took popped out for a coffee while I fed her before they ventured back out to Time Out Market for dinner. I spent the day huddled in a ball in bed, but felt much better when they got home. Moral of the story – it’s terrible to get sick on vacation, but much better to do so when you have a comfortable apartment, a supportive significant other, and a little market nearby to supply emergency food.

Day 6

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We made it to the Aquarium! Oceanário de Lisboa is rated as one of the best aquariums in the world and we had a great time. The facility is beautiful – it’s set up as a spiral around a giant multi-story tank with smaller exhibits around the perimeter. We were there during a fish feeding, and it was amazing to watch the wide variety of fish cluster around. Julia loved just sitting and admiring everything we saw, and we spent close to two hours there. The only thing I didn’t like is that the spiral is basically one way, so if there’s something you like and want to see again, you’d have to go all the way back around. We used the latter part of the afternoon to take a long walk back to the Ginjinha shop we’d seen on our first day to purchase some souvenirs, and do a bit of shopping on our walk back to the apartment.

Day 7

Our last day in Lisbon. We started with a visit to the coffee shop Peter had visited the prior afternoon, Fabrica. I wish we’d known about it before! The shop was so cozy and welcoming, with amazing coffee and delicious croissants to nibble.


Next, we took the ferry to Cacilhas from Cais do Sodré. This is a wonderful and relatively inexpensive way to add an extra boat ride to a trip to Lisbon.

When we arrived, we took the 101 bus to the Cristo Rei statue at the top of the hill, which offered a really lovely ride around winding streets and gave us a great look at the town (I wish we had time to stop and do some shopping!). The view from the top is amazing, especially over the April 25 Bridge (very similar to the Golden Gate).


After our visit, we took the bus back down the hill towards the ferry terminal and started the walk to the seafood restaurants that the area is known for. The walk to get there looks a little shady – it’s relatively narrow with no guard rail near the water, and has a lot of abandoned warehouse-like buildings. However, it was broad daylight, and we passed a bunch of college-looking students on our walk, so it wasn’t concerning, but I would recommend a stroller or baby carrier (we had the stroller) to make sure little ones aren’t likely to fall off the edge.

There are two well-recommended restaurants in the area – Ponto Final and Restaurante Atira-te ao rio. I hadn’t done a great job of checking details about the restaurants, so it turned out Ponto Final was closed, and we were a bit too early for Atira-te ao rio. Undeterred, we kept walking up the walkway a bit and rested on a grassy area while I fed Julia and she enjoyed watching an older lady who strolled by with several pet cats. We were the first lunch guests and were greeted by a lovely Brazilian lady who spoke beautiful French, English and, of course, Portuguese. They even had a special high chair for Julia covered in a soft blanket. After bread and olives to start, I had a delicious octopus salad and we shared a whole fish that was really delicious. They got busy very quickly, so I would recommend arriving early or calling for reservations if you come during peak season.


There’s an elevator just up the way that’s about 1 EUR per person and was operated by a kindly older gentleman on our visit. We took it up to the top of the hill just for fun, and then walked back down to ferry terminal for our return trip.


We loved both segments of our Europe trip last year (see Madrid recap here and Lisbon Part 1 here), but Lisbon was hands down my favorite stop. It was a perfect introduction to international travel for a family – everyone loved Julia and treated her with extra kindness (letting us skip long lines, giving her special treats, providing baby-friendly amenities in the apartment). The weather was beautiful and there were so many wonderful things to do. While we had to slow down our pace a little bit with a baby, we still felt like we were able to see the key highlights in town and there was never a boring moment. The food was also really child friendly – simply prepared and fresh, with lots of options even for picky eaters (like if we return when she’s a teenager…).

The “can’t miss” highlights for me were the Lisbon by Boat sailing tour, the day trip to Sintra, and eating at Churrasqueira da Paz and Time Out Market.

In case it helps with your planning, I’ve included a link to a map of where we stayed, where we loved eating, and what we did, as well as some key transit locations.

Have you been to Portugal with children? What were highlights of your trip? I would love to go back with Julia and even (half-jokingly) suggested to Peter we should live there someday, so I’m keeping my list on hand.