Cape Meares Lighthouse

What: Cape Meares Lighthouse
Where: Tip of Cape Meares just south of Tillamook Bay

When: Year round, 7 am to dusk (tours April to October)
Why: You get a historical lighthouse, incredible views, and natural wonders all in one stop
Cost: FREE

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About 10 miles west of Tillamook way out on Cape Meares, you’ll find a bit of a treasure: a historical lighthouse surrounded by interesting wildlife, spectacular views, and fascinating trees. And it’s all accessible from the same parking lot.

The Cape Meares Lighthouse was built in 1889. As Oregon’s shortest lighthouse, it gives you a great view of its top with little effort. There is a shady, paved trail down to the lighthouse from the parking lot (save some energy for the walk back because it’s deceivingly steep). They have a teensy interpretive/gift shop and free tours from April to October (with limited days/times in the Spring and Fall). Small children aren’t allowed on the tour, but anyone can walk around the lighthouse exterior year-round.

Cape Meares is also a great place to bird-watch or whale watch during migration seasons. There are designated viewing points, but there are incredible views all around, in part thanks to the National Wildlife Refuge that cover the cape.

A short hike from the parking lot you’ll also find two interesting Sitka Spruces. There are two you won’t want to miss: one is the Octupus Tree, which has what looks like tentacles reaching up. It’s an Oregon Heritage Tree, which basically means it’s super old. And cool. It’s considered a sacred tree to local tribes, and is probably 250 years old. (It was already an adult by the time Lewis & Clark made it to the coast!)

The second Sitka is even larger and older: Old Spruce is 144 feet tall and 15.5 feet in diameter, and is an estimated 750 to 800 years old! It’s the oldest of its kind in the state. Old Spruce will require you to park in a different lot (near the entrance to the scenic viewpoint), but it’s still only takes a short hike to reach it.

When you visit, try to check the roads in advance. We had to turn home once during a rainy season due to sinkholes, and I know the roads have been closed for landslides before too.

You probably won’t spend hours and hours at Cape Meares, but it’s a breathtaking spot and well worth the scenic drive.

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Picture Books by Audrey and Don Wood

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If you haven’t had the delightful experience of reading a book by Audrey and Don Wood, you simply must remedy that STAT.

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Photo courtsey Scholastic.com

This husband-wife team has turned out a heap of adored books—they’ve collaborated on over 50! While Audrey has written several books with other illustrators, her best ones are all illustrated by Don.

So try one of these favorites out. You shant be disappointed!

 

Piggies
piggiesMy sister and her kids first shared this with me long before I was a mom (the copy we have still has a note in the front addressed to “Aunt Jackie”). My kids now love it for the easy story-telling and the terrifically charming illustrations.

The Napping House
nappingThis delightful picture book is a winner thanks to repetitive storytelling style and darling illustrations. It’s a great read when you’re waking up!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
little-mouseThe title is a giveaway to the plot (a little mouse is trying to hide his red, ripe strawberry from a big hungry bear), but it’s hilarious. And just plain cute.

Quick as a Cricket
cricketAs a parent, you’ll love how this book teaches opposing emotions and our complex characteristics as human beings. Your kids will just think it’s cool. Try it out.

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
kingThis tale is funny, quirky, and beautifully illustrated. Plus, it earned a Caldecott Honor!

Elbert’s Bad WordelbertThis book helps teach kids how to talk appropriately in a fun way. Don and Audrey teamed up for the illustrations, so together they take a different style for this book.

Heckedy Peg
heckedyFolks, this story is a bit twisted and dark. It reminds me of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. But I can’t help but like it! The artwork helps add some innocent magic. Read it with an older child.
Which are your favorites??ave

‘Tis the Week Before Christmas: Portland’s West Side 2016

christmas-2016

‘Tis the week before Christmas,
And the kids are out of school
They’re overflowing with seasonal cheer
And you juuust might lose your cool

But thank your lucky stars!
Portland is full of holiday fun
Check out the list below

And start with your favorite one

Bundle up your sweet family
And go make some memories
Merry Christmas to all

And to all, the happiest holidees!


CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Christmas Ships (Portland, through Dec. 18, 7 to 8 pm): Since 1954 Portlanders have paraded down the Willamette and Columbia Rivers with their boats and ships blinged out for Christmas. Find a spot on the waterfront and enjoy the fun.
Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway (Portland, evenings Nov. 25 to Dec. 25, $20/car): Stay cozy in the car and drive through this spectacular light display.
ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, Nov. 25 to Jan. 1, 5 to 9 pm): The zoo dazzles with a million and a half lights. Prices vary, members are free. It gets busy, so plan for a crowd.
The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights (Portland, through Dec. 30, 5 to 9:30 pm): Walk through the impressive light displays at the Grotto, a 62-acre Catholic Shrine and botanical garden. There are half a million lights, holiday concerts, and outdoor caroling. Adults $11, children (3-12) $6, children 2 and under FREE.
Christmas Fantasy Trail at Wenzel Farm (Oregon City, Dec. 2 to 30, 6-9 pm): Take a walk surrounded by thousands of Christmas lights, including a castle and tunnel. Adults $6, Children 12 and under $5.
Peacock Lane Christmas Lights (Portland, Dec. 15 to 31, 7 to 10 pm): These neighbors have a long gone all out providing beautiful Christmas displays. FREE. It gets busy, so it’s best to park far and walk more.
Lighting of Maddox Woods (West Linn, Nov. 19 to Dec. 31, 4-9 pm): Enjoy a magical walk down a lighted, accessible path through the woods to a viewing platform on the Willamette River.

INDOOR EVENTS
Pittock Mansion Christmas Exhibit (Portland, Nov. 21 to Dec. 31, 11 am to 4 pm): Their annual holiday exhibit doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy each room’s “Symbols of the Season” while local musicians play. Adults $11, Youth (ages 6-18) $8, Children under 6 FREE.
24 Days of Music at the Portland Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Lake Oswego, Dec. 1 to 24, 7 pm): Come to the visitor center for nightly choirs and performances. Admission is free, but seating is limited.
The Nutcracker Ballet (Keller Auditorium, Portland, Dec. 10 to 26, 2:00 pm/7:30 pm): Share the magic of the Nutcracker ballet with your child. Performed by the Oregon Ballet Theatre.
“A Christmas Carol” at Portland Playhouse (Portland, Nov. 30 to Dec. 30, 2:00 pm/7:00 pm): Introduce your children to this Christmas classic with a live performance.

OUTDOOR EVENTS
Christmas in Dairyville and Storybook Lane at Alpenrose Dairy  (Portland, through Dec. 18, times vary): This charming little Portland-area tradition includes carols, cool decor, and Santa.  Admission is free.
The Holiday Express by the OR Rail Heritage Foundation (From Oaks Park Station, various dates and times until Dec. 18): Join Santa and his elves on this vintage train as you wind through both the wilderness and the city. Tickets sell out fast, but you might get lucky!
The Polar Express by the Mt. Hood Railroad (Hood River, various dates and times until Dec. 28): Join Santa on this magical train ride based on the popular book and movie “The Polar Express.” You’ll get treated to hot cocoa, music, and a special gift. Buy tickets in advance!
Winter Village at Orenco Station (Hillsboro, Dec. 2 to Jan. 2, 10 am to 10 pm): This holiday tradition in its 2nd year and brings the only open-air ice skating rink to the area. Adults $12, Kids 4-9 $9, Kids 3 and under FREE, plus skate rental.

SINGLE DAY EVENTS
Song Circle Holiday Edition at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 19, 6:30 pm)
Gingerbread Houses at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 19, 4 pm): Registration required
Jingle Babies at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 20, 10:30 am): For children 0 to 6.
Life-Sized Candyland Game at Brookwood Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 20, 2:30 pm)
Family Holiday Movie at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 21, 2-4:00 pm)
Winter Crafts at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 21, 2-3:30 pm)
Holiday Storytime at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 22, 1:00 pm): Ages 2-6
Holiday Movie Marathon at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 22, 2:30-5:30 pm)
Winter Wonderland at Brookwood Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 23, times vary): Christmas movies, Family Holiday Sing-Alongs, Storytimes

Anything I missed? What would you add?

GUEST POST: CHRISTMAS STORIES UNDER THE TREE

When my super-mom friend, Janel, told me about this Christmas tradition of hers last year, I knew I wanted to share it with each of you. I hope you feel inspired!
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My favorite tradition is reading a Christmas story under the Christmas tree each night. I wrap and number them, and the kids think it’s the best that they get to open a present each night. I LOVE it and so do they! When my oldest (now 8 years old) was a baby I started collecting Christmas books. I have always loved children’s lit, and knew it was something I wanted to make part of our Christmas. I love how it makes our home feel!

At first, I checked them out at the library, and slowly each year I have added to the collection. I also keep them with my Christmas decorations and the books only come out at Christmas time.

Here are some of our very, very favorites:

1. Santa Claus: This one my kids spend hours looking through. It tells about Santa’s workshop and has really fascinating details.

2. I Believe in Santa Claus: About Santa and Christ and their similarities.

3. Christmas Day in the Morning: This is our very favorite! You know it’s good when it makes my husband tear up.

4. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad (A Golden Look-Look Book): Gotta love Mercer Mayer.

5.The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale: Three trees grow up to be just what they always dreamed, but in a completely different way then they pictured. All centered around parts of Christ’s life.

6. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree: I love how this tree provides holiday cheer for so many. First published in 1963, this story has been a favorite for generations. The illustrations are fun and cheerful.

7. The Polar Express: This is a must with little boys.

8. Bear Stays Up for Christmas: We love the Bear books and this one does not disappoint. Cute story and rhymes, and colorful pages.

9. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey: Perfect for anybody who has lost somebody, and also perfect for anybody else as a Christmas story. Beautiful illustrations.

10. The Mansion: Beautiful message in this one.

11. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas: It’s fun to add authors your kids are already familiar with.

12. The Empty Stocking: This story is about a pair of twins, one nice and one naughty, who are a little nervous about Christmas morning.

13. Olivia Claus: We love Olivia, and she’s done it again!

14. The Gingerbread Man: I love this version of the gingerbread man, it really comes to life.

15. Frosty the Snowman: My kids ask for this one a lot, probably because they love the song.

16. The Gift of the Magi: This timeless story of love and sacrifice of a young couple is made even more wonderful by the detailed illustrations.

17. C is for Christmas: Full of color and fantastic detail, this is a wonderful version of the classic story.

18. Let it Snow: The darling Toot and Puddle are back in this Christmas story about the gift of friendship

19. The Year of the Perfect Christmas TreeThis unforgettable tale, a seasonal classic, is a touching and joyful story about courage and the power of family.

20. The Mitten: Full of color and fantastic detail, this is a wonderful version of the classic story.

21. The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving: The bear cubs learn a valuable lesson about sharing with one another.

22. Walk this World at Christmastime: This is a journey through the world at Christmastime. It has flaps for children to look through and beautiful pictures.

23. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: This one is a must and a classic.

24. The Night Before Christmas: We always read this Christmas Eve, and I love the Clement C. Moore version.

I’m so grateful for great books to bring in the Christmas spirit.

Janel is someone I admire greatly. She loves her family and delights in her children, and she’s one of the most beautiful, happy, determined people I know! She lives in Portland’s west side with her husband and four children.

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Thanksgiving Play 2016

It’s Thanksgiving again! Somehow! (Is it seriously almost 2017?? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!) Whether you’re planning a family run or looking to kick off the Christmas season, there’s plenty going on this week on Portland’s west side.

November 23 (WEDNESDAY)

Turkey Trot 5k Run/Walk + Kids Trot (Portland International Raceway, 5:30 pm): Register to run through the raceway’s holiday lights. Dogs welcome.
Harvest Month (Portland Children’s Museum, November): Participate in different harvest-related activities with your kids all November long.

November 24 (THURSDAY)
Turkey Trot at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, 8:00 to 9:45 am): This 4-mile fun run or walk winds through Washington Park and ends at the zoo. Children events included, and jogging strollers welcome. Register today.
Bridgeport Village Turkeython (Tigard, 8:30 am): This fun morning includes a 5k, 10k, and Kidathon. Register online.
Give ‘n’ Gobble (Sherwood High School, 9:00 am): This 5k walk or 10k run with a food drive is a Thanksgiving tradition. This race sells out, so register in advance.

November 25 (FRIDAY )
My Macy’s Portland Holiday Parade (Portland, 9:00 am): Kick off the holidays with Portland’s own Macy’s parade. Geared towards children.
Tree Lighting Ceremony at Pioneer Square (Portland, 5:30 to 6:30 pm): Witness the lighting of the 75-foot Christmas tree with holiday music and festivities.
Holiday Express Train Ride (Portland, weekends Nov. 25 to Dec. 18): Take a 1-hour ride along the beautiful Willamette with Santa on this holiday-decorated train. Made possible by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation.
Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show (Portland International Raceway, Nov. 25 to Dec. 25, 5:00 pm): Drive through one of the largest light shows in the country. $20/car.
Zoo Lights (Portland, Nov. 25 to Jan. 1, 5:00 pm): Come see your favorite zoo all lit up for Christmas.
Christmas Festival of Lights (Grotto, Nov. 25 to Dec. 30, 5:00 to 9:30 pm): This family-oriented tradition includes dozens of choirs and hundreds of lights.

November 26 (SATURDAY )
Hillsboro Holly Days (Downtown Hillsboro, 1:00 to 6:00 pm): A Christmas extravaganza featuring Santa from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, live reindeer, train rides, the tree lighting at 5:30 pm, shopping, music, activities, and more.
Cinnamon Bear Cruise on the Spirit (Portland, weekends Nov. 26 to Dec. 27): Take a 2-hour ride on the Portland Spirit with Cinnamon Bear and friends. Enjoy snacks, drinks, and holiday activities.

Community Service Projects for Families

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How do you raise compassionate, selfless little people? Good question! I’m only 6 years into this child-rearing thing so I’m still figuring it out.

But here’s something: teach them to care for other people and to try to understand their struggles. Last September my girls and I watched a documentary called “Living on One Dollar,” and it led to a discussion about poverty and the challenges some people face. We all decided we’re pretty dang spoiled.

We felt inspired to do something to give to others, so we organized a small coat drive. I searched and found the Hillsboro Family Resource Center, a group helping families in our town. The girls decorated a large box, we put it on our porch for a few weeks, and I advertised our coat drive to our friends and neighbors by email and social media. BOOM! I kept the donating circle small, but we ended up with several bags of donations. It was a great experience for our little family.

So what else can our families do? Check out this list of community service projects for families to do together in the Portland area:

  1. Offer to help an older neighbor with yard or housework
  2. Coat or Clothing Drive: Contact a group like the Foster Closet or Lutheran Community Services NW to find out what they need. Leave a large box on your porch and advertise to your neighbors and friends with fliers or by social media (never post your address online). Set a deadline and drop off the donations together.
  3. Make dinner together for a friend or neighbor
  4. Make “Bags of Sunshine” for Cancer Patients: We passed these out in the waiting room at my Dad’s cancer center. The girls helped fill small Ziplocs with chapstick, candy, lotion, and a cheerful note. It was meaningful for all of us.
  5. Northwest Children’s Outreach: This group provides clothes, toiletries, and more for foster children. Families of all ages can come organize and sort during set hours at their locations in Beaverton, Tualatin, and more.
  6. Rake leaves or shovel snow for your neighbors
  7. Make cards or Valentine’s for a senior center or nursing home
  8. HillsDOer Day: Each October the city of Hillsboro organizes service projects all around, and many are great for families.
  9. Oregon Food Bank: Organize a food drive or even take your children (as young as 5!) to pack food at their Beaverton or Portland locations. Learn more here.
  10. Clean up Trash: Go for a walk or head to a park and clean up trash. Wear gloves, supervise, and give some safety tips.
  11. Give to the homeless: Wrap burritos in foil or stuff a rolled pair of socks with chapstick and granola bars and hand them out to people you pass on the streets. (Use appropriate caution.)
  12. Donate to a children’s hospital: Here are the sorts of things they need.
  13. Oregon Special Olympics: Take older kids to volunteer or young kids to cheer at their next event
  14. Write letters to members of the military through A Million Thanks
  15. Do a lemonade stand or bake sale and donate the profits
  16. Make Blankets for Project Linus: Even young children can help make easy, no-sew fleece blankets to donate

 

I’d love to learn of more! Comment and share other service opportunities, pretty please.

Audiobooks for Families Read by Jim Dale

Audiobooks Jim Dale A Good Gray

My husband and I first heard of Jim Dale when we moved from Utah to Virginia as newlyweds. We’d borrowed the first few Harry Potter books on CD, and we listened to these beloved stories hour after hour as we treked cross-country. We already knew we loved J.K. Rowling’s book series, but hearing Dale read them with so many different voices and styles was a whole new experience. By the time we reached that last time zone, we were total Jim Dale groupies.

In the years since, we’ve gotten to know the work of the award-winning Dale better and better. We mostly listen to audiobooks on long roadtrips, but really they’re great whether you’re just driving around town or spending the day at home. Dale’s audiobook collection is pretty vast, but here are some favorites that are appropriate for children and entertaining for the whole fam.

Note: Not all of the following are best for young children. Do your homework.

“Harry Potter” Series by J.K. Rowling
Introduce a new generation to the wonder of Harry Potter and his magical world as they fight the rise of evil. Dale manages a different voice and inflection for each character, and it is absolutely phenomenal. Phe-nom-e-nal.

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
Listening to Dale’s reading of this story has become a yearly tradition at our house. The story can be a bit mature, but it’s a great way to celebrate the Christmas season.

“Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie
After the success of a short story and play about Peter Pan, Barrie developed a novel called “Peter and Wendy.” This novel, here known as “Peter Pan,” is sweet, full of wit, and a bit darker than the Disney story.

“Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev
This enchanting fairy-tale is told with Dale’s characteristic energy, and paired with some of the best-known songs (performed by the Seattle Symphony). Be warned, however, that the ending is changed from the original.

“Return to the Hundred Acre Wood” by David Benedictus
Written in 2009, this story brings back Pooh and his friends with the permission of A.A. Milne’s estate. It’s not exactly the same feel (some of the magic of the original is gone), but with Dale it’s still a good listen.

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
Enter the world of fantasy and nonsense with Carroll’s one-of-a-kind tale. This classic is, again, darker than Disney but an enlightening ride all the same.

“Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne
I still have yet to read this classic (PLEASE DON’T TAKE AWAY MY ENGLISH DEGREE), but it has quite the following and I trust Dale. Implicitly.

What are some of your favorite family-friendly audiobooks?? I’d love to try them out.

Eek! It’s Halloween 2016

Halloween 2016Get the spooky scoop on all of Portland’s westside activities this Halloween.

OCTOBER 21 (FRIDAY)
Great Pumpkin Hunt at Garden Home Recreation Center (Portland, 6 to 8 pm, $10): Come for games, crafts, a bouncy house, and bring a flashlight and hunt for pumpkins out back

OCTOBER 22 (SATURDAY)
Monster Mash at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 9:00 to 10:30 am): California Pizza Kitchen is hosting a fun morning for kids. Registration required.
Villains in the Village at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 10:30 am to noon): Wear your costume and come fight villains at this fun, free event

OCTOBER 26 (WEDNESDAY)
Safe Trick-or-Treat at Pacific University (Forest Grove, 4 to 7 pm): This 18th annual event has free treats and activities for all
Night-time Walkabout at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro, 6 to 8 pm, ages 8 and up): Register for this free event

OCTOBER 27 (THURSDAY)
Night-time Walkabout at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro, 6 to 8 pm, ages 8 and up): Register for this FREE event

OCTOBER 28 (FRIDAY)
Squishing of the Squash (Oregon Zoo, 10:30 to 11:30 am, FREE with zoo admission): Some of the world’s largest animals squish some of the area’s largest pumpkins
Spooky Dance Party at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, 6:30 to 8 pm): Dress in costume and come shake it to spooky (but not scary) music
Enchanted Trail and Haunted Trail at Mary S. Young Park (West Linn, 7 to 10 pm, various prices): Bring kids 8 and younger to the charming storybook-themed Enchanted Trail, or wait later to bring the big kids to the freaky Haunted Trail.

OCTOBER 29 (SATURDAY)
Enchanted Trail and Haunted Trail at Mary S. Young Park (West Linn, 7 to 10 pm, various prices): Bring kids 8 and younger to the charming storybook-themed Enchanted Trail, or wait later to bring the big kids to the freaky Haunted Trail.
Howloween at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, 10 am to 3 pm, FREE with zoo admission): Dress in costume and participate in this fun but educational scavenger hunt at the zoo, collecting treats and prizes.
Dia de los Muertos Crafts (Beaverton Library, 11 am to noon)
Oaks Park Halloween Spooktacular (Portland, 1 pm and 7 pm): Skate in costume to Halloween music–games and costume parade too
Halloween Carnival (Beaverton Library, 3 to 4 pm, grades 1 to 5)

OCTOBER 30 (SUNDAY)
Howloween at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, 10 am to 3 pm, FREE with zoo admission): Dress in costume and participate in this fun but educational scavenger hunt at the zoo, collecting treats and prizes.
Not-So-Scary Halloween (Portland Children’s Museum, 10 am to 3 pm): Trick-or-treating, crafts, and games
Oaks Park Halloween Spooktacular (Portland, 1 pm and 7 pm): Skate in costume to Halloween music–games and costume parade too

OCTOBER 31 (MONDAY)
Spooky Babies (Beaverton Library, 10:30 to 11:15 am, up to age 6): Bring your little ones in costume for a parade and fun.
Halloween Dance-o-Rama (Tualatin Public Library, 11 am to noon, ages 6 and under)
Harvest on Main (Hillsboro, 5 to 9 pm): Downtown Hillsboro’s former “Safe n’ Sane” event is now Harvest on Main, and includes more activities and longer hours. You can still bring kids for trick or treating at local businesses as well as fun activities.
Trick-or-Treat at the Streets of Tanasbourne (Hillsboro, 1 to 3 pm, ages 12 and under)
Halloween at Orenco Station (Hillsboro, 3:30 to 5:30 pm): Trick-or-treat in Orenco Station, and enjoy games and crafts with Fancy That and the Dentists at Orenco Station
Spooky Storytime (Beaverton Library, 4 to 5 pm)
Trick-or-Treating at McMenamins’s Grand Lodge (Forest Grove, 4:30 to 6:30 pm, all ages)
Mall-o-ween at Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton, 6 to 7 pm): Trick-or-treat at participating stores

Anything I missed? Please comment below!

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Latourell Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

What: Latourell Falls
Where: Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)

When: Year round
Why: Beautiful sights with or without a hike
Cost: FREE

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So funny story: on New Year’s Day of this year we thought we’d head to the Gorge. The weather was cold but the skies were clear and we wanted to get outside. We decided to hike Latourell Falls (based on our dear friend Becky’s recommendation). The lower falls are right by the parking lot—you can hop out of your car and see the falls in a minute. There’s a viewpoint if you walk up the stairs from the lot, and you can walk around the actual falls if you go down the stairs.

We were feeling eager to move so we decided to take the trail to the smaller-but-still-lovely upper falls. There is a 2.5-mile loop that takes you down to the other falls and back. The kids were happy and we were up for it—why not try it?

Well, it was January 1. Winter, folks. As we went along the trail following Henderson Creek, it got a bit narrow and covered with snow here and there. At first it was charming and beautiful, but then there was more and more snow and ice. When we reached the falls, it was truly breathtaking: the area was covered in ice. The falls were partially frozen, and the mist had coated everything with this incredible layer of ice. Every rock, every blade of grass, the bridge, the trail… everything!

I looked at our three kids, and thought, “Welp! That was cool. Let’s go back the way we came.” But no, my husband really, REALLY wanted to do the loop. So he went ahead and tried walking slowly down the trail, and he immediately fell down. Like, immediately (it’s okay to laugh, I sure did). Again, I thought that was it. But no, he somehow persuaded us all to scoot along down the icy trail and across the bridge sitting on our behinds. It was hilarious. We were all laughing, and my only regret is that there weren’t other hikers nearby at the time to enjoy the absurdity.

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We ended up completing the loop, but not without some cold, tired little hikers. We loved what we saw, but I thought, “I can’t recommend hiking this in the winter on my blog! Somebody will sue!” We decided we really needed to come back and try it in the summer.

I’m happy to report we did. At least the lower falls. We came with my husband’s family last month, took the stairs to the bottom of the falls, and walked behind the water and all around the amazing rock formations. It was peaceful and lush and green, and nobody had to scoot on their butts.

The rocks were so fascinating that I ended up asking my uncle/retired professor/botanist/scientist extraordinaire about them. He replied:

“Look up BASALT COLUMNS. They form if you allow basalt to cool—and, from looking at the photos you just sent, it looks like you may have become distracted, walked off and let it do just that. (Actually, the whole Gorge is basalt with some spectacular examples of columns.)”

A Good Gray: Latourell Falls

He’s smart. And hilarious.

So visit Latourell Falls for sure! But if you go in the winter, you didn’t hear it from me. ;)

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8 MORE Dessert Places to Love in the Portland Burbs

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A while back I came up with 8 dessert places to love on Portland’s west side. Well since then, I’ve sampled—and fallen for—some new ones. So without further adieu, here are 8 more sweet stops I’m happy to take my kids to:

  1. Momo’s Hawaiian Ice: Hillsboro
    This place is the real deal—the ice is perfectly shaved, the flavors are extensive, and you can go big with ice cream and authentic Hawaiian toppings. Big portions, fair prices. It’s tropically delicious.
  2. Beaverton Bakery: Beaverton
    This bakery turns 90 this year, and through the years they’ve been perfecting sugar cookies, cakes, and other specialty bakery creations. We got our wedding cake here, and we love coming back and grabbing a treat with our kids.
  3. The Pie Guy: North Plains
    We first fell in love with his pies at the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market, but my sister just informed me you can now go to his stand. Daily. Stop delaying that gratification! My favorites are Razzleberry and Coconut Cream. Mmmmm boy.
  4. Alotto Gelato: Orenco
    This new-ish spot in Orenco Station (next to La Provence) offers rich, creamy, gelato and Italian sodas in various flavors. It ain’t cheap, but it’s a great sometimes treat.
  5. Donut Day: Beaverton, Tigard
    These are sweet, rich donuts. My husband raves about their coconut, I love their regular glazed. Also try the buttermilk bar and their fritters. Tip: It’s easier to access their Beaverton shop by the side street instead of TV Highway.
  6. Nothing Bundt Cakes: Beaverton, Tualatin, Clackamas
    These little darlings look adorable and taste amazing. The frosting is sweet, but the cake is rich, moist, and just right. They are a great place to order treats for parties or special occasions!
  7. Dutch Bros Coffee: Various locations
    Yes, it’s a drive-thru coffee chain, but it’s headquartered in Oregon and feeeeels local-ish. Also, a junior menu with delicious smoothies, shakes, and hot chocolate? It just hits the spot sometimes.
  8. Sesame Donuts: Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard
    We first tried these donuts (oddly enough) at the cafe in the Hillsboro Main Library. You can buy a ton of donut holes for cheap, and I found them to be a traditional yet tasty donut. Their other locations are open 24/7. Try their trademark Sesame Donut.