Author Archives: Stronglikemycoffee

Bucket List Item #11 (Part 1 of 3): Visit 3 States. WASHINGTON

In late September, my family vacationed in the San Juan Islands off the shores of Washington.

If you’ve never seen this Pacific North West scenic setting, this blog post just might entice you to plan a visit. The San Juan Islands have been on my dad’s radar for a long time. On September 20th, he celebrated his 60th birthday and we rang in the new decade with a family trip to his bucket list destination!

We opted to drive the whole way rather than fly to Seattle because we had SO MUCH STUFF to bring with us for our 8 days away from home. We couldn’t even all fit in one car, we had to bring two! Travelling with a baby requires a pack n’ play, mattress, stroller, high chair, car seat, tons of diapers and toys, our big hiking carrier, and so many little things that really add up. We planned on cooking many of the meals in our VRBO house (the kitchen was a culinary dream!) so we also had two coolers and lots of dry goods. The preparation and packing alone took multiple days, as I also had to plan out the logistics of pumping milk and feeding Brynnley throughout the long travel days.

They say that “getting there is half the fun.” Just like their name, they are ISLANDS. So we drove from Boise through Seattle up to Anacortes which took 8 hours. Then we drove our cars onto a massive ferry boat that took us into the Pacific Ocean for about an hour to Friday Harbor which is the port of one of the three main islands. In the map below, Bellingham and Anacortes are in Washington State and Victoria on the left side is in Canada. The islands are right in the middle, owned by the United States.

San Juan Islands are made up of 172 named islands and reefs. However only three islands are served by state-run ferry systems and are the most popular for tourism: San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. They are known for their unique landscape and abundance of wildlife, including orca and humpback whales which have sightings nearly every day. We stayed on San Juan Island in an incredible rental home right on the water.

There is so much to share about this wonderful area and I’d like to keep it all in one blog post so I will warn you now, this one is lengthy! I’d grab your cup of coffee or glass of wine now and settle in :)

We arrived in mid-September and lucked out with the turning seasons. Some trees were already bright with color and shedding leaves but much of the island remained very green. PNW is known for its moody weather and unpredictable gloominess, but we had pure sunshine and blue skies for 7 out of the 8 days there. (The one rainy day was of course on the date I had pre-booked a private sailboat, but we’ll get to that!)

Our first night, we toured the property, unpacked, got the baby settled into her bedtime routine, enjoyed an easy dinner on the back deck and relaxed. So Monday morning we were ready to explore as much of the island as we could! San Juan Island is 55 square miles and has a population of 7,000.

We began our day in Roche Harbor for coffee and breakfast next to the marina. We ate at Lime Kiln Cafe, named for the island’s history in limestone quarrying and production. Next we finished our coffees while walking around the marina and admiring the sailboats and yachts. What a lifestyle! From there, we walked around, admiring the cute hotels and restaurants and then touring the sculpture park. 300 sculptures cover several acres of gardens that the public can walk through any time. My favorite was this wooden representation of the orca whales the island is so famous for.

Not too far from Roche Harbor is Lime Kiln State Park which is known as the most notable whale watching spot and also offers tide pools to explore at certain times of the day. There’s also a small lighthouse and some beautiful walking paths around this area. We came once during the day to enjoy the views, and again later in the week first thing in the morning at low-tide to check out the tide pools. Sadly we didn’t spot any whales or colorful crustaceans.

We continued our tour of the island’s perimeter to South Beach where we dipped Brynnley’s toes into the ocean for the first time ever. It was COLD! Brynnley sleeps with a sound machine every night set to “ocean waves” so Zeb pointed out that this should sound like home to her! The beach of filled with drift wood, and my parents collected some to make a Christmas tree-shaped hanging yard ornament.

Close by is one more lighthouse – Cattle Point Light House. I’m not sure you can call .25 miles a “hike” but it was a very hilly and sandy short walk that seriously tested our stroller’s off-roading abilities. Brynnley had just fallen asleep for a much-needed nap so we were determined to push her through whatever terrain we had! The stroller tires left a funny track in the sand and a passerby said they thought there were four odd-shaped snakes on the trail until she saw the culprit haha.

By this point we were all ready for some food and a drink! Our last stop of the day was Friday Harbor, a small town within San Juan Island with tons of cute shops and restaurants. One thing to note – there are NO chain businesses on the island! No chain grocery stores, coffee shops or convenience stores. Everything is local :)

We nabbed some calamari and a beverage at Friday Harbor Crab House on their rooftop deck with a view of the port. It was fun to watch the sea planes land right on the water in front of us. We switched spots for our late lunch and walked across the street to Down Riggers which was even closer to the marina.

Tuesday was the big day – the 60th Birthday! The night before, Zeb, my mom and I stayed up to decorate the house and I’m sure my dad had noo idea what we were doing. ;) He was surprised by our matching shirts the next day though that an Etsy shop made to give him maximum attention on our shenanigans that day.

After birthday breakfast on the back deck, we drove to “English Camp.” This requires a tiny bit of a history lesson. In the 1800s, both the United States and Great Britain occupied the San Juan Islands. They divided San Juan Island in half – Great Britain took the north and US took the south. (After touring the island, Great Britain got the better end of the deal here.) Ultimately, we know who won the rights to the land. The camps they held are now national historic parks – English Camp and American Camp. They require a $10 parking pass but are totally worth it! There’s several walking paths around English camp that we did with Brynnley in her stroller. There are still original structures up and some waterfront area that we saw a seal swimming around in and sporadically popping his head up at us.

We came back to this area a couple days later to do a different hike to the tallest point on San Juan Island (700 ft elevation or so) in her Osprey hiking carrier that she loved. The trail was called Mt. Young, and it passes by the English camp’s cemetary for the seven men who died during their occupation. This hike was about 2.25 miles and had a stunning view at the top of the islands and bay and even Victoria, Canada. This is one of the best views you can get on San Juan Island and the hike is pretty mild, so I think it’s a must-do if you are staying here!

Another attraction on the island happened to be just down the road from our rental house – Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. Many people include this as a stop in their travels, and we were able to walk one mile down the dirt road. The farm is GORGEOUS and the trees were starting to turn colors with rolling hills in the background. These alpacas have it made!

They were so friendly and cute. It’s free to come and roam the property and there is a store on site with different blankets and clothing items made from the alpacas. P.S. I have decided that alpacas look like the result of a camel breeding with a golden doodle. :)

Brynnley was very alert during this stop and loved talking to all of the alpacas who would look her way!

Alright – courtesy pause here to say that if your mug or glass are empty, you might want to go get a refill because we are NOT even close to being DONE YET!

Another fun short hiking option would be the Roche Harbor Trails – a system of 5 trails stemming off from a single trailhead that cover over 6 miles total but contain some loop options that are between 1-2 miles total. I did my research on this one beforehand and knew that one of the trails would connect with the Roche Harbor Disc Golf Course (flashbacks to bucket list item #4!). So we packed along my parents’ sets of discs with us and played several holes along our very green and lush walk.

Directly across from the Roche Harbor Trails was one of the best meals we had on the vacation. (We ate so good on this trip, both at restaurants and cooking at home, so it really is impossible to even say “best” here.) My parents made reservations at Wescott Bay Shellfish Co.

This is a really cool atmosphere for outdoor waterfront dining. It is an aquaculture farm/shellfish company, and during the summer season they have “Tide Tables” where they serve BBQ’d oysters with a variety of compound butters and some sides that change with the local farmers crops. I’m a very picky eater and the texture of oysters has always grossed me out, so I planned on trying a polite bite and then making a lunch out of my prosecco and bread 😁 BBQ’d oysters with such flavorful butters are a whole different story though, and I ended up loving them so much I ordered another round just for myself! The ambience of being right on the water under the umbrellas of the picnic tables on such a warm sunny day and trying new unexpected foods and flavors was one of my highlights of the trip.

Like I said though, not every day was sunny. We had one gloomy rainy day, and that happened to fall on the day that I had pre-booked a private sailboat tour around the islands. This was mine and Zeb’s birthday present to my dad – we thought it would be fun to have a different perspective of all of the islands, and none of us had ever sailed before. Well, after three hours on the boat I still don’t think any of us can really say we “sailed.”

Even though it was raining and drizzling, there was just NO wind. The sailboat really had no movement unless Captain Ward turned on the motor and scooted us around Friday Harbor. We did get to see a bunch of seals hanging out on some rocks and that was fun, but we never got too far from Friday Harbor and we didn’t get to have much of the new perspective I was hoping for. We were ready to just head back and head somewhere indoors for a late lunch.

That day we ate at the San Juan Island Brewery which had a full food menu and a huge seating area, both indoors and outdoors. We all loved our meals – I got their flatbread special which had whole cloves of garlic (sorry Zeb). I’m not a beer drinker so I had a glass of white wine. We walked a little around Friday Harbor again, but for the rest of the trip that I haven’t covered we spent enjoying our rental house and all it had to offer!

Two kayaks were included with the house, which was really fun to go out into the bay see some of the beautiful homes up close. First I went out with my mom, and we were convinced there was a sea snake behind us but later could see more clearly that it was in fact seaweed. Then I went out again with Zeb and we ventured a little farther to the site of a fishing boat that had sunk a week earlier and was being pulled up by a crane on a barge. It was quite a large operation!

Brynnley popped her very first tooth while we were there, and she was still her happy smiley self throughout it all. She had the best time getting spoiled with lots of attention from everyone. One day, everyone was hanging out on the back deck listening to music and eating snacks. I went to go get Brynnley up from her nap and bring her outside with us. To make everyone laugh, I took my eyebrow pen and colored on dark brows where her typically-invisible ones are. It caught everyone off guard in the most hilarious way!

My dad grilled steaks, salmon and veggies for his birthday dinner. Zeb and I cooked a yummy chicken pad thai dish for everyone one night. We had a fire pit evening with roasted hot dogs and s’mores in the backyard after Brynnley went to bed one night. We had a phenomenal buffalo chicken dip that Zeb made, and one happy hour at home he used it to stuff poblano peppers and then wrap them in bacon. We also enjoyed bacon-wrapped scallops for another at-home happy hour afternoon. We definitely ate WELL, as you should on a milestone birthday celebration. And of course, there was lots and lots of coffees. I tried out four different local coffee shops on the island and my favorite was Salty Fox coffee right next to the ferry port at Friday Harbor.

Before we knew it, our eight days in the PNW had come to an end and we were getting ready to take the first morning ferry back to Anacortes. I might put together a separate little travel guide post with more details about everything we ate and drank on the island for those that are interested in venturing to this unique area in the future!

Bucket List Item #10: Ride a Roller Coaster

The theme parks in Idaho are few and far between. In fact, I can only think of one and it is about as far away from Boise at the northern-most part of the state. To cross this bucket list item off, my husband and I first talked about using his flight benefits to jaunt down to Salt Lake City for a day trip to their amusement park Lagoon. However, snagging a standby seat these days is a rare event. The benefit for pilot families to travel for free was once a loathsome perk, but nowadays it’s a laughable empty promise as nearly every flight is overbooked. Standby seats come with the high risk of getting stuck on a layover or without a flight back home (been there, done that!). A risk we weren’t willing to take with our 6.5 month old. So, we scratched that idea (which totally would have been something our pre-parent selves would have done). And instead we made a family day to the lone mountain coaster in the Treasure Valley.

About 40 minutes away from us is a small ski area called Bogus Basin. In the summertime, they offer great mountain biking trails, sunrise yoga classes, lots of kids’ activities, some outdoor concerts, and Idaho’s only “mountain coaster” which they call the Glade Runner.

It’s built right into the landscape, so as you climb to the top of the peak you are brushing past wildflowers and brush. The twists and turns down the course wind directly through huge pine trees along the hillside so it’s a really unique ride in nature that’s almost a mile long!

Zeb, Brynnley and I hopped in the car pretty shortly after we woke up on the Saturday morning and we were the first people at the ticket counter when they opened. We actually got there a little early so we did as much of a “hike” as Brynnley’s stroller situation would allow. She looked stylin’ in a pair of sunglasses from when I was a baby!

Then Zeb and I took turns riding the roller coaster one at a time so the other could stay with Brynnley and the diaper bag and lunch pail. I went first, and I’m definitely the more “chicken” one. The speed of the coaster is completely at your control because once you start the downhill section you are just using gravity along with a hand brake. It picks up speed so quickly that I thought I HAD to brake periodically otherwise it would be out of control by the end. But my husband told me after his ride that he never touched the hand brakes and the ride automatically caps your speed at a certain point so it doesn’t get carried away. I wish I knew that before I went and I would have been a little braver with my brake usage!

We shared an iced coffee and had some granola bars and pistachios at the picnic area before heading home. It was a beautiful morning on the mountain and great to have a fun little family outing before the chaos of October. October is hunting season for my husband, who participates in the deer and elk season in Idaho when he has breaks from work. October will bring a lot of Mommy & Me time for Brynnley and I so I am looking forward to planning some fall activities for her and I :)

I recently joined MOPS – which is an organization that stands for Moms Of Preschoolers, though you can join during pregnancy and continue until your youngest child is 5 years old. I’ve only been to one meeting and one zoo play date so far, but I’m excited about the new opportunity to build friendships with other fellow moms in the area and branch out. Being a first-time mom brings so many questions and now I have 99 women who have all done it before (some of them several times) to gain more insight from and just connect and talk with when most of my days seem like they are consumed with my tiny human’s bodily functions. That was today. Note to self: no more pears for baby.

My family just got back from an incredible weeklong vacation to the San Juan Islands which I will be blogging all about next week, and I can’t wait to share some of our photos and travel recommendations. So bring a cup of coffee and come back later next week for that fun post! :)

Bucket List Item #9: Stand Up Paddle Board

The summer weekends are dwindling down, so we have crammed in as much waterside activities as we possibly can! Paddle boarding, swimming pool, floating the river, and boating…..and we’ve taken our baby along with us because she is such a little adventurous trooper!

My parents have these inflatable paddle boards, so we met them at Quinn’s Pond right along the Boise River. It’s a popular spot because there’s a little beach sand area, three ponds for kayaking or paddle boarding, lots of grass and park area, and a snow cone truck in the parking lot. It’s right off of the Boise Greenbelt directly across from some great bars and restaurants with outdoor patios. In the summertime in Boise, it’s the place to be. ☺️

We’ve been having a heat wave in this part of Idaho, so we kept Brynnley in the shade under umbrellas. We took turns with my parents taking out the paddle boards two at a time – first I went out with my dad, then with my husband. It was such a hot sunny day, the cool pond felt refreshing and was pretty crowded! The water is calm and you aren’t fighting a current or waves, so standing on the paddle board is very easy here. The last (and only other) time I paddle boarded was with Zeb on our honeymoon in the bay of the Caribbean. The constant tide and waves made standing up a lot more challenging. This time was a piece of cake. Zeb took out a fishing pole on the board with him one time but we didn’t see any fish in the water.

Poor Brynnley girl was pretty hot so we called it a day early.

There’s not much else to this bucket list item! So I’ll go back to a little old school style blogging like back in the day for a bit 🙂 Today I did some online shopping for our outfits for a fall family photo shoot later this month. I am having way too much fun dressing Brynnley up every day like she’s my little doll, and I feel like the outfits are getting so much better now that she’s a little bigger. During her newborn months, I preferred just to leave her in cozy onesies but now we are venturing out into cargo pants, skorts, denim overalls and soon she can even where cable knits for pumpkin season!

Brynnley sat in her little kitchen seat to watch me make a recipe that’s not new to Strong Like My Coffee – peanut butter oatmeal energy bites.

One of my family friends who reads this blog, Johnna, will also appreciate this creation because I still refer to it by the name they introduced to us as……..”Cat Balls.” The story goes that they made a batch of these yummy snacks the day their cat was neutered and that has always stuck in my head when I make them. It makes me chuckle when I tell my husband I’m making him a batch of cat balls to take on his trip with him, but they are so delicious and perfect to grab in the morning with my coffee before I feed Brynnley!

After I hit “publish” on this post, my husband is making me watch YouTube videos with him on how to cut men’s hair 😁 In the four years we’ve been together, he has let me give him three haircuts. Not for my lack of offering. He’s very picky and insists on paying a barber but I’ve lobbied to save $30ish a month. Personally I don’t think I’ve ever done a terrible job with his cuts. He’s definitely had worse results from an actual salon before. But he’s annoyed that I’ve never actually looked up any tips or examples on how to cut hair so tonight he has queued up some YouTube tutorials to watch as homework.

Lastly, I have already crossed off Bucket List item #10 but I’m going to wait to blog about it until I get some of the professional photos back, if that gives you any hints 😉 Until then, I realized I should spend some time updating my “about me” page and side panel photos. It’s been well over 6 years since I added those and they are definitely outdated by now!

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