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Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Tacoma Narrows Bridge Construction

Narrows Park, a 35-acre stretch of beach in Tacoma, reopened this past weekend after a yearlong closure for renovation. It is now the "official" viewing spot to watch construction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which will be the largest suspension bridge built in the United States in more than 30 years.

Improvements to the park include fee-free telescopic viewers, a paved road down to the beach, a parking lot, and wheelchair accessibility.

The bridge work has thus far occurred mostly underwater. This summer, however, crews will begin to build the towers. The first is scheduled to rise to bridge-deck height in September.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


New Baseball Board Game

Bellevue, Washington, gaming company WizKids has launched a new product that is part old-fashioned board game and part 3-D sports strategy game. It's called SportsClix, and it features miniature figurines on a plastic mat that looks like a ballpark. The game employs four levels of rules, the most advanced of which takes into account every nuance of the game and each player's strengths and weaknesses, no matter how subtle.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Idaho Bans Smoking in Public Places

On July 1st, Idaho will become the seventh state to ban smoking in most public places.

All restaurants, businesses, hospitals, and schools will become smoke-free. Bars and bowling alleys are exempt.

Washington, Oregon, and Montana... What are you waiting for?


Learn to Camp

Living in the Northwest, it's almost mandatory that you learn how to go camping.

And here are some tips on camping with kids.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Family Hike: Multnomah Falls

Over the years my family has developed an unexpected tradition while traveling near the Portland area. We stop in the Columbia Gorge for a quick stretch and walk at Multnomah Falls.

Plummeting 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the nation. Surrounded by lush vegetation and sheer rocky cliffs, it's a fun and easy hike up to the bridge overlooking the lower level of the falls.

Beyond that, the paved switchbacks grow steep as they wind their way to the top of the falls. It's a long and tiring hike for little kids, so we have yet to make it past the bridge. We'll tackle it when they're older and have gained some respect (not fear) of heights.

If you do make it to the top, there's a vertigo-inducing viewing platform and more hiking trails that lead off into the forest to other scenic waterfalls and overlooks, including Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, and Lemmon's Viewpoint.

Back at the base, we spend a leisurely hour just gawking and walking followed by a quick perusal of souvenirs and an ice cream cone at the lodge. As the kids grow, we'll build upon our tradition and explore more of this beautiful area of the Gorge.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Re-thinking Family Friendly Vehicles

Pamela Troeppl is a freelance writer and author, living in the Pacific Northwest. She's also very funny. Here's her take on family-friendly vehicles.

Here's another of her columns: Exercising When the Kids are Home.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


TV's Best and Worst Dads

From Mike Brady to Homer Simpson to Frank Costanza, there has been no shortage of memorable father characters on television over the past fifty years.

Read about the best, and the worst, of them at MSNBC's toast to TV dads.

Personally, I learned a thing or two from Charles Ingalls. The guy was solid as a rock when it came to his family. Michael Landon owned the character like no other writer-actor. Plus, he was the master of the lip quiver! "Half-pint, I luv ya, but we have to sell your kidney to save the farm."

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Family Hike: Mineral Ridge, Lake Coeur d'Alene

There's nothing better for a family than a FREE activity. Which is why I enjoy taking my kids out hiking on nature trails.

The Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail is located at the north end of one of the most beautiful lakes in the country -- Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

The trailhead is just three miles off I-90. The 2.5 mile hike begins as you gradually ascend Mineral Ridge on a clean and clear trail that never seems like too steep a climb. My kids slowed down after about a mile, as we neared the top of the ridge. But once we leveled out and had a lunch break, they were rejuvenated and eager to get started again.

The view from the top, looking south across the lake, is spectacular. This is why people bring cameras on their hikes. There's a bench to rest yourself on before starting the downward loop back to the parking lot.

There are bathrooms and a picnic area at the trailhead.

Be sure you check out the short side trail near the top of the ridge that leads to an old mine. It's safe enough to go inside. There's a bench there too. I like benches (another sign of encroaching old age).

Saturday, June 19, 2004


Catch a Fish, Throw a Ball, Fly a Kite

A Seattle doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Lee, has written a fun book called "Catch a Fish, Throw a Ball, Fly a Kite: 21 Timeless Skills Every Child Should Know (and Any Parent Can Teach)".

The book offers step-by-step directions for old-fashioned activities such as baking bread, making a paper airplane and skipping a stone. It includes tips for troubleshooting as well as related jokes, stories and science lessons.

The book is set up not as a tutorial for kids but as a guideline for parents teaching kids.

"The family ritual and tradition thing is slipping away from us," Lee said. "These kinds of activities are more of a jumping off point for creating traditions than the latest video game."

Friday, June 18, 2004


Kids Make Us Fat

The reason so many Americans are fat is a result of having children. Or so says Steve Johnston.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Home Safety Tips

The Home Safety Council reminds us to make our home a safer place with these ten tips:

1. Install smoke alarms on every floor. Test them monthly.
2. Develop a fire escape plan for your family. The plan should have two exits out of every room and a place to meet outside. Hold a family fire drill at least twice each year.
3. Always stay in the kitchen while food is cooking on the stove.
4. Keep all stairways, paths and walkways clear of clutter and well lit.
5. Install grab bars in bath and shower stalls, and use a non-slip mat or adhesive safety strips inside bathtubs and showers.
6. Post emergency numbers and the National Poison Control Hotline number (1-800-222-1222) next to every phone in your home.
7. Install child locks on all cabinets used to store dangerous items such as cleaners, matches, lighters and household chemicals.
8. Keep your water heater setting at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
9. If you have a pool, install four-sided pool fencing with self-locking and self-closing gates. Fencing should completely isolate the pool from the home and be least five feet high.
10. Stay within arm’s length and constantly supervise children in or near water such as pools, ponds, bathtubs and buckets

Thanks to the HealthBeat blog.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004



A new exhibit at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, Masters of the Web, sounds like fun for my kids (they love spiders). I'll just have to grit my teeth and make it through.

The exhibit runs May 29 through October 31.


Read To Your Kids

Research shows that parental involvement is the number-one determinant of how children do in school.

Reading to your kids is one of the best ways to teach them about reading, expand and enrich their vocabularies, and broaden their experiences.

This new book, The Between the Lions Book for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Child Learn to Read, is a great resource for parents who want to encourage a love of reading in their children.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Oregon Beaches

The beaches of Oregon are among the most spectacular and serene in the world.

In 1967, the Oregon Legislature adopted the Oregon Beach Bill that proclaims all beaches in Oregon to be public property. In no other state are all beaches owned by the public.

The best of the Oregon coast includes:

Monday, June 14, 2004


Backyard Buddies

Make "Slithering Snake Cookies" or "Ladybug Pizza," play "Chick-Tac-Toe," color a picture of a hummingbird, make your own antlers...

Kids can find hundreds of activities at the Backyard Buddies web site.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


Family Hike: Twin Falls Trail

Here's an easy hike for all ages, just thirty minutes from Seattle on I-90. The Twin Falls Trail along the Snoqualmie River offers wonderful views of the Upper Twin Falls.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


We All Scream

Best ice cream in the world, made right here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Save The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus!

The possibility of Pacific Northwest tree octopus extinction is not an unwarranted fear. We couldn't save the Idaho Democrat, but there's still hope for these defenseless cephalopods. Do what you can.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Death By Drowning

A sobering reminder to take great care when your kids are playing in the water. Death by drowning is the No. 2 killer of children in America, second only to car accidents.

The Missoula Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition recommends that when children are around water, parents take turns serving as the designated water-watcher. A water-watcher means the adult always can see and hear the child and remains close enough to intervene in an emergency. Parents also need to make sure they are putting life jackets on children when they are around water.

Monday, June 07, 2004


Crayon Recycling

A 14-year-old Boise girl, Ida Fischer, is collecting used crayons — all colors, all brands — this month. She plans to melt them down, pour them into molds and make the new creations available to disadvantaged children.

"There's plenty of people out there with old crayons they don't want that are just sitting at home collecting dust," Fischer says. "Why not put those crayons to use?"


Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

The 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, running from near the Montana border to the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, is officially open.

The Union Pacific Railroad paid for the biking, hiking and skating trail, which was built in conjunction with tribal, state and federal agencies to pave over the old rail bed.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


Peanut Butter & Ellie's Trike and Wagon Race

Portland kids can shine up their tricycles and wagons for Peanut Butter & Ellie's First Annual Trike and Wagon Race on June 19th.

If you've never heard of Peanut Butter & Ellie's, this mom-owned restaurant in Portland, Oregon, is a haven for families. Here, young diners can eat at kid-size tables, write on walls (chalkboard paint covers one section), play with toys, flip through books, and eat their favorite meals.

The café pairs its own fresh-ground organic peanut butter with an eclectic mix of partners—grapes, apples, carrots, honey, bacon. Add a side of carrot sticks and a sippy cup full of milk and you're set. Hard-core peanut butter connoisseurs are, of course, permitted to create their own masterpieces, though purists will no doubt stick with the traditional PB&J formula. More grown-up fare, including homemade soups, tuna melts, and chicken salad, is on standby.


Moonlight Hiking in Montana

Enjoy a full-moon adventure in the Bitterroot National Forest this summer as forest engineer Traute Parrie leads moonlight walks for people of all ages.

Friday, June 04, 2004


Strawberry Festival

Strawberries, parades, strawberries, carnival rides, strawberries, fireworks, strawberries, tricycle races.

Did I mention strawberries?

It's the Marysville Strawberry Festival, June 14-20.


Finding Humor in the Family

David Sedaris has a new book out, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim in which he writes about his unusual family, spinning elaborate and amusing tales of his childhood. Hilarious insights from one of the best humorists writing today.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


Food Additives Increase Hyperactivity in Kids

Artificial food colorings and benzoate preservatives increase hyperactive behavior in preschool children, according to a new report.


Buckle Up and Talk

Kristin Jackson, of the Seattle Times, writes about the trend of DVD players built into minivans. She's doesn't like it.

Personally, I let the kids watch something in the car only on long trips. If it's a 5-hour drive, they can watch one 2-hour movie. The rest of the time is for music, reading, games or talking.

As with most things, moderation is best.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Modest Clothing For Kids Becoming Popular Again?

An 11-year-old girl wrote to executives of Seattle-based Nordstroms asking them to sell more modest clothes for kids.

Maybe by the time my daughter is a teenager, the fashion trend will be burkas. I can only hope...


Backpacking with Baby


Empty Calories

Junk foods such as sugary sodas and chips make up nearly one-third of calories in the U.S. diet, researchers said on Tuesday.

"Healthy foods such as vegetables and fruit make up only 10 percent of the caloric intake in the U.S. diet. A large proportion of Americans are undernourished in terms of vitamins and minerals," said Gladys Block, a professor of epidemiology and public health nutrition at the University of California.

"We shouldn't be telling people to eat less -- we should be telling people to eat differently."


No More Ironing?

A human-shaped dummy that irons shirts by pumping itself up with hot air has been created by researchers in Spain. It is the first machine designed for the home that can take on this tedious chore.

"This will be a complement to the lawnmowing and vacuum cleaning robots that already exist," says Jan Karlsson of the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Ironing is so boring," says Karlsson. "I really think people will use this." Surveys show that ironing is the domestic chore that people dislike the most, with shirts considered the most difficult.

I'm going to go pick this up at the store in my flying car. Then I'll put it right next to my soapless washing machine!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Bed-and-Breakfast Goes to the Dogs

Idaho's first bed-and-breakfast in a beagle opens near Cottonwood.

My five-year-old wants to stay in a giant cat.