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Around the end of May I start to dream.

These dreams include summer-time images of me lounging on a blanket at the beach, leisurely reading (and finishing!) my growing stack of half-read books while the kids splash happily in the lake, or pool, or river, or…insert your preferred body of water here…

I dream of enjoying home-made picnics on the lawn of one our many great Seattle parks. Of fresh, glistening, chilled fruit picked up the day before at a neighborhood farmers market. Of backyard games like badminton or croquet, and running through the sprinkler to cool down on a hot day. Of grilling and dinners on my new patio (or, better yet, the patio of one of a long list of Seattle restaurants that offer outdoor seating in the summer) with long walks after supper to better catch a glimpse of a particularly colorful sunset and maybe even of stopping along the way for some fresh, locally made ice cream 🙂

But this year, in mid-July, I am still dreaming.

With the exception of a few sunny and quasi-sunny days here and there, the Seattle summer has yet to make a full-time appearance. The kids have been out of school for almost a month now and we have had maybe a handful of days that qualify as helpful to the realization of my dreams.

It is on these cool, drizzly, almost autumn-like days that my mind turns to indoor fun and another recurring dream I have year-round. It will have to be substituted here.

It’s the one that has me in a chocolate factory tasting every possible concoction available. I’ve been having this dream ever since I was a little girl and read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My love affair with chocolate feeds this dream to this day – but ha! There is a way to fulfill this one! Right in our own backyard and even on a dreary Seattle day. We have the only bean-to-bar, fair trade, certified-organic chocolate factory in the United States. Our lovely, local Theo Chocolates provides daily tours of their factory – complete with mounds of post-tour chocolate samples to taste and hand-made confections with interesting, local ingredients – such as the latest Walla Walla Onion Salted Caramel.

Now, I have a confession to make. Even as a food blogger, one of the biggest challenges that I have as a mother is teaching my children about where their food comes from and why it’s important. With one teenage boy, and one on the verge of teen-dom, the challenge is really in enticing them to listen. Who wants to listen their mom at that age? And to top it off, it’s just not “cool” for these video-game-crazy kids to like (or even know about) organic, sustainable, or locally sourced anything. But what better way to expose them to these ideas than a visit to a candy factory? And while we’re there, we might as well make a few other stops 😉 The funky little neighborhood of Fremont is the perfect setting for a guilt-free excursion.

Tours of the Theo Chocolate factory are available multiple times daily for only $6 per person and are recommended for ages 7 and up. Make a reservation early (they fill up 3-4 weeks in advance) if you want to be guaranteed a spot, but there is a walk-in tour at 2:30pm each day that is first come, first served. In addition, if you show up early for a booked tour, you can get on a wait list for no-shows. (When we were there, everyone that we saw on the wait list got in.)

Some other great food choices that promote hand-made, sourcing local or organic:

  • Homegrown (3416 Fremont Avenue North) – Delicious soups, salads and sandwiches made with love and all locally sourced ingredients. Homegrown considers the environmental impact for every ingredient choice, combining where they can, two competing theories: eating organic and eating local. I highly recommend the Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado sandwich. There is even a kids menu for the little ones!
  • Blue Moon Burgers (703 North 34th Street) – Their tag line says it all, “Helping people feel good about making bad choices.” And they mean it – serving fries that are hand cut daily, hand-dipped milkshakes and burgers that are free of antibiotics and hormones (they use only all-natural beef, chicken, and salmon that are fed a vegetarian diet) and featuring free-range, 100% Pasture Raised Long Valley Ranch beef on buns from Macrina Bakery. Blue Moon is a must stop Fremont location as it prides itself on being a little bit different. They definitely keep you on your toes with a special fun shake and burger each month.
  • Pie (3515 Fremont Avenue North) – Chicken Pot Pie anyone? Hand made pies with as many local ingredients as possible. All their meat comes from local butcher, Better Meats Company in Ballard. They have a large ever-changing selection of savory pies each day, but not to worry, there are pies that will satisfy your sweet tooth as well!
  • Bluebird MicroCreamery (3515 Fremont Avenue North) – If the sun peeks its head out and you want a cold treat, there’s always this popular ice cream shop, opening soon at this additional Fremont location. The ingredients used here are almost entirely local, organic whenever possible. The dairy comes from all-natural, hormone-free cows in Washington and Oregon and all of the baked goods are from Seattle bakers. Fun flavors are offered such as a vegan coconut caramel, Elysian Stout made from dragon’s tooth stout, brewed at The Elysian Brewery, and Apple Pie made with fresh Washington Apples.

Fill in the time between belly fillings with some shopping at Fremont’s cute little boutiques but don’t miss these unique gems:

  • Fremont Vintage Mall (3419 Fremont Place North) – Reduce, re-use and recycle! One Warning: time passes quickly in here – as you meander up and down the aisles it’s easy to lose yourself in this maze of vintage collections and before you know it hours have passed!
  • Destee-Nation Shirt Company (3412 Evanston Avenue North) – This tiny shop is bursting with hip  t-shirts imprinted with logos from beloved Seattle places. A portion of the sale of each t-shirt goes back to the local business it represents.
  • Fremont Outdoor Movies (3501 Phinney Avenue North – Across the street from Theo Chocolates!) – If it’s a summer Saturday and the weather is cooperating, ditch the multiplex and head instead to this walk-in outdoor movie venue, an urban take on the drive-in movies of yesterday (with a much lower carbon footprint!) Just be sure to leave the kiddos at home – most films are rated – “R”.

These “Guilt”-free experiences could soon be “Gilt”-ful with the launch of a new online experiential deal site. Gilt City Seattle gives members premium experiences at exceptional value. Click here to check out what local businesses Gilt Seattle will feature (maybe it will be one of my Fremont neighborhood choices!) and use this VIP invitation link to join today so that you can start saving while living and loving your city.

Even if it is a little damp 🙂