Safari Playspace

It's not often that I go back to a place I write about, but I liked Safari so much I went back on my own [Groupon] dime. I'm happy to say that even though it was much more crowded with kids on break, the place was still spotless and the staff was every bit as on their game. The boys LOVED those slides.
Here's my review for ParentMap.
And then we went back with Joseph!

Global families

People are my favorite subject to shoot, and I loved meeting everyone featured in ParentMap's global families story. More pictures and Q&As with each family here. This story was ParentMap's September cover story! a a1 b c d e f Just try driving through South Lake Union on a weekday afternoon. Old buildings being torn down, high-rises going in, construction equipment everywhere as the Amazon boom accelerates. Even walking can be difficult, the sidewalks teeming with the badges-on-a-lanyard crowds. Is it any surprise that Seattle is the fastest growing city in the country? According to a 2016 Census estimate, 704,352 people call the Emerald City home. That’s up nearly 100,000 people since the last count in 2010, with some 1,100 people moving to the Seattle metro area every week. While we may gripe about skyrocketing housing prices and expressways turned into parking lots, this population boom isn’t Seattle’s first. From the Gold Rush at the end of the 1800s, to Boeing in the 1950s and ’60s and Microsoft in the ’90s, new residents have arrived in waves. Now the no. 1 reason to move to Seattle often comes in a cardboard box printed with a smile. Where are people coming from? According to a LinkedIn report in June, more workers came to Seattle from San Francisco than anywhere else. That makes sense, trading one tech hub with another. We talked with the Gavhane family from the Bay Area, and several international families lured to Seattle by the tech industry. Other families are here because the dangerous situations they left back home. For the Ramos family from El Salvador, it was the gang violence. For the Musawi and Al Helli family from Iraq, it was the price of working for the U.S. military. Moving here comes at a cost, especially for those arriving from abroad. It means leaving their friends and families, setting up the kids in new schools, navigating a new language and lifestyle. Our newest neighbors are arriving at a time when anti-immigration rhetoric is as loud as ever, and coming directly from the Executive Office. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the candidate who is now our president called for building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and ramping up deportations. In January, he tried to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries (an executive order the U.S. Supreme Court is, as of publishing, partiality allowing before it considers the U.S. government’s case in October). In this decidedly blue corner of the country, resisting the president is often seen as a badge of honor. But for the recently arrived Seattleites we talked to, their main concerns are centered around daily life, not politics: filling out paperwork, building a new network and helping their kids pick up English.

Boldt Castle

We visited the historic Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands. A 6-story, 120-room castle for a summer home. Not bad. island1 That round building was used to house the Boldt family's birds. island2 island3 island4 island5Uncle Sam's boat tour shuttled us to and from Heart Island (that's the castle in the distance). The boat runs every half hour, so it's convenient but a little rickety. One of Chris' aunts joked, "I thought we were going to have to get out and push."

5 new Seattle ice cream spots

I ate my way through another ParentMap story — this one's about ice cream! It's on ParentMap here. MollyMoon1   Need a treat that will cool you down? We’ve rounded up five new ice cream shops, along with fun kid activities nearby. Try ice cream focused on local ingredients, chef-made flavors, gourmet popsicles and the newest branch of Molly Moon’s. SweetAlchemy1 SweetAlchemy2 Sweet Alchemy 4301 University Way N.E., Seattle, in the U-District Cost: $3.55 for 3 ounces, $5.55 for 6 ounces, $7.55 for 9 ounces Lois Ko started working as a scooper at the Häagen-Dazs on the Ave in 2001, when she was a student at the University of Washington. She bought the ice cream store in 2006, a year after graduating. Then last year, she broke away from the franchise and re-opened as Sweet Alchemy. There’s none of that corporate feeling left. From the draped fabric ceiling to the floor, tiled in actual pennies, every inch of the store has Ko’s personal stamp. Especially the ice cream. Take the blueberry lavender, for example. Ko went blueberry picking with her daughter (now 7), and was pregnant with her son (now 2). “I could taste everything,” she says. The blueberries suggested flowers to her, and inspired the intriguing new flavor pairing. The Persian Rose grew out of customer suggestions. Sweet Alchemy started with a cardamom ice cream. A Lebanese neighbor recommended adding rose water, then some Iranian customers suggested pistachio. The result? A fragrant, not-too-sweet combination that you’ll be thinking about long after it’s devoured. Ko makes a point to use local products – the blueberries are from Kent, the milk comes from Lynden. Each morning at the store, they crack open 80 to 100 eggs and re-pasteurize the milk with egg yolk for the organic base. On the back of every employee’s shirt is their recipe: milk, cream, sugar and egg yolk. It’s sweet alchemy, indeed. Nearby fun: Plan your visit for a Sunday, when street parking and campus parking are free. Also free on Sunday: admission to the Henry Art Gallery, a small, contemporary art museum on the edge of campus (4100 15th Ave. NE.) With all that extra cash you save, you can load up on more ice cream. SweetBumpas Sweet Bumpas 6555 5th Ave. S., Seattle, at the Equinox Studios building in Georgetown Cost: $4.50 for a single scoop Before Matt Bumpas got into the ice cream business, he worked as a school psychologist in Seattle Public Schools. “Now I get to see kids happy all the time,” he quipped. His 180 degree career shift took him to culinary school, then to the pastry chef position at Poppy, a foodie favorite in Capitol Hill. Customers raved about his ice cream, and in 2014, Bumpas left Poppy to start Sweet Bumpas. His ice cream flavors are playful and surprising. There’s chipotle peanut butter, cinnamon basil with corn cookie, Earl Gray rum raisin and more. His favorite this season: the hokey pokey from New Zealand, sweet cream with homemade honeycomb candy inside. Bumpas says parents inadvertently teach their kids to be picky eaters. “Honey, you’re not going to like it, that’s a grown up flavor,” he’ll hear someone say. Or another parent will see the sign for “fresh mint cocoa crumble” and say, “Oh, it’s just regular mint chocolate chip.” “No, you taste this,” Bumpas says. “There’s nothing regular about it.” Instead of using extracts and flavorings, 1.5 pounds of fresh mint leaves goes into a 6 gallon batch. Taste it, and you’ll never go back to the freezer-burned carton from the grocery store. You can find Sweet Bumpas at six farmer’s markets each week, and a scoop window at its new kitchen facility in Georgetown (open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Nearby fun: It’s a five-minute straight shot to the Museum of Flight (9404 E. Marginal Way S.), which just opened a new Apollo exhibit. Children up to 4 are free, and kids 5 to 18 can sign up for the Connections program at special events to get free admission for themselves plus their grown-up.  SeattlePops1 SeattlePops2 SeattlePops3 Seattle Pops 1401 N. 45th St., Seattle, in Wallingford Cost: $4 each Remember the freeze pops we ate when we were kids? It was basically frozen sugar water, and it’d turn your mouth weird colors, like electric blue. Seattle Pops is seriously upping the popsicle game with its gourmet line of nearly 40 fruity and creamy flavors. You can’t go wrong with the pleasantly tart strawberry popsicle, made with berries from Puyallup. Or try the chocolate banana, so creamy you feel like you’re eating ice cream on a stick. In the kitchen, Seattle Pops is always experimenting with potential new flavors. How about a chocolate coconut curry popsicle? Or dog-friendly puppy pops? Owner Megan Janes came up with the idea for a popsicle business in Seattle in 2012, and ran it through a group of business students at University of Puget Sound, her alma mater. Seattle Pops now is in its fourth season, and does 13 farmer’s markets a week. Their first brick-and-mortar retail store, located in the heart of Wallingford, is scheduled to open July 28. (Check their website and Facebook page for the big announcement.) The new store carries flavors you won’t find at the farmer’s markets, like mango chili, pineapple jalapeño, avocado and cinnamon horchata. The store also offers chocolate dipping, in milk, white or dark chocolate. Megan runs Seattle Pops along with her sister, Lindsey, and their dad, Dave. The three of them put their heads together for all the business decisions and recipes. “I’m proud of both of them,” Dave says about his daughters. “They work really hard.” Nearby: Browse the aisles at Archie McPhee across the street (1300 N. 45th St.) for terrifically juvenile gag gifts. Or head a few blocks over to the Meridian Playground (4649 Sunnyside Ave. N.), which features a playground next to a fruit orchard and a P-Patch.  MollyMoon2 Molly Moon’s 4822 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, in Columbia City Cost: $4.50 for a single scoop The best advertisement for Molly Moon’s is the aroma of fresh waffle cones wafting out the open door. Hours after we stopped by the new store in Columbia City, I could still smell it on my clothes, in my hair, on my children. Mmmm. Molly Moon Neitzel, the doyenne of Seattle’s artisanal ice cream scene, says she’s been eying a location in Columbia City for three years now. This store, her eighth, opened June 2 between a Starbucks and a children’s consignment store. “I wanted to provide great jobs to a diverse team in a diverse neighborhood,” Neitzel says. “A big part of the goal was to create 20 good jobs with benefits. And we did that.” (You can read more about Molly Moon’s business practices in our story here, and a Q&A interview with Neitzel here.) With a Full Tilt just a few blocks away, there’s no shortage of ice cream on this stretch of Rainier Ave. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ice cream lovers either. We visited on a warm Sunday afternoon, and found a cone-licking crowd spilling out the doors. Strangers waiting in line swapped tips about what to get, and no one was in a hurry to leave this delicious place. Nearby: Go swimming in the gorgeous Rainer Beach indoor pool (8825 Rainier Ave. S.) as an excuse to visit this newest branch of Molly Moon’s empire. Just opened in 2013, the facility includes an 85-degree lap pool and a 93-degree leisure pool for the kids. Read more about the pool’s family-friendly features in our review here.  12Scoops1 12 Scoops 4267 S Orcas St., Seattle, in Hillman City Cost: $3.49 for one scoop You’ll smile when you reach to open the doors to 12 Scoops – the handles are made of ice cream scoopers. Owner Wally Morris designed the cheerful red and white interior himself to appeal to kids. He knows his audience; he’s got six kids, age 4 to 35. The customers in front of us in line snapped pictures of their Insta-worthy cones before digging in. There are 12 flavors to choose from, and they rotate out every month, hence the name “12 Scoops.” One flavor to you don’t see often is Grape-Nuts cereal ice cream. Morris, who was born in Jamaica, says that’s a flavor he remembers from growing up. Morris previously used the building as a warehouse for another business. When they outgrew the space last year, he turned the storefront into an ice cream shop because, “I’m an ice cream lover.”  He has plans to expand and add a restaurant, but the ice cream isn’t going anywhere. “We will always have ice cream no matter what we do,” Morris said. Nearby: Let the kids (under age 6) get their wiggles out at Seattle Gymnastics Academy’s indoor playground (5034 37th Ave. S., #200). Little gymnasts will especially love the foam pit and tumble track. Tip: Admission on Tuesdays is only $2 with a non-perishable food donation.   More ice cream
  • There are all kinds of good reasons to go to Marination Ma Kai (1660 Harbor Ave. S.W.) in West Seattle. The views of the Seattle skyline, the patio area where kids can run around, the spam musubi, and the Hawaiian shave ice, which you can get with a scoop of Husky Deli ice cream.
  • The Seattle-Bainbridge ferry trip alone is a treat for the kids, but top it off with a scoop from Mora Iced Creamery (Madrone Lane N., Bainbridge Island) to make it an epic excursion.
  • Try the Theo Chocolate Chunk at the Fremont location of Bluebird Ice Cream (3515 Fremont Ave. N.). If you have room afterwards, walk three blocks west to the Theo factory store to eat all the free chocolate samples you can handle.
  • It’s unclear which is the bigger attraction at Full Tilt – the fun ice cream flavors or the pinball machines. It’s the perfect pairing for kids and the young at heart. Locations in White Center, Ballard, U-District and Columbia City.
  • Portland’s famous Salt & Straw is slated to open its first Seattle store in Capitol Hill in late summer.

Corporate freebies and bargains for kids

Who doesn't like free stuff? This round up of the best corporate freebies and bargains ran on ParentMap here. 1 Want to support independent stores? Me too. But when it comes to getting freebies and bargains, hit the chains and don’t feel guilty about it. The big box stores will give your kids free things to tempt you into their doors. They hope you buy something, but that’s up to you. Here are the best corporate giveaways and deals with no strings attached. We don’t do freebies that involve waiting in a long line, or having to buy an adult meal. Make sure you sign up a few weeks early for birthday clubs, though, to get your coupon in time.   Free birthday balloon at Toys ‘R’ Us Sign your kids (through age 10) up for the birthday club and for their birthday, they’ll get a coupon for $3 off anything $3 or more and a birthday Mylar balloon. Supposedly the kids get a plush Geoffrey the giraffe toy too, but when we visited, the store was out of them “until further notice.” Toy “R” Us also holds special events with free giveaways. Previous events have featured Hatchimals, LEGOs and Pokémon. Just sign up for the e-mails or check the store’s event page.   $1 Mylar balloons at the Dollar Tree The latex balloons from the grocery store are $1.50, and they start to droop after a day. Head to the Dollar Tree instead, where you can get a Mylar balloon for $1. A store employee will fill up the balloon for you right there so they’re fresh and will last longer. The Dollar Tree has a big selection of balloons – birthdays, stars, smiley faces – that covers all special occasions. While you’re there, pick up sidewalk chalk, craft supplies and paper party goods. The Dollar Tree is the cheapest place we’ve found for these expendable kid items.   Free kids’ workshops at Home Depot Build a wooden toy at Home Depot’s free kids’ workshops, which take place from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of every month. Hammers, nails, wood, paint – everything’s provided. Kids get to take home their finished project, along with a little orange apron and a pin. You can register online, but we would still suggest getting there early to make sure you get a kit. Make sure the kids are wearing something you don’t mind getting paint on. The workshops are recommended for kids 5 to 12, but we’ve seen much younger do-it-yourselfers too (with parents helping, of course). Upcoming projects include making a tic-tac-toe game (June 3), a bug house (July 1) and a Penske truck (August 5). 2 Free cupcake and book at Barnes & Noble Sign your kiddos up for Barnes & Noble’s kids’ birthday club, and get a free cupcake, cookie or gluten-free Rice Krispies treat from the café. It’s an honest-to-God cupcake – not a mini-cupcake – in your choice of chocolate, vanilla or red velvet. The coupon arrives in your inbox just before your kid’s birthday, and is valid for 2 weeks. Go have a treat, play with the train table, browse the kids’ section and call it a fun family activity. Also, kids in grades 1 to 6 can sign up for the Barnes & Noble summer reading program. Read any eight books, record it in your journal and earn a free book.   Free LEGO builds at LEGO stores Join the LEGO VIP loyalty program, and register online for the monthly mini model build events at LEGO stores. It’s a different model each month. Kids 6 to 14 learn how to make it and get to take it home for free. The program fills up fast, so sign up right away. LEGO stores sometimes have other special giveaways – find your nearest store online for details.   Free crafts at Lakeshore Learning Lakeshore Learning, aka every teacher’s favorite store, offers a free craft every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservations are needed, and kids 3 and up can make some art to take home. Upcoming projects include a paper frog (June 3), a feathered parrot (June 10) and a Father’s Day card (June 17).   Disney Store free events The Disney Store has several regular free events. Every day when the store opens, one helper gets picked to receive a special key or medal. At Disney Store storytimes, kids get a free finger puppet to take home. And starting June 10, the store will hold Summer Play Days every day at 3 p.m. where kids get a free embroidered patch. For other special events with giveaways (they happen frequently), check the Disney Store’s event calendar.   Pottery Barn Kids storytime Pottery Barn Kids holds a storytime every Tuesday at 11. Attend five storytimes, and kids will get a little gift.   E-mail discounts from your favorite brand My oldest was late walker, and I spent a fortune experimenting with various handmade, soft-soled shoes while he stumbled around and tripped a lot. Then I found See Kai Run, a Seattle-area company that makes podiatrist-approved shoes for kids. I bought a couple of pairs of shoes at full retail price before I wised up and signed up to get e-mail alerts for sales and clearances. Instead of paying $50 to $60 a pair, I spend less than $20. Lesson learned: Sign up for your favorite brand’s e-mails.   Chocolate and ice cream These sweet treats aren’t just for kids – the whole family can enjoy these freebies. Are you a chocolaholic? Join the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club and you get a coupon for $10 to spend at the store for your birthday. Love ice cream? Sign up with Baskin Robbins for a free birthday scoop. If it’s not your birthday, try these annual ice cream giveaways (but you will have to wait in line):

Play street

I had a blast shooting this photo assignment for ParentMap! The weather was absolutely perfect, the light was beautiful and the kids had so much fun. One of my pictures even made the magazine cover. The story about play streets is here. a_lo b_lo c_lo d_lo e_lo f_lo g_lo h_lo i_lo j_lo Joseph and Paul came with me and got to ride with our beat-up scooter (a $2 buy!) in the street. k_lo