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Having afternoon tea with your little princesses, knights and ladies in waiting can be a fun outing, but what if we told you there was a place in town where you could take your tea party to the next level? Say hello to the newly opened Graham’s RoyalTea Amazing Parties & Boutique in Bothell. This one-of-a-kind tea party venue is just the spot to don your prettiest attire, stand up straight, stick your pinky in the air and have a tea-rrific time. Read on for the scoop.

The Decor 
Opened in October, Graham’s RoyalTea Amazing Parties & Boutique is as cute as it is prim and proper. With a teacup-themed front store offering gifts, tea sets and goodies for little princes and princesses, the back half of the venue is where the real joy begins. Once seated, little tea party aficionados (and parents) are invited into the dress up “closet” where a huge array of frilly, fluffy, sparkly–and even chain-mail-tough–dresses, hats and costumes are provided for you to fancify your tea party.

The Parties
If a magical, princess-y party is in your future, Graham’s RoyalTea will take care of everything from the custom invitations, to the themed party craft, to the mini etiquette lessons, royal processional fashion show and crowning of the birthday prince or princess. Of course, high tea is served–in a beautiful array of fancy bone china tea cups–along with three-tiered trays of treats. Think classic tea sandwiches (with the crusts cut off, of course!) in yummy cucumber, jelly or mouse, along with warm scones, fresh fruit and a special birthday cupcake. The best part? All party-goers have access to the “Royal Party and Gown Room” to don their special attire for the big day.

The Fancy Food
High Tea is served with a variety of food (and drink) options, but we suggest the Mint Chocolate tea (made even better with milk) for tiny tea sippers, and the Paris tea for adults (delish!). Lemonade, hot cocoa and cold tea is also available for kids who had high hopes of hot tea, but their palettes aren’t quite there yet. The tea sandwiches are scrumptious and include cucumber and cream cheese, egg salad, chicken salad with apples and walnuts (our fave!) and salmon mouse. A warm scone and fresh fruit accompany the many options, along with soup and/or a salad. Each high tea service also comes with sweet treats, including cookies, brownies, fruit tarts and eclairs. High tea ranges from $16-$29, but there is also an a-la-carte menu for narrowing down your sweet and savory choices, and you’ll get a full pot of tea–more than most single fancy ladies can drink–so its definitely a good idea to come with friends.

Good to Know
Located right on the soon-to-be newly-renovated-but-currently-under-construction Main Street, Graham’s RoyalTea has a few dedicated parking spots behind the building, and plenty of free street parking all around.

Tea service is generally open Tues.-Sat. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sun. from 1 p.m.-3 p.m., but times are subject to room party rental. Be sure to check the website or call before your arrival.

Reservations are necessary; however, the boutique is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m and walk-ins are welcome if space allows. Graham’s RoyalTea is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.

While all little princes and princesses are welcome, high tea is generally recommended for ages 3 and older (fancy bone china, a small dainty restaurant and sitting still…you get the idea).

If you want to make a day of it in Bothell or walk off those tea and cookies, stroll down to Bothell’s Main Street and enjoy the delightful local shops and restaurants. Or better yet, walk over to McMenamin’s and check out their sprawling grounds (where kids are always welcome!).

Gluten-free and vegan menu items are available with a 24-hour request.

Graham’s RoyalTea Amazing Parties & Boutique
10035 Main St.
Bothell, Wa 98011

Have you enjoyed a splendid tea time at Grahams RoyalTea? Planning to soon? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

—Jennifer B. Davis (all photos courtesy of the writer)


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Pop to It! How to Celebrate National Popcorn Day

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Oh the smell of freshly popped popcorn – you can almost taste the deliciousness in the air! Whether you prefer your popcorn salty or sweet, it’s coming for you because January 19 is National Popcorn Day. And in honor of this glorious holiday, we’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate nature’s deliciously light, fun-filled snack. Read on for the pop-tastic deets.

photo: Jennifer Davis

Did you know that popcorn was once considered a breakfast food? Just like cereal, kids and adults alike gobbled it up from bowls topped with milk. And according to the folks at The Popcorn Board, the oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in New Mexico and are thought to be 4,000 years old!

Play with Popcorn
More than just a historically tasty (and reasonably healthy) snack, popcorn works great in craft and games. Beyond the classic popcorn-on a-string (complete with cranberries in winter or strung plain and hung outside for the birds during the spring and fall months) and the ever-popular popcorn ball (aka the tasty treat, birthday favor or holiday delight), there are a million and two (we counted) crafts and fun kid-centric projects you can do with a serving of the good stuff.

Here’s a few to get you going:

1. Fill a jar with kernels or popped corn and play Guess How Many?

2. Stuff popcorn in clear plastic gloves for fun corn hands, especially creepy at Halloween with candy corn fingernails.

3. Color your corn. Use food coloring, natural ingredients like beet juice or blueberries, watercolor paint (but don’t eat!) or eatable food coloring spray for extra fun!

4. Make themed popcorn: blue, white and yellow (throw in some eyes) and you’ve got Minions. Go all blue for Cookie monster popcorn or use a mix of blue and green popcorn for your own 12th man-themed mix. You get the idea!

5. After you’ve colored it, glue it on a page and make a popcorn tree—complete with leaves and branches.

6. Relay race: Fill a small plastic cup full of popcorn and place it on the top of each foot. Now race your opponent to the other side of the room, trying not to spill.


Learning with Popcorn
Not only can you eat and craft with popcorn, there are easy ways to make learning with popcorn entertaining for the Littles. Use the kernels as a counting tool. Order by 5s or 10s, and practice counting. You can also review the science of how the kernels expand when popped. Put 30 kernels in a cup and then try to fit 30 popped pieces in the same cup. Voilia – science! Or try making three groups of kernels. Soak some in water, some in vegetable oil and leave one group alone. Now pop all three and determine if/how it changes the finished popcorn’s flavor, texture, appearance, etc. For bigger kids, have them plant two popcorn seeds, two pea seeds and two bean seeds in a large glass jar. Watch how they all grow, differently! Psst…no two seeds are alike, and popcorn plants look different from pea plants.

photo Jennifer Davis

Where to Buy the Best Popcorn in Town
Beyond your local movie theater, there are a few popcorn-specific spots around the city that dish out the best these little kernels have to offer. Creatively named, KuKuRuZa has locations in both Bellevue Square and Seattle (on Pike just a few blocks from the market) and sells a creative variety of flavored popcorn. Truffle Formage Porcini along with Hawaiian Salted Carmel and even 12th Man flavors are guaranteed to delight cultured palates. But don’t forget about the tried and true classics like Caramel, Cheddar, Brown Butter & Salt and even Salt & Vinegar. Grab a taste, a small bag or a huge variety tin—the options to please your taste buds are endless.

Good to Know: The Popcorn Chef, on 5th and Marion, offers a variety of tasty popcorn treats, gifts and more. And a chocolate lover’s fave, Seattle Fudge (located inside The Armory at the Seattle Center), and other specialty chocolate and candy stores around town also carry this whimsical, yet classic treat.

photo: Jennifer Davis

Make Your Own
Beyond butter and salt, popcorn is the best vehicle for other flavors – you can get wild n’ crazy with things like Sriracha or Tabasco, or decadently sweet with M&Ms, white chocolate drizzle, marshmallows and graham crackers—the possibilities are endless. If you still need more ideas, check out these unique popcorn recipes.

photo: The Melrose Family website

There are so many creative, tasty, kid-pleasing treats and activities surrounding popcorn – let’s celebrate these kernels every day!

Do you have a favorite popcorn recipe? Where is your favorite place to buy a bag (or two)?  Dish in the comments below!

— Jennifer B. Davis


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Say Hello to a Fun-Filled Staycation in Bellevue

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Every once in a while, it’s fun to mix things up – and what better way than with a family vacay. But if you’re not up for traveling far or spending a lot of money, a staycation is the ticket to adding some fun and excitement to your everyday routine. And downtown Bellevue fits that ticket with its easy access, its plethora of indoor and outdoor activities and its huge restaurant and shopping scene. If you’re ready to plan a night or two away from home, read on for the details on an easy Bellevue staycation.

Where to Stay
Bellevue’s Hyatt Regency could not be better located for this perfect city staycation. On the corner of Bellevue Way and 8th Street, this awesome hotel is centrally located across the street from Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square. The hotel boasts amazing customer service, ample (free) parking, complimentary family movie nights every Friday, a kids’ concierge (to help make the littlest of guests feel welcome), a new game room, a huge variety of walkable restaurants (more on that below) and is in close proximity to the newly revamped Downtown Bellevue Park. The Bellevue Hyatt Regency also offers upscale rooms with sweeping city views, an updated indoor pool (can you say, cannonball?) complete with pool noodles, balls, kickboards and munchkin-sized goggles and an expansive gym that overlooks Bellevue Way (in case the adults in your crew want to work up a sweat during this staycation).

The Hyatt Regency’s lobby features huge interactive touchscreen coffee tables—with games to entertain kids of all ages (think: Tetris and Candycrush)—that are located right next to a pop-up bar that serves local spirits (score!). With an expansive footprint, two separate guest towers and a variety of event rooms, the Hyatt Regency Bellevue is not only a great place to stay, but also a fun place to explore if you’re just passing through town. Psst…the entire Seahawks team stays here before every home game, so come with your autograph book!

What to Do
Did you know that the city of Bellevue has more than 100 urban playgrounds and is often referred to as “The City of Parks?” Whoa! That’s a whole other list. But one of the city’s more well-known parks (just down the street from the Hyatt) was recently renovated and should definitely be on your family’s to-do list. The Bellevue Downtown Park features two different play areas (one for muchkins ages 2-5 and another for older kids ages 5-12) along with a climbing wall and climbing vine, swings, a splash pad (for hot summer days), a rockin’ music area and so much more.

If you’ve got a crew of animal lovers, you’ll definitely want to put Kelsey Creek Farm Park on your Bellevue staycation agenda. In operation since the 1930’s, Kelsey Creek Farm Park is open 365 days a year from 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. and is free to the public. With its iconic barns and white fencing, Kelsey Creek is home to ponies, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, rabbits and waterfowl – many of which will walk right up to say hello.

Kelsey Creek Farm Park also has a newly renovated playground that is always a hit with the minis as well as picnic tables and a picnic shelter that are open every day from dawn ’til dusk and require no reservations or fees. You can also schedule a farm tour with Farmer Jayne (gather your neighbors, PEPS group or friends) or join a farm class (designed for ages 2-10), enroll in a day camp (for ages 4-7) or plan your next birthday bash there.

A few times during the year the Farm goes all out, including the October Fall Festival which includes food trucks, pony rides, tractor rides, games, face painting – you name it. And the ever-popular Sheep Shearing weekend in April is when you and your crew can watch the sheep lose their winter coats and participate in crafts and hands-on activities as well as enjoy tractor and wagon rides, pony rides, food truck munchies and the whole (farm) shebang!

Kelsey Creek Farm Park
410 130th Pl. S.E.
Bellevue, Wa 98005

More Family Fun 
Bellevue’s Lake to Lake Greenway Trail goes right along Kelsey Creek Farm Park, so if your family is feeling adventurous and in need of further outdoor activities, hop on your bike and hit the trail. The Lake to Lake Greenway Trail connects Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington and routes by the Bellevue Botanical Garden and the Mercer Slough (in case you’re looking for even more outdoor fun). During the summer months, there’s blueberry picking at Larson Lake Blueberry Farm, kayaking on the Mercer Slough and a variety of summer camps and activities at Mercer Slough Nature Park. And, who can forget the newly re-opened KidsQuest Children’s Museum,  just a short 10-minute walk from the Hyatt.

Where to Nosh
Within Bellevue’s Hyatt Regency, you will find Eques—a modern décor breakfast restaurant open from 6:30 a.m.-10 a.m. (later on weekends). Kids will delight in the ample buffet (load up on fruit, yogurt, make-your-own-omelet station – the works) or enjoy a Unicorn Waffle, complete with strawberry syrup, whipped cream and sprinkles! The grown-up version of Eques’ eggs Benedict, served with smoked salmon, will not disappoint either.

For lunch and dinner options, the variety is stunning. Inside the hotel you have an old-school classic, 13 Coins. With huge dark booths, it’s open 24 hours and has a great kid’s menu. If you’re feeling fancy, Daniel’s Broiler is on the 21st floor of the hotel and is known for its scrumptious steaks or try the yummy dim sum which can be found at Din Tai Fung. Psst…for quick and easy grab-and-go options, Fonte’s Coffee Roaster, Needs Deli or Tully’s Coffee are all within the hotel compound.

You don’t have to walk far if you want to find a plethora of kid-friendly eateries beyond the hotel’s walls. There’s the ol’ standby and kid favorite Red Robin, but also Maggiano’s Little Italy and Palomino (Italian/American), Cactus Southwest Kitchen & Bar, Tavern Hall and the Nordstrom Marketplace Café (inside the mall). McCormick & Schmick’s and Wild Ginger (just relocated three blocks south of the Hyatt on Bellevue Way) are also great options as well as adult faves like Joey’s, Black Bottle Gastro Tavern and Earl’s Kitchen + Bar.

Whatever you decide to do, downtown Bellevue has got you covered. Psst…book a hotel and/or dinner reservation during the holiday season and enjoy Bellevue’s Snowflake Lane, an ahh-mazing nightly holiday parade and show that takes place along Bellevue Way complete with “snow showers,” music and lights. Whenever you decide to go, we promise you and fam will find so much to do and see in Bellevue it will be a staycation to remember!

Hyatt Regency Bellevue
900 Bellevue Way N.E.
Bellevue, Wa 98004

Where is your family’s favorite place for a staycation? Tell us in the comments below.

— Jennifer B. Davis (all photos courtesy of the writer)

This trip was paid for by the Hyatt Regency Bellevue, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.

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If you haven’t figured it out already, your local library can be a parent’s best friend. Not only can you – and your little one – lose yourself in the joy of stories, characters, pictures and, of course, words, but there are so many fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. The best part? They’re totally free! So read on and get ready to head to your neighborhood library.

photo: King County Library System

Story Times

Most local libraries offer weekly infant/toddler story times. Enjoy classics and new-to-you, age-appropriate books read by a local librarian in a dedicated event room (which is good news for busy and more-active-than-your usual-library-patrons kiddos). Many reading events are also offered in a variety of languages – Chinese (Shoreline, Sammamish), Spanish (Kirkland, Des Moines Renton, Shoreline, Woodinville, Valley View, Redmond), Arabic (Tukwila), Hindi (Redmond), Farsi (Kirkland), Russian (Sammamish, Covington, Crossroads), Mandarin (Lake Hills), Japanese (Kingsgate, Lake Hills), Tamil (Crossroads) and Hebrew (Bellevue) – just to name a few!

Click here to view story times at a King County Library nearest you.

photo: Burke Museum

Special Library Activities

The Bug Program
Are creepy crawlies your sidekick’s thing? If your kiddo is 7 or under, visit the North Bend King County Library to learn about bugs that live in your neighborhood. After learning all about bees, beetles and other four-legged creatures, kids will get to build their very own bug catcher to take home. Psst…this program is presented in collaboration with the Master Gardener Program of King County.

Note: Registration required beginning October 11. All kids must be accompanied by an adult.

Date: Oct. 18, 2017
Time: 4:15 p.m.–5:15 p.m.
Location: North Bend King County Library

More info:

photo: Caspar Babypants

Jump for Joy Concert
Who doesn’t love Casper Babypants? Join Seattle’s favorite kindie rocker for tons of singing and dancing fun at this high-energy, family concert. The 45-minute set will feature songs from Caspar’s latest album, “Jump for Joy.” Sponsored by the Friends of the Auburn Library.

Date: Oct. 19, 2017
Time: 10:30 a.m.– 11:15 a.m.
Location: Auburn King County Library

More info:

Sophie the Spider Story Workshop
It’s the perfect time of year to talk spiders. And who says they’re scary anyway? Join your friends at the Kenmore King County Library to learn about the “world of web spinning” and work together to help a spider friend make her masterpiece. Psst…all participants will get to make a spider puppet to take home!

Date: Oct. 20, 2017
Time: 10 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Location: Kenmore King County Library

More info:

photo: Reading with Rover Facebook page

Reading with Rover
What could be more fun than books and pups? Help your budding reader build his or her skills and confidence by reading aloud to a certified therapy dog. Reading with Rover is a community-based, literacy program that works with schools and libraries throughout the greater Seattle area. Open to any school-aged kiddo accompanied by an adult, you can find Reading with Rover sessions at King County Libraries throughout the year including Algona Pacific on Oct. 18; Covington on Oct. 15; Sammamish on Oct. 12; Woodinville on Oct. 11; Renton on Oct. 10, 2017 and Lake Hills on Oct. 25.

Date: Oct. 25, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.–7 p.m.
Location: Lake Hills King County Library

More info:

photo: Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park

Story Time at the Park
Head beyond the library walls to Redmond’s Farrel-McWhirter Park for a special story time series all about farms and the changing season. Stories, songs (and a surprise or two!) will be in store for little participants. Psst…if like most parents you’re running late – this story time will be repeated at 11 a.m. Score! All ages are welcome.

Note: Story time will take place outdoors, weather permitting! Rainy day? Inside seating in Farrel House is limited to 45 people.

Date: Oct. 20, 27 & Nov. 3, 2017
Time: 10 a.m.–10:30 a.m. & 11 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Location: Farrel-McWhirter Park

More info:

Festival of Lights from Around the World – Story Workshop
Light is often the symbol of hope and happiness and many cultures celebrate light in the darkness of winter months. Kids ages 3 & older can come and learn about these celebrations like St. Lucia Day, the Winter Solstice, Loi Krathong, Diwali and other festivals of light from around the world.

Note: Space is limited. Tickets available 30 minutes before the program begins. Presented by Live Paint.

Date: Oct. 28, 2017
Time: 1 p.m.–1:45 p.m.
Location: Lake Hills King County Library

More info:

Little Library Scientists
Set up as a series of programs, your curious scientist will join Miss Laurie for stories and hands-on science activities. Ages 3-6 will learn about the human body through simple experiments that explore the digestive tract (gurgle, gurgle), the human heart and our insides during the Nov. 3 session.

Note: Space is limited. Registration begins two weeks before each class. You must register individually for each class in order to attend. Please choose either the 10:15 a.m. or 1 p.m. session. Visit the library or call 206-362-7550 to register.

Date: Nov. 3, 2017
Time: 10:15 a.m.–11 a.m. & 1 p.m.–1:45 p.m.
Location: Shoreline King County Library

Ms. Bee’s Play Place
Drop by the Fairwood King County Library to enjoy 45 minutes of interactive, play-centered activities designed for little ones ages 6 and younger. Meet other families and see first-hand how play encourages language skills and social and emotional development. Sponsored by the Friends of the Fairwood Library.

Dates: Nov. 6 & Dec. 4, 2017 (1st Monday of the month)
Time: 10 a.m.–10:45 a.m.
Location: Fairwood King County Library


The Tale of Two Bad Mice Puppet Show
This Bellevue King County Library event will be held at the Crossroads Community Center. Join the Thistle Theatre gang for a rousing puppet show featuring Tom Thumb, Hunca Munca and a young Beatrix Potter.

Date: Nov. 27, 2017
Time: 4 p.m.–5 p.m.
Location: Crossroads Community Center, 16000 N.E. 10th St., Bellevue, Wa 98008.

More info:

photo: Pixabay

Halloween Activities

Monday, October 30, 2017
Boulevard Park King County Library
7 p.m.–8 p.m.
Halloween games and snacks. Costumes welcomed, but not required.

Tukwila King County Library
4 p.m.–5 p.m.
Solve the mystery of the missing librarian! Ages 10 & older.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 
Auburn King County Library
10:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Put on your costume and parade through the library and enjoy a not-too-scary Halloween story time. All ages.

Issaquah King County Library
10:30 a.m.–11 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.–noon
Puppets Please Marionettes Puppet Show. All ages.

photo: Pixabay

Book Swap

If you’ve got books at home that you’re done reading – what better way to give them new life than with a book swap? Bring in up to five good condition books to the library and trade them in for some new-to-you titles.

Note: Limit 5 trade-ins per child, per event. Books should be appropriate for children ages newborn to 12 and must be in good condition. Sponsored by the Friends of the Snoqualmie Library.

Date: Nov. 2, 2017
Time: 3:30 p.m.–5 p.m.
Location: Snoqualmie King County Library

Additional Dates: Tues., Nov. 14 at the Fall City King County Library from 3:30 p.m.–5 p.m. and Mon., Nov. 27 from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m. at the North Bend King County Library.

Good to Know
The Burien King County Library provides Kids’ Café: Free Afternoon Meals. Running Mondays through Fridays Oct. 2-6, 9-13, 16-20, 23-27 & 30-31 from 3:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m., kids ages 1-18 can pick up a free bite to eat thanks to Food Lifeline and the United Way of King County.

Do you and your little one have a favorite King County Library event or activity? Do you attend regular story times? Tell us in the comments below.

— Jennifer B. Davis

7 Reasons You Need to Book a Sitter in November

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You made it through Halloween and the sugar overload. Phew. And there’s still some time before the rush of the holidays. Double phew. So why not take some time for yourself this month and book a night out sans kids. That’s right – book a sitter and hit the town where cool things are still happening past 7 p.m. (trust us, they really are!). So dial-up your neighborhood sitter and read on for seven sitter-worthy activities you need to take advantage of this month.

1. Get Artsy! We are lucky to live in a city that is chock-full of amazing restaurants, bars, theaters, museums – and clubs. Yes, there are still the unst-unst-unst dance clubs of your youth, but there are also cool clubs for adults that play…umm, adult music like jazz. And the Earshot Jazz Festival, running now through Nov. 12, has the most amazing list of jazz artists playing somewhere near you, every single night. If jazz isn’t your thing, why not don those cute cowboy boots you bought years ago and catch Garth Brooks playing at the Tacoma Dome on Nov. 3. Last we checked, there were still single tickets left or maybe you can convince a good friend who already scored tix to take you.Yee-haw! If music isn’t your jam, say “Buongiorno” to the week-long Cinema Italian Style, SIFF’s mini-festival running Nov. 12-19 and featuring the best in contemporary Italian cinema. Ciao bella!

photo: Earshot Jazz Festival

2. Hit an Art Walk. Almost every city has a free, local art walk in its downtown core usually once a month – and typically featuring food and wine. Psst…did you know that the First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square, which started in 1981, was actually the first in the nation, and basically set the stage for the 12+ art walks now held regularly throughout the city? Consider these art walks taking place in November:

Nov. 2 – Pioneer Square
Nov. 3 – Fremont
Nov. 8 – Wallingford
Nov. 9 – Capital Hill & West Seattle
Nov. 10 – Belltown, Kirkland & Phinny/Greenwood
Nov. 11 – Ballard, Central District, Georgetown & Madrona
Nov. 16 – Columbia City, Edmonds, Everett & Queen Anne/Uptown

photo: West Seattle Art Walk Facebook page

3. Take in a Show. Beyond attending a movie (which can be a great date night activity, especially at an adult-style theater that has reserved seats and serves food and drinks!), there are other types of shows and events that are sitter-worthy this month. Consider:

The Seattle International Auto Show running Nov. 9-12 at Century Link Field. This show will not only feature the newest models and cutting-edge technology, but also rare and classic cars. The best part? There will be over 50 vehicles to test drive which is something you could never do with kids in tow.

If you’re more of the crafty type, the Best of the Northwest Art & Fine Craft Show runs Nov. 10 -12 at Hanger 30 in Seattle’s Magnuson Park. This show will feature more than 100 of the area’s best artists and artisans and it’s where you can marvel at jewelry, designer clothing and paintings, plus works of glass, metal, wood, clay and more at your leisure.

photo: The OC International Auto Show

4. Celebrate the Holiday Season Early. If you’re one of those people who get your Christmas decorations out the day after Thanksgiving, how about you bump it up even earlier this year and hit Seattle’s Festival of Trees. Benefiting Seattle Children’s Hospital, this festive event features an array of wonderfully decorated Christmas trees throughout the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, along with a Teddy Bear Suite in one of the hotel’s rooms. Grab a sitter and splurge on the fancy live auction and dinner event held on Sat., Nov 18. Psst…this is also a great event to take the kids to, as the trees are on display in the hotel lobby from Nov. 18-29.

photo: Amy Huey

5. Cheer for the Home Team. If your car is adorned with 12th Man stickers or you bleed purple and gold (or crimson and gray) – or any color in between, then the fall means football! This month, leave the kiddos with grandma and take in a Husky, Coug or Seahawks game at a friend’s house – or better yet, right in the action at the stadium. The Huskies have home games on Saturday Nov. 4 against the Oregon Ducks; Sat., Nov 18 against Utah; and Apple Cup on Sat., Nov. 25 will be played in Seattle this year. The Seahawks will also be rocking Century Link on Sun., Nov. 5 against Washington; Mon., Nov. 20 against Atlanta; and Sun., Dec. 3 against Philadelphia. Call that sitter stat!

6. Eat, Drink & Be Merry. If your dream adults-only night out includes adult-only beverages, look no further than Seattle in November. From beer to wine, to whisky and back to wine, the city has you covered.

French Wine Festival – Nov. 17 from 7 p.m.-11 p.m.
Enjoy French food, music, a silent auction and Beaujolais Nouveau alongside amazing views at the Columbia Tower Club. Discount prices available for ages 21 to 35.

Kirkland Wine Tasting – Nov, 17 at 6 p.m., VIP at 5 p.m.
Partake in the local Kirkland Holiday Wine Walk which will begin at The Heathman Hotel Kirkland and travel to a host of downtown Kirkland businesses. Enjoy wine from local wineries as well as brew from the area’s local breweries. This event always sells out, so get your tickets now!

The Whisky Extravaganza – Nov. 10 from 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
At the ever-old-school-posh Rainer Club, this pricey event ($150) includes unlimited tastes of more than 100 whiskies, culinary pairings, souvenir tasting glasses and Masterclasses (with prior registration). Psst…men will be required to wear a jacket, so you know this one is going to be fancy.

Ciderfest – Nov. 2 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Venture to the SODO district on Thurs. Nov. 2 and sip on some seasonal ciders from the Northwest’s best producers. Pumpkin spice? Winter blends? Barrel-aged? They’ll have them all at this year’s Ciderfest. And in addition to the best local ciders, this event will showcase lifestyle exhibits from other local companies and other beverage categories as well as local eats!

7. Get Out and Enjoy Nature. Two free National Parks Days happen to fall during the month of November. On Nov. 11 & 12, enjoy free park access at any of our area’s national parks (which includes Mt. Rainer and the  Olympic National Park). Just be prepared for more people and far less parking than usual. And two free State Park Days also happen to take place this month. On  Nov. 11 and Nov. 24, enjoy one or more or our area’s 140 Washington state parks for free (no Discover Pass required). Score!

photo: Bellevue Parks & Recreation

Do you have a sitter already booked for November? Tell us in the comments below.

— Jennifer B. Davis

8 Reasons to Book a Sitter in October

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Now that the weather has turned cooler and the kiddies are back in school, it’s the perfect time to schedule some time with your sweetie (or BFF), and take advantage of one of our area’s adult activities. No, not those kinds of activities – the good, clean, fun activities that either kids aren’t allowed to attend or are more fun without tots in tow. So dial up your favorite sitter, read on and take advantage of one or more of these fantastic October happenings.

photo: Pixabay

1. Attend an Oktoberfest Celebration 
Fall mean cooler temps, changing leaves and pumpkin spice lattes along with a variety of area Oktoberfests. While Germany’s huge Oktoberfest in Munich actually happens in September (and the Fremont and Kirkland festivals were also in September), you can rest easy with a variety of other cities around our area hosting German-themed, beer-drinking, bratwurst-eating festivus-es. The biggest and most authentic of all them all is, of course, in Leavenworth and runs three weekends – Sept. 29-39, Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 13-14. Bust out your lederhosen, braid your hair and hit the town for all kinds of German-themed fun. There’s also Oktoberfest Northwest taking place Oct. 6-8 at the Washington State Fairgrounds, Bier on the Pier in Anacortes on Oct. 6 & 7 and Bellingham’s Oktoberfest on Oct. 7. Prost!

photo: Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails

2. Dine out During Seattle Restaurant Week
End your day on a delicious note, and take part in Seattle Restaurant Week. Running three weeks in total from Oct. 15-Nov. 2, this year’s restaurant week features over 165 restaurants, offering delish delights from seafood to sushi, pizza to Parisian, and everything in between. Of course, you can take the whole fam, but why not try out that fancy place you’ve been dying to go to – or enjoy a cuisine the Littles aren’t big on. And with three courses for $33, it’s not heavy on the wallet either.

photo: Shane Gorski via Flickr

3. Take in a Scary Halloween Attraction
Maybe your love of Halloween rivals that of junior’s, so take advantage of the sitter and visit a super-spooky Halloween haunt. Stalker Farms in Snohomish takes scary to the next level with gory attractions, a paintball shooting range, freak shows and a macabre magic show called “Abra Kadaver.” In the South Sound, Maris Farms in Buckley offers a Haunted Woods attraction that offers plenty of thrills and chills. South of downtown Seattle, the Georgetown Morgue is gruesomely great and is open Thurs.-Sun. during the month of October. And if you’re still looking for more bloodcurdling fun, the Nile Nightmares Haunted House in Mountlake Terrace and the Frighthouse Station Haunted House in Tacoma are both spook-tacular!

4. Get a Jump Start on Your Holiday Shopping
If “October” simply means to you that you’re just that much closer to the holidays, then fire up your sleigh and head to the Tacoma Holiday Gift Show. Running Oct. 19-22, this is the 35th annual holiday food and gift festival at the T-dome, and the largest holiday show in the west. Not only will there be over 500 booths of holiday delights, there will be tasty treats to try, entertainment to enjoy and cooking programs to get you into the holiday spirit. Tickets are $15.50 and good for all four days, if you just can’t do it all in one day. And kids under 12 get in free, so you’re OK if the sitter bails.

photo: Jennifer Davis

5. Attend a Charity Event 
If you’re feeling philanthropic, why not attend a charity event this October? From formal balls and black ties auctions, to more casual football-themed fundraisers and pet-themed walks, there’s something for everyone this month. The Arthritis Foundation’s Bone Bash takes place on Oct 21 and is a “good cause—masquerading as a good time.” (Hint: wear your Halloween costume!) Several guilds that support Seattle Children’s Hospital have events taking place during October, including Touchdown for Tots (a casual football-themed auction pictured above) and Where Miracles Take Flight (a dressier fundraiser that includes dinner and dancing). Or consider Greenlake’s Glow in the Park fundraiser, where both you and Fido can walk and support the Seattle Humane Society.

photo: Kristine Elliott

6. Root for the Home Team
In many homes fall means football, so why not put on your 12th Man gear and root for the Hawks. If you haven’t been to a Seahawks home game yet, grab your significant other or your BFF and experience the spirit, noise, 12th Man pride (and did we mention spirit and noise?) at CenturyLink Field. Home games take place on Oct. 1 and 29 and tickets are still available. If “football” (aka soccer) is more your thing, the Seattle Sounders play at home on Oct. 15 and 22. Beyond that, the Washington Huskies have home games on Oct. 7 and 28 in the newly renovated Husky stadium. Or maybe your alma mater has the “Big Game,” so find a local hot spot, park yourself amongst fans and take in the action on the big screen.

photo: Cinemark

7. Catch a Flick 
Speaking of big screens, sometimes there’s nothing better than catching a new release, while it’s actually still in the theater. And if you haven’t heard, there are now theaters designed just for grown-ups. For real! Think large comfy seats, yummy food, adult beverages and even people to serve you at your seat during the movie. Ahhhh… sounds nice, huh? Check out Big Picture, iPic Redmond, Cinnebar Mountlake 8, Cinerama, McMenamins and the new Cinemark Reserve Lincoln Square (pictured above) in Bellevue.

photo: Susan via Flickr

8. Get in Touch With Nature 
If all else fails, go take a hike. Seriously! Nothing revitalizes the body and mind like being outside. And with so many mountains, hills and parks around our area (along with scenic spots to see fall foliage), Seattle has a hike for everyone. (Psst…you can definitely hike longer and faster on adult-sized legs than with a kiddo strapped to your back!) And we’re not judging if that hike is to see Snoqualmie Falls and ends in dinner, or a massage or even a night at the Salish Lodge & Spa. Shhh…

Did we miss a favorite fall sitter-required activity? Tell us in the comments below.

— Jennifer B. Davis

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The newly redesigned Downtown Bellevue Park just opened this summer, and it got a whole lot cooler. Inclusivity and activity reign (and rain!) at the Inspiration Playground, where all ages and abilities can play and explore at their own pace. But that’s not all. The newly redesigned park also features a play area for older kids, a splash pad (perfect for hot summer days), a rockin’ music area and much more. So round up your kid crew and read on for the deets on Bellevue’s hottest, err, coolest place to play this summer.

A Play Area Built for All
Built in collaboration between the City of Bellevue and Rotary Club of Bellevue, the playground features new interactive elements that “engage the senses, create inclusiveness and accommodate children of all abilities and their caregivers.” The new playground’s design was meant to retain the popularity of its previous playground while considerably expanding its size as well as providing activities that “support the physical, educational and social development of an individual” and engage the senses (think: sight, sound, smell and touch).

Designed for ages 2 to 12 (but all are welcome to play), the rubberized ground cover makes for safer running and playing. At the center of the play area sits the iconic Wisdom Tree sculpture, beckoning park-goers and outlining benches (that swing!) make for comfy viewing spots for adults.

Imagination Station
Aimed at munchkins ages 2-5, little ones hitting up this station will delight in the smaller scale (yet still impressive) play structure. This section of the park comes complete with a toddler and mom-and-me swing, as well as a four-person we-saw and spinner bowl—which we noticed delighted older kids as well. Plus, there’s a variety of sensory and movement equipment to keep active tykes engaged.

Whimsey Play Area
Built for larger hands and feet, this area of the playground is designed for kids ages 5-12 and features a climbing wall, beautifully designed climbing vine, large-scale play structure, swings (of the large, round platform variety) and an in-ground trampoline!

Splash Around
Beyond park basics like swings and slides, Bellevue’s new Downtown Park delights visitors (especially during warm weather) with a fun splash pad, “waterfall cave” and water sensory table. Ground vents, a small little river with a bridge and a peek-or-run-through rock waterfall make for giggles and grins all around.

Important Deets About the Park
If you’re wondering if parking is going to be an issue, don’t fret. Parking is free and ample with a new lot created off 100th street. (Psst… don’t be alarmed if you see a park ranger. They’re on site making sure you’re not a construction worker looking for a sweet spot.) There are clean, new bathroom facilities and a water fountain on site, and better yet—a huge grassy area and stunning pond (with its own waterfall) for your viewing and lounging pleasure.

Psst! With the park’s recent debut, ample parking and prime downtown Bellevue location, don’t expect this to be a “park to yourself” kind of place. The park is often quite crowded, but with so much going on, you should be able to enjoy every section of sprawling space.

Explore Beyond the Playground
If your munchkins simply need to blow off steam and run there’s more than enough space for even the fastest of kids—yet the huge surrounding park is quite idyllic and calming with its huge circular pond and expansive grassy area (hard to believe you are only steps away from Bellevue Square). And because of this proximity, you can pop over to the Whole Foods 365 market (aka the old J.C. Penney’s space) or step it up with a venture onto Bellevue’s Main Street, where swanky eateries, bakeries and bars abound.

All in all – it’s worth a trip to Bellevue – neither you nor your kids will leave disappointed!

Downtown Bellevue Park and Inspiration Playground
10201 N.E. 4th St.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Hours: Dawn to dusk

Have you visited the newly redesigned Bellevue Downtown Park? What’s your favorite part? Tell us in the comments below!

— Jennifer B. Davis (all photos courtesy of the writer)

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This spring, laugh and learn with SCT’s world premiere of Fire Station 7—a rollicking musical designed for the whole family. The creative, physical comedy follows alley cat Coco’s attempt to become the first fire cat (but Riaford, the resident fire dog, isn’t thrilled). Designed to educate young audiences about fire safety, this show flawlessly integrates fire safety rules with loads of creativity and plenty of laughs.

Teamwork, Courage and Lots of Laughs
When the firefighting team at Fire Station 7 discovers a frisky alley cat named Coco hiding in their truck, they waste no time in giving her the boot. But Coco’s biggest dream is to be a fire cat, and she begs Jasper, Briggs and Olive to let her stay. The trio finally allow her one shot at the job, and Coco is delighted. But being a fire cat turns out to be much harder than she thought. Still, Coco never gives up, determined to learn everything about fire safety, help in emergencies and pass her exam. Psst! Keep a look out for the puppets and see if you can count how many different animal puppets you see!

Safe & Silly
SCT partnered with the Seattle Fire Department on this production, and the SFD will exhibit fire engines on site during select performances. Local fire fighters will also “bunk gear” during post-play discussions. During the show, little theater-goers learn important fire safety basics such as stop, drop and roll, what to do when the fire alarm sounds, and the important lesson of “never go back in” during a fire. And with the addition of a handful of puppets, lots of great physical comedy and a litter of jokes from Coco the cat, the production makes learning about fire safety a blast!

Retro Rock n’ Roll
For the adults or grandparents in your crew, the performance does a great job of keeping the Bigs entertained with 1950’s throwback hits like “Blue Moon,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Rockin’ Robin” and “Yakety Yak,” along with retro-era scenery. An innovative set design has the fire station lockers turning artfully into the fire truck itself. And “fires” are creatively executed when the cake burns in the oven and a large-scale building catches fire.

Station 7 Stats
This rock n’ roll comedy was co-conceived by Linda Hartzell and playwright Vince Delany who aimed for a show that showcased firefighters doing actual firefighting, portrayed what their training and daily lives were like and could teach audiences about safety – oh, and was funny!  Jayne Muirhead channels her inner cat as Coco, Greg McCormick Allen plays Jasper, Nicole Beerman plays Olive, Rob Burgess delights at Raiford the Dalmatian, Rudy Roushdi portrays Briggs and Annett Mateo is the puppet master.

Good to Know:
1. The show runs through May 21, 2017 with performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

2. Ticket prices start at $22; rush tickets are available for $18 one hour prior to curtain.

3. SCT is a TeenTix member, providing discounts for those participating in the EBT program, as well as discounts for Military personnel and their families.

photo: Jennifer B. Davis

Seattle Children’s Theatre
201 Thomas St.
Seattle, WA 98109

Dates: Now through May 21, 2017
Cost: $22 & up
Ages: 4 & up
Special Showings:
ASL-interpreted performance: Sat. May 6 at 2 p.m.
Sensory-friendly/relaxed performance: Sun. May 7 at 11 a.m.

Have you seen Fire Station 7? What was your family’s favorite part? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Jennifer B. Davis

All photos courtesy of Elise Bakketun unless otherwise noted.