Category Archives: Family Fun

Alder Lake House – Alder, WA


When I realized that my children had a four day weekend in the month of February, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to do something for fun as a family. I thought about things we could do and then thought about places we could go. Hawaii! Tahiti! I’m just kidding. I remembered knowing that there was a house available for rent near Alder Lake, so I searched for the website to read more about it. The house is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere – perfect! The location itself offered several different opportunities for outdoor fun nearby – even better! Without reading more, I sent a request to see if the lake house was available for February 15-18. As it turns out, my friend Diana Riehm owns and rents out the house. You may remember that Diana also owns the Old General Store in Roy, WA that we rented out in November for a friend’s wedding. She was so very pleasant the first time we did business together, there was no hesitation to rent from her again.

With a check in time of 3 p.m., we were in no real hurry and spent the morning packing and then stopped in Yelm for lunch on our way out of town. It took us about an hour to arrive to the Alder Lake House on Friday, February 15. We circled around the area twice unable to find the driveway for our lake house. There are about 15 houses (maybe less) in that area of Alder Lake. We finally found it and pulled up next to the brown, two story house. We were parked behind the house and walked on the near wrap around porch to the front of the house where we were greeted with the sunshine sparkling off a beautifully blue lake. Alder Lake is surrounded by beautiful, untouched green trees. What a sight! Holding my hand over my eyes to shade them from the sun, I felt this sense of relaxation come over me. With a deep breath, I exhaled and felt like we were truly on vacation.

View from the Alder Lake house deck

View from the Alder Lake house deck

We opened the double doors to the historic lake house that was built in 1910 and were surprised with how cozy the house was. It is fully furnished and features a full sized kitchen with more cupboard space than I would ever know what to do with. The cupboards are filled with the necessities like pots, pans, plates, bowls, and serving utensils. There is a generous sized living room with leather couches and an oversized chair complete with a television, Direct TV, and a DVD player. The dining room features a full sized dining room table with available leafs to make it even larger. The large bathroom is home to the washer and dryer, double sinks, shower, and again – plenty of storage space. The den off of the kitchen offers more space for kids to play and additional seating. Upstairs you will find three bedrooms each with an abundance of closet space. Outside of the bedrooms is a nice seating area. The coffee table reminded me of home because it is identical to a table my parents have. It is a little bear cub on its back “holding up” the glass part of the table. So cute! I had never seen it anywhere else besides my parent’s house. When I say the lake house is fully furnished, I mean, it is fully furnished. You have everything you’d need for an extended stay.

Soon after we unpacked, we immediately went down to the lake to explore. At this time of the year, the water level is very low, so we had to navigate around rocks that are normally under several feet of water. But the shallow lake offered us an opportunity to hike down to a point where we were surrounded by water and in awe of not only the quiet but of the incredibly beauty that nature has to offer. On one side, Alder Lake stretches out further than you can see. On the other, the stretches out and then hides behind tall trees. Beyond those trees, snow capped mountains peek out and if you look behind you, you’ll see Mt Rainier. The kids had a great time skipping stones, finding hiking sticks, and exploring through the sand. They pretended they were on a great hike and that they might even find gold among the endless amount of rocks.

Gorgeous view!

Gorgeous view!

My family loved hiking around Alder Lake and finding the perfect hiking sticks.

My family loved hiking around Alder Lake and finding the perfect hiking sticks.

That night, the sky truly showed off all its natural beauty. The sky was clear and no city lights or neighbor’s garage lights took away from seeing the stars. I live in a very small town and thought that I had an amazing view of the stars. Well, Alder Lake showed me that there is an even better view available. The stars seemed absolutely infinite. It was like my kids had thrown pixie dust into the sky and it just never came back down. It was truly a sight to behold. Just gorgeous.

The Alder Lake house is about a 15 minute drive from Mt Rainier National Park, so the next day we drove up to the park with the intention of having the kids go sledding from Paradise at Mt Rainier. Unfortunately, the weather forecast called for snow at about 4,000 feet and without four wheel drive or snow chains, we were unable to to go all the way up to Paradise. We weren’t letting a little snow dampen our day, so we stopped at Longmire near the lodge and decided to take a hike in the snow. The kids were bundled up in snow pants and snow boots, so we figured, why not? We hiked around the area for about an hour and the kids had a blast. The Alder Lake house is also a short drive from The Northwest Trek, which was another amazing stop. I think I’ll save that one for another post.

It rained on and off throughout the weekend, which was fine. While it was raining, the kids enjoyed playing together indoors, watching movies, and we all even found time to take naps. It was so nice to be together – with little or no cell phone service! – without life’s interruptions of phones ringing, the internet distracting anyone, video games, and noise. Not to say we don’t like hearing from friends and loved ones but you know what I mean. We were really on vacation. I have always been and will always be a firm believer that my kids don’t need the biggest, fanciest toys to be happy. To me, family trips, especially outdoors, are where the memories are. When our kids are older, I know they will remember that one weekend at the lake or wherever we go in the future. Great family vacations don’t need to be expensive and flashy, sometimes it is the smallest things that mean the most.

I cannot thank Diana enough for renting us the Alder Lake house. She is such a sweetheart and even followed up with us after our stay to see how everything was. She seemed so genuinely excited and happy to hear about our weekend and everything that we did. If you are looking for a wonderfully, quiet place to stay during any season of the year, please consider renting the Alder Lake house. It has so much to offer for every season. It is a nice, cozy place to stay in the winter months if you’re out that way for hunting, skiing, or snow boarding and there is a boat dock and horse paddock for you to use in the spring/summer. The property also has a fire pit for the nights when you want to take advantage of star gazing. I also hear there is great fishing out on Alder Lake. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of every day life and the perfect place to go to remind yourself of what is truly important in life.

Enjoying the sunshine at Alder Lake!

Enjoying the sunshine at Alder Lake!

For more information, including rates, please contact Diana … and let her know Heather sent you!


The Old General Store – Roy, WA


In the beginning of November, a very dear friend of mine – who has realistically become a little brother figure in my life – asked me to help plan his wedding. I was ecstatic and very honored to have been asked! Then he said he wanted to get married before my husband deployed … in December … because it was very important to him that my husband be his best man. That meant we would be planning a wedding that would take place within the few weeks! No pressure or anything.

I jumped on the planning bandwagon the very next morning and began calling around. First and probably most important, we needed to book a venue. After that, we would be able to plan food, entertainment, and decorations. I knew the ceremony would be very small and we wouldn’t need a whole lot of room. Since I am a member of Saturn Barter, I looked on their website to see what venues they had available. Luckily, they had quite a few to choose from. One in particular caught my eye because I knew what it was and where it was located: The Old General Store in Roy, WA.

I called the phone number listed and spoke with Diana, the owner of the place. She gave me a lot of information, including pricing, what was offered, and the square footage of the space. At nearly 6,000 square feet of restaurant, bar, and dance floor space, I was unsure if this was the venue for us to use because there were going to be so few guests. My friend, Dane, and I agreed to meet with Diana to look at the space anyway just to get a feel for the venue.

As soon as we walked in the front door to The Old General Store, I had little “visions” of what the place would look like decorated for a wedding. Sure, we didn’t need the entire space but I knew that we could decorate a smaller space and make it more of an intimate ceremony for the bride and groom. Diana gave us a tour and showed us the restaurant space as well as the full size, functional bar. Towards the front of the restaurant is a stage in front of the store’s front windows. Obviously, this was a perfect place for a wedding ceremony to take place. Seeing this meant we knew we could have the ceremony and reception in the same venue. The dance floor could be closed off from the extra seating space by barn style doors, which would work in our favor for our small wedding. The most impressive part of the tour was the large dressing room for the bride that is located upstairs. It wasn’t just a room to change in, it was a full size space that included a mini kitchen, a seating space with a couch and love seat, large tables with mirrors for the bridal party to do their hair and makeup, a private dressing room, and even second private room with a bed for anyone who might want to nap. Down the hall was the groom’s dressing area complete with a poker style table. Across from the men’s dressing room is full size bathroom which features a clawfoot tub and shower. I was completely impressed with the amenities.

The large space upstairs at The Old General Store for a bride to relax and get ready.

Once back downstairs, Diana explained the options for food and catering. She said the less work she does herself – meaning if we had an outside party cater in food – the more it would cost us. She went on to explain some of the food options we would have if her and her husband prepared the food themselves. Dane was looking for a chicken pasta dish since his bride preferred chicken. Diana made a few suggestions of pasta dishes she could make. She also went on to explain how the bar fees would be paid: either a deposit can be put down for an “open bar” style reception or guests could just purchase their own drinks. Any soda, coffee, or tea would be unlimited for guests for a small additional fee added to the cost of food.

We finished up our meeting and tour with the discussion of the cost for the venue rental, food costs, and bar costs. We shook hands with Diana and thanked her for her time. While Dane and I knew at that time that we had put in a few calls to other venues that we were supposed to look at, when we walked back to our car, we knew that The Old General Store was going to be the chosen venue. We knew the space was large but at the same we knew it would work. What seems to close any deal with me is the personality of the person I am dealing with. Diana is a class act who genuinely wanted us to feel comfortable, she wanted to work with us, and she knew we had a vision and wanted to help us make that come to life. I happily called Diana back the next morning to tell her that we had chosen The Old General Store as the place for Dane’s wedding and reception.

Diana sent us a rental contract to sign and we finalized a dinner menu to consist of chicken pasta, salad, and bread. I was given permission to bring in appetizers just so long as it was nothing that had to be kept warm. Understandably, no one wanted to be responsible for getting anyone sick from food that was not kept at correct temperatures. We met with Diana to drop off the contract and discuss table and chair placement. Pretty much, we had free range to do what we wanted – just as long as everything was put back where it was prior to us leaving the night of the wedding.

On Sunday, November 18, we arrived at The Old General Store at noon. As I was frantically rushing around unloaded boxes of decorations with my husband, I couldn’t help but notice that Diana seemed to have this grin of excitement on her face! She seemed just as excited as we were for the wedding day. We were able to decorate the restaurant area just as I imagined. We brought in our own linens, centerpieces that I made, lanterns, and decor. The place felt so cozy and welcoming. The “DJ booth” in the restaurant allowed us to plug in our iPod with our selected wedding music and there was dance floor lighting to accompany the music. The bride was thrilled with the luxurious space in which she was able to relax and get ready while we decorated. Everything just seemed to come together perfectly.

After the ceremony, our guests were seated at their respective tables while Diana and her husband served their homemade chicken pasta dinner. It was excellent! We have been to many weddings in the past where I’m sure the bride and groom pay an arm and a leg for catered food that is lacking in flavor. This was not the case for the food that was served that evening. The chicken was tender and had an amazing pink sauce coating the noodles. The bread was crispy and baked perfectly. Certainly not that kind of bread that has been sitting under a heat lamp and a bit soggy. It was like a nice home-cooked meal served at a wedding reception … probably because it was home-cooked! All of the guests raved about how the food was better than they thought it would be. Since I was the designated wedding planner, Diana checked with me about when to serve dinner, when to set out the glasses for a toast, and even offered a homemade pumpkin pie as additional dessert for the guests. She made sure no detail went unchecked and made sure the evening went according to plan.

We were allowed to bring in our own decor and arrange the tables as we felt necessary.

We set up our tables to enclose the dance floor.

After dinner, the cake cutting, and toasts, our guests made their way to the dance floor where we danced for the rest of the evening. One of the greatest things about having a wonderful woman like Diana host the event, is the fact that she felt comfortable enough with us to take up our offer for her to join us on the dance floor! It was truly a magnificent day and we all couldn’t have been any happier for how everything turned out.

The happy bride and groom: Mr and Mrs Dane Ficiak

The Old General Store is open twice a month and available for special occasions. If you’re in the area, looking for a unique place for a wedding or any other special event, I urge you to call Diana Riehm. She was such a pleasure to work with. She is sweet and caring and cares about helping you make your event special.

The Old General Store
104 McNaught Street
Roy, WA 98597
(253) 459-2124

I’d also like to thank Yelm Floral, who I’ve previously reviewed, once again for the beautiful wedding bouquet! It was simple and perfect. Just what the bride wanted.