Lately Peeper has been on a mystery/spooky story kick—a predilection I could attribute to my own childhood love of scary stuff but is mostly due to her Grandpa Shempy’s long made-up mysteries about something called the Monkey’s Paw. So when I had a free morning and the kids miraculously ate their breakfast on time and without protest, I decided to try hiking Portland’s Witch’s Castle with the kids.
I originally heard of Portland’s Witch’s Castle in Forest Park from my blogging friend Renee. She wrote about hiking to the castle with her teens, and I’ve wanted to do it myself ever since then—but with my littler kids, of course.
Since the day’s forecast called for some rain, I wanted to choose a forested hike so we wouldn’t get totally drenched if it did drizzle. Forest Park, with its immense Douglas firs, provides quite a bit of shelter from the Oregon rain—but as luck would have it, the skies stayed mostly clear. (Thanks, weather!)
Rain or no rain, though, the hike was gorgeous—and the Witch’s Castle lived up to its spooky, and awesome, reputation!
This summer I’ve fallen in love with street art. I think it started when two blogging friends and I hit up some of our favorite murals in Southeast Portland, Oregon. Lisa from This Beautiful Day, Jenni from A Well Crafted Party and I caught up (and goofed off) in front of some of the city’s most dramatic street art. Just about every chance I’ve gotten since then, I’ve made detours and special trips to visit Portland murals—and have been bringing my kids along, too. One of my favorite trips was a mini mural crawl in North Portland that both kids joined me for.
This mural crawl for kids was one of the most fun family activities I’ve done recently, partly because it was even more enjoyable for me than it was for the girls. (Pretty sure I’m not alone in planning 99% of our family activities around what the under-5 set wants to do—but not this time!) That said, Peeper and Kiwi really got into the kid-friendly mural crawl in North Portland. (See the photos for proof!)
Part of the fun was the novelty of the family activity: We’d never done something quite like this. Peeper loved directing me and Kiwi so she could take a photo. (She has a good eye, doesn’t she?) Plus, the girls were fascinated by street art. Their wide eyes seemed to say, “Wait, you mean artists can paint giant pictures outside? I thought you said we couldn’t paint on walls!”
Uh-oh, I might live to regret this Portland, Oregon mural crawl. Oh well, it was worth it!
When Eric’s parents were visiting Oregon this summer, we took a camping trip at Milo McIver State Park. It was the girls’ first camping trip of the year, and I wanted to help make it special. (Yes, I know the very fact of spending all day outside and roasting marshmallows make camping special without any extras. But still.) I pulled inspiration from one of our favorite books, Lulu & Pip, and made camping dolls for the girls.
The camping dolls were an instant hit. The dolls went with us everywhere, from a hike to the camp chairs beside the fire. They got dirty. They got chewed on. They earned their title of camping dolls.
And my hope was realized: The camping dolls helped make our camping trip unforgettable.
Some people ask, why move to West Linn? Here’s one reason why: When we were getting ready to move two years ago, we were looking for a welcoming neighborhood in a family-friendly city. So when we began exploring West Linn, Oregon, we knew we found home. It has an incredible school district, access to the outdoors, a small-town feel outside Portland—and a wealth of parks. We love to spend time outdoors as a family, and as soon as we bought a home and moved, we began exploring the best parks in West Linn.
There are so many great outdoor spots to play, we could hardly choose a favorite. It’s just as well, because mixing it up keeps my kids happy! When I get the girls packed up and tell them we’re going to the playground, they ask, “Which park, Mama?” Will it be the one with the dinosaur skeleton? Or the one with the giant rocks you can climb in the splash pad? Or the one with the two-story high slide built into the hill?
Throughout the school year when Eric teaches, we typically spend every weekend taking turns working and playing with the girls. So this summer, when Eric’s job is much less demanding, I wanted to make a point of spending more quality time together as a family. When we got a rare weekday off together earlier this summer, we searched for a family friendly hike on Mt. Hood and headed up the mountain to Twin Lakes. Boy, was I glad we did!
The hike was perfect. It was challenging enough to make me feel like I got a bit of a workout and had a breathtakingly gorgeous payoff at the end. The girls loved the hike—especially since they got to swim in a pristine lake on Mt. Hood. (What’s not to love?)
I’d recommend this family friendly hike on Mt. Hood in a heartbeat. Here’s all you need to know!
Back before we had kids, Eric and I camped regularly—and spontaneously. We’d throw the tent, sleeping bags and a cooler in our 1985 Volvo station wagon and head into the woods. These days, camping with kids requires a bit more preparation—including figuring out some kids activities that will keep them happy in the camp site. Since the girls love art so much, it made sense to come up with some camping crafts so they could create in nature.
We haven’t gone camping with the kids yet this year, but we camped for Father’s Day last year—and the girls loved doing this camping craft. They did it one morning when they needed a little out-of-the-sun quiet time after hiking, sprinting around the campground, making friends and walking over hot coals. (Just kidding! We’re waiting until they’re at least 6 to walk on the camp fire.)
Camping crafts like this nature collage are a wonderful way to incorporate art into your family camping this summer. Read more →
We are getting a handful of summery days in the forecast—my weather app is looking positively perfect—and all this sunshine is making the blooming rhododendrons outside look even more gorgeous! When I was looking for fun springtime family activities in Portland while my mother-in-law was in town recently, I found the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. We made plans to go.
I woke up that morning not feeling well. The girls hadn’t slept much and were fighting over a pair of Anna and Elsa figurines. “Are you sure you still want to go?” Eric asked me as I brushed my teeth. “WE’RE GOING,” I said. And I’m so glad we did!