The best parks in West Linn, Oregon

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?

So many choices!!!

The best parks in West Linn, Oregon, outside Portland // family travel // Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Lemony grain salad: An easy, healthy BBQ side dish

One of the many reasons I love summer: the laid-back, no-frills approach to summer entertaining. BBQs are the quintessential summer party, and for good reason: Guests bring whatever side or dessert they can throw together (or pick up from the store on the way over). You can grill just about anything. And summer BBQs give ample opportunities for a gal like me to practice making a signature healthy side dish like this lemony grain salad.

This lemony grain salad is an easy, healthy side dish to bring to a BBQ this summer! can also be made gluten-free. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

First off, I bring some version of this lemony grain salad to just about every BBQ and potluck we go to in the summer. (Sorry, guys, I hope you haven’t gotten tired of it yet!) I do it because it’s delicious and friends usually end up asking me how to make it—and because this easy, healthy, vegetarian BBQ side dish is so forgiving. 

You don’t have cucumbers? No worries, throw in some radishes—or whatever you have in the vegetable drawer! You like your dressing on the sweeter side? Go you! Add some honey. You’re gluten-free? No prob, use quinoa for the grain base!

Because this recipe is so flexible, I don’t usually follow a recipe—but the last time I made it, I actually measured ingredients instead of eyeballing it. So I am super excited to share my bona fide recipe for lemony grain salad.

This lemony grain salad is an easy, healthy side dish to bring to a BBQ this summer! can also be made gluten-free. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Camping crafts: Kids let their creativity go wild!

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.

Camping crafts like this nature collage art project keep kids happy when you're family camping—and require almost no prep or supplies! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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

Must-do kids activities in Portland: Oregon bloggers’ recs

Having a bunch of blogger friends is the best. They’re like a combination of the hive mind, Yelp, google and a travel agent, except with really awesome photo skills. When I need recommendations on where to eat or what to do in Portland, Oregon, I ask my Portland bloggers buds first; ditto where to stay at the coast, or what to cook for an upcoming BBQ. So when I wanted to collect a bunch of must-do family and kids activities in Portland, I knew who to ask.

I posed this question in a handful of Portland bloggers groups I belong to:

When friends and their family visit Portland from out of town, where do you send them?

Lucky for me (and you!) they sent a bunch of responses. Read on for insider tips, recommendations and curated travel plans for the best Portland family-friendly spots and kids activities!

Blogger recommendations for the best restaurants + kid activities in Portland, Oregon! family-friendly travel // Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Hello ice cream truck, goodbye summer

“Hey, what’s that noise?” I asked. Peeper looked up, her eyes wide. She turned to look out the window. “Let’s go see!” I said. I figured we had to do this one thing before we said goodbye summer.

As quickly as I could, I got our shoes on, picked up Kiwi and dashed outside. The metallic tinkling tune was fading as its source moved farther away. Undeterred, I hurried us along the quiet street.

Then, to my relief, the cheerful song got louder. And then we saw it: the ice cream truck.

Visiting the ice cream truck and saying goodbye to summer inspires me to take stock of what I learned about my daughters—and myself. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

A few times this summer, the ice cream truck has stopped in our neighborhood. The driver must have known about the groups of kids who rove through our block. They play chase, ride scooters, flirt and let the summer afternoons drift by as if time did not exist.

Yet I hadn’t taken my girls out to have their first ice cream truck experience. The truck always seemed to come right before nap time. Or, more honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with the sugar buzz, no matter the time of day.

But summer is coming to a close. Before we said goodbye summer, I wanted the girls to say hello, cream truck! Read more

Pure summer: How to make a wildflower crown

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Nothing quite says summer like strolling, picking wildflowers and weaving a crown. Don’t believe me? Make one and see for yourself.

Want to wear something DIY that's pure summer, either for yourself or your kids? Here's how to make a wildflower crown! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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Family camping at Stub Stewart State Park

Family camping at Stub Stewart State Park, less than an hour outside Portland, Oregon, is great for families new to pitching a tent with kids. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than a family camping trip? That was my thought when I booked a campsite at Stub Stewart Park, an Oregon state park less than 45 minutes west of Portland.

As soon as I committed us, though, I had flashbacks to the last time we went camping. (I wrote about my sleepless nights in the tent for PDX Parents’ Happy Campers, a guide to family camping in the Northwest.)

This trip—made slightly more complicated by the addition of a second kid who, btw, wakes every few hours even in the controlled, sound-machined environment of home—didn’t disappoint in the Lack of Sleep Department. But the memories we made camping as a family of four at Stub Stewart more than made up for the dark circles under my eyes.

family camping at Stub Stewart State Park setting up tent

If you’re looking for kid-friendly camping spots near Portland, here’s the lowdown on family camping at Stub Stewart State Park.  Read more