This has been one busy summer so far! Ian turned one last week, and a few days later our house closed (we get the keys tomorrow). We're trying to squeeze in as much travel as possible, while also getting started on house projects and plans. In the whirlwind, I'm aware that I've been neglecting the blog. But even though I'm not posting very often, I still think about it every day! I'm trying to figure out what direction to go in the future. Now that we own a house, will I go back to posting more interior design inspiration? Should I share more personal, family related posts? Or do I want to do something else entirely??? I'm not sure yet. For today, I'm keeping it simple and just sharing a few snaps from our family life over the past few months. Hope you all are doing well!
Here we are at a good friend's wedding. It's rare that we get a non-selfie photo of all three of us, especially one where we actually made an effort. ;) Thanks, Corlana.
Hanging out in my parent's backyard (we've been doing a lot of that this summer). I just love Ian's outfit in this photo. Who says you can't put little boys in bonnets?!? Ok, Ben says. But I'm disregarding him. :) The bonnet and jumpsuit are from Little Goodall (who makes the sweetest baby clothes), and the sandals are from Pediped. The bead coaster is Ian's latest favorite toy...it's from Svan Toys.
We harvested our first bowl of backyard raspberries the other day and Ian loved them. I've been trying to increase his solid food intake now that he's one, and these organic NurturMe packets have been awesome for when we're out and about. They're so convenient you don't even need a spoon, and they're all-natural so I don't feel bad about feeding them to him. I had originally planned to start weaning Ian when he turned one, but now that the time is here I think I might make the transition a slow one. I still enjoy the bonding time with him when we're at home, but I would looove to stop breastfeeding in public places and friends' houses. What with pregnancy and nursing, I haven't worn half of my wardrobe in the last two years, and let me tell you, stretchy t-shirts are getting O-L-D...I'm ready to bust out my dresses again!
Speaking of all-natural, I found a new brand for baby skincare that's made with better ingredients. I never used to be the kind of person who was particularly concerned about getting organic products, but there's something about a sweet and innocent baby that makes you want to get the safest, best stuff.
Last weekend, we took a spontaneous trip to Coeur d'alene and stayed with some friends at their family lake cabin. It was beautiful and relaxing and just what we needed...a lovely spot to spend Ian's first birthday.
When we came home on Sunday, we threw Ian a little birthday party with my family. I thought about trying to do a bigger party with friends, but I'm glad we kept it simple. Burgers in the backyard and salted caramel apple cake were all we needed for a good time. Ian loved the balloons and splashing around in his new kiddie pool. And this mama shed a few tears over the fact that her baby is already ONE! We did a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photos of Ian. What a difference a year makes!
Look at my cutie now! So proud of him.
And can you guys believe the 4th of July is this coming Tuesday?!?! Summer is flying by already. If you're looking for some ideas, get the recipe for this "red wine & blue" pie over on the Kendall-Jackson blog. It's super delicious if I do say so myself.
What do you guys have planned for this weekend and the 4th? Ben gets both Monday and Tuesday off (woohoo!) so we're trying to decide if we should go somewhere and take advantage of a rare 4-day weekend...or if we should be practical and get started on house stuff (painting, moving, etc.) We'll see, either way should be fun!
Finally, a new blog post!!! Sorry it's been so long, this post took me forevvver to finish. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we recently took a cruise to Alaska, to celebrate Ben's 30th birthday. We got super lucky with the weather and didn't hit any rain at all, plus we got to see tons of amazing scenery and wildlife. And we ate to our heart's content (and then some)...so overall it was great! :) I've had multiple people tell me they're considering a trip like this, so I wanted to share a full and honest review of all the good and the bad of cruising to Alaska. Take it for what it's worth--it's just my opinion, after all. For reference, we did a round trip from Seattle through the Inside Passage, and we went with Princess Cruises (we were on the Emerald Princess ship).
Going into this trip, we were sort of skeptical about cruising in general. We tend to prefer traveling on our own and getting away from the crowds, so we weren't sure if we'd like being stuck on a boat with thousands of other people. But we both wanted to see Alaska, and since we live in Washington state the logistics were super convenient! Ben's dad dropped us off at the Port of Seattle and we got on the ship--easy as that.
I was super happy with the room we got. For those of you considering a Princess cruise, we were in room D735, which is an "aft" balcony (in the back of the boat). It was sooo nice because there's hardly any wind back there, plus we could see to either side and enjoy the view of the wake. Also, our room was next to that middle section where there's no rooms (four levels down) so we had no neighbors on one side! I would definitely pick that room again, or any aft balcony.
And the views were AMAZING. Endless mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, islands, lighthouses and more. The best part of cruising to Alaska in my opinion was seeing so many beautiful places that you wouldn't be able to get to otherwise. Our itinerary included Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, and Seattle. Three of those destinations (Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, and Juneau) are not accessible by car. Plus along the way we passed by so many gorgeous places that you can't even fly to. Not to mention all the wildlife! We spotted multiple humpback whales, sea lions, porpoises, and bald eagles, just from the cruise ship. So the journey itself is at least half the fun.
All of the pictures above? Taken from the ship. For that reason, I would say a balcony truly is sooo worth it. We went back and forth on this, and originally I wanted to keep the trip as cheap as possible with an interior room. But some of my favorite memories are from sitting on our balcony watching the scenery go by, playing games with Ben, sipping coffee and indulging in free dessert. SO relaxing and fun! It was especially nice for us because it meant we could still enjoy the views while Ian was napping. I think we might have felt trapped and stir-crazy in an interior room.
Speaking of Ian, I would say that a cruise is a great trip to take with a baby. It's just so easy. There's no driving necessary, no lugging a car seat and stroller through the airport, no checking in and out of multiple hotels. Ian had a great time, and we were able to do (pretty much) everything we wanted to!
On the flip side, one of the hardest parts for me was the tight itinerary. All of our stops were beautiful places, but we were only allotted a few hours in each (I think our longest time at port was 10 hours, but when you count the time it takes to get on and off the boat, it's less than that). I always felt a little panicked, like we had to hit the ground running and cram in as much as possible. And I never felt like we fully explored an area to our heart's content, the way we would if we were road tripping and on our own schedule. One piece of advice to help with this: room service is free, so on the days that you arrive early to a port city, order room service for breakfast so you can eat in your room and don't have to wait in line.
The first port we stopped at was Ketchikan. It's a picturesque town that faces the Inside Passage, with the Tongass National Forest behind it. We didn't do any excursions here--just walked around the town and the harbor, took a little tram to see the view from Cape Fox Lodge, ate fish 'n chips and yummy chowder, and got some hot and fresh caramel corn (so good). There were bald eagles everywhere, which was cool. And there's a street of colorful houses that used to be Alaska's red light district, now turned private residences and tourist shops. Kind of interesting.
The next day, our ship we were supposed to sail down Tracy Arm and see Sawyer Glacier, but they announced that due to the amount of ice blocking in the channel, we would go to Endicott Arm instead. I was a little disappointed, but I do have to say that Endicott Arm was gorgeous. It's a narrow fjord with mountains on either side, beautiful azure water, and chunks of blue ice floating along that hint at the spectacular grand finale at the end of the fjord--Dawes Glacier. The cruise ship got about as far away as the photo below, then a smaller boat came and picked up the passengers who had paid to see the glacier up close. I have to say, that excursion might have been worth it. I would have loved to get a closer look at that beauty.
That same day, we sailed into Juneau, where we saw another stunning glacier: Mendenhall Glacier. If you go to Juneau, it's definitely worth seeing and very easy to get to. There were lots of tour buses taking cruise passengers there--and at the park, we saw two bears! One was up in a tree right next to a hiking trail (there were rangers blocking off the path so it felt safe...ish) and another crossed the road right in front of our tour bus. So cool! Unfortunately, I was not fast enough to get a photo.
After the glacier, we went on a whale watching tour. This was the only excursion we paid for because I love whales and totally wanted to see a humpback breaching. And it was cool! We saw lots of whales--blowing water, flipping around, and diving with their tails up. But I have to say, if I was to do it again I would pick a different excursion (especially if you're only paying for one). We had already seen SO many whales from the cruise boat, and we couldn't get super close to them due to whale watching regulations. So I kind of felt like it wasn't much different from what we'd already experienced, albeit a little closer. Also, we had just gotten off a big boat, and here we were getting on another boat. Don't get me wrong, it was fun...but in hindsight I think I would do an excursion that's more different from the general cruise experience. Maybe going a float plane, or getting up close and personal with a glacier...something more unique like that.
Our last port in Alaska was Skagway, and it turned out to be our favorite! It's a tiny little town of less than 800 people, with buildings maintained from its heyday during Klondike gold rush. The town is charming and cute, but the surrounding area is really what we loved. Gorgeous mountains, blue-green waters, and some beautiful hiking trails that were an easy walk from town.
There were three cruise ships docked there when we arrived and the town was FULL of people, but we hiked out to this spot (Smuggler's Cove) and had it entirely to ourselves! It felt really good to get away from the crowds. If you're like us, I would recommend asking locals for recommendations or looking up things to do besides the popular cruise excursions. It seemed like almost everyone was getting off the cruise ship and going straight into another crowded mode of transportation--a tour bus, the historic train in Skagway, or a helicopter tour. While I think all those would have been fun, we got to enjoy some tranquility and stunning scenery without spending a penny.
Our last stop of the cruise was in Victoria, BC which is one of my favorite cities! We went there for our babymoon last year when I was 31 weeks pregnant (little did I know I would give birth in just two weeks!). Since we'd already explored Victoria before, we didn't feel as frantic about seeing all the sights. We walked to Red Fish Blue Fish and stood in line for our favorite fish 'n chips, got some fancy dip cones at Chocolats Favoris, and showed Ian the Inner Harbor and the stately Parliament Building. It was lovely!
A few more things about the cruise in general...I was worried that we'd get sick of the food and bored of the ship by the end of the week. But Princess does a great job of mixing it up so there's always something new to try every day. There's multiple sit-down restaurants and a buffet with an ever-changing menu, a pizza place, a cafe with deli food and baked goods, and a grill with burgers and hot dogs (and on one day fish tacos)--all for free. Plus, there are several specialty restaurants with more upscale food that you can pay for (a crab place, a steakhouse, a restaurant by celeb chef Curtis Stone, and more). We liked the free food and it was varied enough that we never felt like it would be worth paying for one of the specialty restaurants--but it's nice that there are additional options to switch it up if you want. The regular coffee is free and unlimited, but you can pay for espresso drinks. Alcohol and soda are not included, but you can bring one bottle of wine per adult for free, as well as your own soda. Overall, I thought the food was a pretty good deal!
The entertainment was also different everyday, and most of what we wanted to do was baby-friendly so that was great! We got to see a musical/magic show by an award-winning Broadway composer, listen to an expert naturalist talk about Alaskan wildlife, watch our fellow passengers compete in an entertaining singing competition, and see some outdoor movies from the deck (they even bring around hot cocoa, cookies and popcorn!). There's also multiple pools and hot tubs, a gym, mini golf, ping pong, and of course just wandering around taking in the views from different sides of the ship. I'm probably missing something too. So we didn't get TOO stir-crazy, even on the days that we were at sea. Also, all the different options meant that the crowd was pretty well dispersed, so it never felt like we were on a ship with thousands of other people.
Overall, we had a great experience! I'm really glad we got to go take this Alaska cruise adventure as a family. Although one week was too short! We've got to go back and explore more of this majestic state sometime...
Hope this helps anyone thinking about taking a similar cruise. I'm happy to answer any q's! Just leave me a comment.
Life update: the house inspection went well, so we're moving forward and will be closing on June 29th! I'm starting to plan out ideas, saving inspiration photos, and thinking about paint colors. FUN STUFF! Plus, we'll be heading out on our Alaska cruise at the end of this week. So it's an exciting time for the Allen family! In the meantime, I thought I'd share these photos from our cherry orchard family session with Lana Jenae Photography. I just loooove them. Ian was not having it for the majority of this session, but she still managed to capture some beautiful family photos that I will cherish.
Ian was teething that week, and it was a super hot day...so the photo above pretty much sums up what his attitude was. I still kinda love this photo, though. Is it bad to think your baby is super cute when he's crying???
I was worried that I wouldn't like the photos, since Ian didn't flash his toothy grin very much all night. But they still turned out so cute, right?? I can never get enough of his striking blue eyes, his hair that's starting to curl, his rosebud lips, and his perfectly smooth baby skin. I'm so happy to have these photos that capture this moment in time.
Oh, and a baby in a bowtie?! Too much for my mama heart to handle.
We got at least one smile out of him too! That's all I need, one smiling photo. There's our happy boy.
And there's nothing that makes me happier than seeing my two guys together. They have such a sweet connection.
It was such a lovely night, feeling the love in a blossoming cherry orchard.
All photos by Lana Jenae Photography. If you're in the Spokane area and looking for a photographer to shoot your family photos, senior portraits, wedding--whatever...I can't recommend Corlana enough. She's the best!
Two very exciting things happened last week. Ian started saying "mama" AND we had an offer accepted on a house we really like! Woohoo! We are getting an inspection done on Thursday, so it's not final yet, but...it's looking like we might be buying a house!!! We found it literally the day after we started looked into rental options. Haha. We were feeling discouraged and wanting our own space so bad (we're super grateful to my parents, but you can only live in someone else's house for so long). We've been tryyyying to trust in the process, but neither of us are very good at patience--so it's a good thing this house popped up when it did! I'll give you some of the details now and see if you can guess the type of house we decided on.
(not our house--I'm waiting to post pictures until the sale is final!)
The story of our house hunting journey might be titled as "Lowering Our Great Expectations." Ha! When we started house hunting in Seattle over a year ago, we looked on Zillow for houses in Spokane in the same price range and thought, "Mansions! We could literally get a MANSION for the price of a shack over here!" And that was part of what inspired us to consider moving. Fast forward a year and a half, and housing prices have risen everywhere. They're unbelievably high in Seattle now, but they've also risen substantially in Spokane. Also, let's be honest, staged real estate photos almost always look better than the reality. Plus we lowered our price range over here, since I'm not working a 9-5 job anymore.
Still, we initially started out with a big list of "wants." We wanted a farmhouse with a wraparound porch and four bedrooms, on a couple acres. Or a big, charming old house in my favorite neighborhood, with tree-lined streets and parks and coffee shops nearby. Or a house with a separate studio/guesthouse that we could rent out for extra income. These were our top three dream house scenarios. Little by little, we came to realize that our dream did not match our budget.
The farmhouses we looked at were at the top of our price range and still needed significant work (and not the fun kind of work--we're talking new roof, electrical updating, and structural work). Also, we realized that we're not farmers and we have no desire to own animals or run an operating orchard, etc. We just wanted land for our kids to run around in, and for privacy.
The houses in my dream neighborhood, while gorgeous and full of character, were also full of old-house problems. Sloping floors, knob and tube wiring, tiny bedrooms with ceilings that Ben would hit his head on. Plus, since it's such a desirable neighborhood, you get way less "bang for your buck" there. We couldn't justify it.
And we never found a house we liked that had a guesthouse, at least in our price range. I saw a few that were more expensive, but it kind of defeats the point of "extra" income if you need a renter to afford the house.
Sooo, we ratcheted down our expectations and started looking at houses with normal-sized yards, in some less expensive neighborhoods. We found three houses that we considered making an offer on (including the one we did). See if you can guess what we decided on, HGTV style!
A new-ish house (built in the 2000s) with vaulted ceilings, lots of natural light, and a good floor plan. It's in a safe, newer neighborhood, and the schools are excellent. Best of all, it wouldn't need any structural work so we could get right into the fun stuff like remodeling the kitchen, doing cosmetic updates, and decorating! There's farmland within walking distance, so it still has that quiet, country vibe we like.
A solid 1960s rancher in the neighborhood I grew up in. Walkable to my parents and several friends' houses. It's big, and has a recently remodeled kitchen and a fairly large, private backyard (with a hot tub!). Best of all, it's right across the street from a park/elementary school so it almost feels like a larger property than it really is...but without the upkeep. And when our kids are in elementary school, they can just walk right across the street themselves!
A cute 1940s house in a nice, established neighborhood with a similar vibe to my dream neighborhood--but more affordable. It's not as big as the other two houses, but has a lot of charm with arched doorways and original hardwood floors. Best of all, it's way under our budget, so we'd have a lot of money left to update the house and save for another one. Our idea is to live in this house until we outgrow it, then buy a bigger house and keep this one as a rental.
What do you think we picked???