It took all of two weeks for those final mellow days of 2018 to feel like a distant memory – the new year is HERE and it’s busy as all get-out.  But 2018 still deserves a proper homage, a proper highlight reel. My favorites, in no particular order…

Favorite book:

I didn’t read nearly as much fiction last year as I hoped to, but the few I did pick up were very solid choices.  4.6 stars out of 5 to The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for breaking my heart and putting it back together again.

In the non-fiction category, 4.7 stars for Educated by Tara Westover, which had me hooked from page 1.

I’ve been trying to leave more poetry laying around the house on our coffee and end tables to be picked up in a free moment and had my literary mind blown by Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which was such a beautiful mix of poetry and memoir. 4.8 stars.

 

Favorite movie:

I made it to the movie theater a whopping THREE times this year!  I think that’s three times the number of new movies I saw in 2017, so I’ll take it!  Award goes to Mary Poppins Returns for positively exuding creative energy.  Juliette carries her umbrella with her everywhere now.

 

Favorite TV show:

By about a thousand points, the new Queer Eye on Netflix takes the prize.  I tuned into an episode on the recommendation of a friend and was immediately smitten with Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Bobby and Antoni.  This show was a much-needed, light-hearted reminder that in these divided times, people can still come together with vastly different perspectives and weave something beautiful.

(Honorable mention to Better Call Saul!)

 

Favorite podcast:

This one’s tough, as I didn’t venture much outside my usual fare of Reply All and The Daily.  But there were a couple of Oprah Super-Soul Conversations that really had me Amen-ing on my lunchtime walks (favorites include her chats with Cheryl Strayed, Julia Roberts, and Steven Pressfield).  Also, muchas gracias to The Story Pirates for capturing Juliette’s attention on many a long car ride.

 

Favorite song:

I just scrolled through my latest Amazon playlist in search of any standout faves and had a hard time finding anything that rocked my world.  However, I have dozens of happy memories of Jules and I bopping our heads along to Jack Johnson’s I Got You.  This tune’s a few years old, but it’s gotten its second wind in our house on cozy Saturday mornings when we’re making breakfast and reading books in our pajamas.

 

Favorite purchase:

I started typing about the delicate gold stacking rings I’ve been wearing every day since I picked them up in Paris, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something bigger and better.  Duh.  Our house!  Golly, we feel like we hit the real estate jackpot.  I mean, this place isn’t perfect – the toilets are pink and there’s a portion of the basement that inexplicably smells a little footy, but it’s home through and through and I feel a little buzz of gratitude every time I walk through the front door.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

I bought a package of classes at my local Barre3 studio right after Thanksgiving, hoping that would jump-start me out of my fitness slump.  It felt like a splurge since I already had access to the online workouts and could do those at home, but my living room exercise sessions were lacking a certain focus and energy.  And…wowsers – the studio classes are kicking my butt in the most fun way.  The music and the pumped-up teachers and the presence of 15 of 20 other bad-ass women moving along-side me – total fitness game changer.  Plus, it gets me out of the house on these dark winter evenings, when I’m tempted to go to bed at 7:30 pm.

 

Favorite family pastime:

I could populate this field with camping each and every year, but I’ll give it a break and talk about our family bike rides.  Bicycle Sundays are so fun with all three of us on wheels and with Juliette’s big new bike, I’m expecting we’ll venture to new paths this coming year.  (Seriously, though, camping for the win.)

 

And, favorite moments…

CHEERS TO THE NEW YEAR!

Juliette and I had a solid week off from work and school after our Christmas trip to Portland, and it was glorious.  We turned the bustle-dial waaaaay down and stayed close to home, some days venturing only as far as the neighborhood coffee shop, where we sipped our steamer and latte with the utmost leisure.

A friend offered us last-minute tickets to the Seattle Children’s Theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit, and we said YES, thankful for our wide-open calendar.

We loved, loved, loved the show, which was poignant and creative and beautifully acted.  Juliette is at such a fun age right now, up for anything and thrilled with (most) new experiences.

Afterward, we met up with Shane for pizza at Mioposto, toasting to him for a big certification test he’d passed that morning.

We spent a rainy Saturday curled up in the cushy seats at AMC for a Mary Poppins matinee.  Again, loved it!  Our little patron of the arts…

Post-movie, we stretched our legs with a spin on Juliette’s Christmas scooter.

And then we settled in every evening with Juliette’s new stash of games – this girl is something of a Jenga master!

Shane was eager by December 26th to clear the Christmas stuff out of the house and get a fresh start to the year, so I memorialized our beloved tree with a few Mama-Jules pics (and then convinced him to leave it up till January!).

New Year’s Eve was crisp and clear, so Juliette and I got out for ride/run at Alki and then warmed ourselves at a coffee shop we’ve been meaning to check out.

…and later that afternoon, Shane and I warmed ourselves at a neighborhood pub we’ve been wanting to check out.  Give me all the twinkle-lit spaces!

The gang convened at our house on the evening of NYE for a family sleepover.  Jack brought a bottle of Veuve and we raised our glasses early while the kids were still up, wanting to let them in on the festivities (I meant to pour them each a glass of sparkling apple juice but was so excited about the Veuve that I forgot to get their drinks; they gorged themselves on cookies and M&Ms instead).

They watched the ball drop (East Coast time) on Jason’s phone and very enthusiastically blew their horns.

Finally, around 9:30, the littles were tucked into their sleeping bags.  Although…they don’t look so sleepy, do they?

N and J had quite the time settling down, though Juliette sweetly offered to hold Nico’s hand “to help him get to sleep”.  Next time I checked the monitor, they were both on the floor.  By 11:00 they were both in her bed.  Finally, at 11:30, all was still.

Meanwhile, the adults seemed to grow louder as the night went on, our game of Bowl of Nouns becoming more and more raucous with each round.

At one point, Jack was literally curled up on the floor, clutching his stomach and laughing over my attempt at charade-ing “potluck”.

We toasted one more time as the clock struck midnight, thrilled by the dawn of a new year, but also thrilled that we’d all managed to stay up that late!

We got a slow start on New Years Day, sleepily convening at the table for cinnamon rolls and bacon…

and then all jetted to Alki Beach to watch the gents take their annual Polar Bear Plunge.

As per usual, Shane was the first one out of the water, while Jason stayed behind to frolic.

Juliette thinks they’re all nuts.

We spent the afternoon under a pile of blankets, drinking tea and watching Star Wars (which in hindsight, might be a tad scary for Juliette).

Hard as it was to remove ourselves from the couch, I was determined to celebrate the dawn of a new year with a sunset stroll, so we made our way to Lincoln Park to scooter and skip rocks.

 

Welcome, 2019.  I’ve got high hopes for you.

Juliette and I kicked off our holiday break on the 21st with our annual Mama-Jules Downtown Christmas, where we spun through the city to see the sights.  I let Juliette set the agenda and lead the way – her first request was the Fairmont’s life-size gingerbread house, where she asked if she could please lick the candy cane window trim.  (I mean, she was setting the agenda, but…NO!!!)

We popped into my office to deliver goodies to few friends and then were off to the Westlake Carousel for the day’s main event.

The ride always ends sooner than Juliette wants it to, but she was happily distracted by this boa’d Storm Trooper standing nearby.

We went to the Starbucks across the street for a hot chocolate and an Americano, and then I got a toothache just watching Juliette dip her candy cane into her cocoa’s whipped cream (topped with a drizzle of chocolate syrup, no less).  “This is the best thing ever, Mama!”

We had parked near the market, so we said a quick hello to the pig and picked up one final Christmas gift.

WHEW.  This girl’s got stamina!

On Saturday we slowed things down.  We woke up late that morning and then gave Juliette her big gift, propping a new (used) bike next to the Christmas tree and putting a giant gold bow on it.  I baked cinnamon rolls for breakfast and we lingered at the table well after they were gone, flipping through Christmas cards and sipping peppermint tea.

We took Juliette down to Alki for a spin on her ride and I spent awhile at the water’s edge, acutely aware of how much I’ve missed the outdoors over these past couple of dark, busy months.

She’s all about the hand brakes now!

Back at home, we listened to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the seven hundredth time, played board games, and wrapped gifts.

We set out for Portland on Sunday morning and quickly sunk ourselves into Mitch and Kathryn’s couch.  Bina, ever the cuddler, was thrilled to have yet another lap to sit on.

We spent Christmas Eve morning puttering around the house, baking and playing and passing the dog around.

(This crew takes Parcheesi very seriously!)

The antsy’s set in after lunch and I asked Elise if there was anywhere she wanted to go, as Morgan was a little under the weather.  The question had hardly left my mouth before she responded “Roller Skating!”, and as luck (?) would have it, the neighborhood rink was open until 5:30 that day.

Juliette was such a sweet little trooper, popping back up after each tumble and insisting that she press on, determined to make a full lap without any spills or any hand-holding.

We cozied up that night for the Polar Express and then set out a plate of cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer.

Once all was silent in Elise’s room, where all three girls were sleeping, stockings were filled and presents were laid out (by Santa, of course).

The jumping and jabber of excited children woke me early on Christmas morning.  The adults poured themselves a round a coffee and the kids got right to it.

It took visits to three Targets and one Walmart, but Santa came through on the Barbie Dentist…

(Morgan wins the award for “most excited gift-opener”.)

‘Twas the season for cozy things, as Morgan, Elise and I all got new fuzzy robes for Christmas!  Juliette ran to her suitcase and pulled out her own robe, eager to get in on the comfy action.

Good tea and good chocolate for my mom and dad, respectively.  We’ve got them figured out by this point!

Oh, Morgan!

Juliette unwrapped the scooter I bought for her on a last-minute impulse and exclaimed, “I have ALWAYS wanted this!”.

We spent the rest of the morning enjoying our new toys…

And then rallied ourselves for a walk through Tryon Creek.

This picture feels so Northwest winter…

When the kids started to lag a bit, Shane kept them engaged by recounting the entire story line of Lord of the Rings.

Back at the house, we settled in for more games.  Shane, Dad, Mitch and I played an intense round of Settlers

(Shane’s smiling, but I won!)

It seemed that every time Juliette and Morgan disappeared for a few minutes, they would re-emerge with new outfits and a fresh coat of lip gloss.

Elise, on the other hand, is much more content to spend all her time in leggings and a t-shirt with a book in hand.  I’ve loved watching my nieces grow up into such delightfully different humans.

Late afternoon, dinner was prepped while the girls gingerbread-ed.

And I snapped the requisite cousins-in-hats picture:

My dad had ordered a country ham from the East Coast for dinner – this salty treat evokes happy childhood memories of Nannie and Grandaddy, who always came to visit with a country ham and a pound of fudge nestled into their suitcases.

We ate and ate and then retired to our happy corners of the house – the girls put Elf on the TV and snuggled up with Bina while Mitch, Kathryn and my dad dealt a few rounds of Gin Rummy.  I poured myself another glass of red and curled up in a chair with my new book of poetry, grateful for all the love in that house.

And now we’re home, enjoying a few more days of life in the slow lane.  Juliette’s a tad bit distraught that Christmas is over, but she’s finding much solace in her pink scooter and her stuffed elephant.  The joy lives on.

Lordy, Lordy, it’s been a doozy of a month – I always enter into December with the intention to slow down and savor the season and spend my evenings quietly dwelling on the magic of the advent season, but the best-laid plans…  I’ve been living in crazy-town at work, with a huge deadline yesterday and a 28-hour stint in San Diego earlier in the week for a project interview.  Shane’s taking a certification exam at the end of the month and has his head in his books most nights.  And then, there are all the Christmas things.  ALL THE CHRISTMAS THINGS.  I thought about giving myself a pass and nixing a few holiday traditions this year, but I just couldn’t do it – not because I feel like I have to see all the lights and bake all the cookies and listen to all the songs, but because dang it, I want to.  I really, really want to.  I love our December rituals.  I love watching Juliette’s face light up at the sight of inflatable rooftop reindeer and dancing fairies.  I love elaborate holiday storefront displays and searching the city for the tallest, twinkliest tree.  I’m a sucker for the Christmas cheese.  And I’m not sorry about it.  So, bring on the lights!

We spent an evening at Gene Coulon Park a couple of weeks ago, strolling the sparkly paths of “Clam Lights” with the Chens.  Juliette and Nico ran ahead of us, squealing in delight at every turn.

Seasons Greetings, friends.

 

We jetted over to Snowflake Lane after work on a Monday evening, hopeful that we’d bypass the weekend crowds.  We had a cozy meal at Earl’s (I love Happy Hour in a squishy booth) and then secured a front-row curbside spot for the show.  This whole production is so ridiculously over-the-top, with the music and the dancing and the fake snow and the people dressed as toy soldiers, walking around on stilts and handing out lollipops.  But like I said, I’m a sucker.  Jules is, too.

This winged woman came by a couple of times to grab Juliette’s hands and give her a twirl.  Kiddo was on Cloud NINE.

I wonder at what age kids stop waving back at the people of the floats?  I hope it’s not for awhile…

Halfway through the parade bubble snow started falling from the sky, upping the wonder ante even more.  I’m telling you, they go big on the Eastside!

 

On a quieter note, I spent last Saturday in the kitchen, baking my heart out while Shane was out skiing and Juliette was playing at the neighbor’s house.  I queued up Little Women on the iPad and patted out my logs of biscotti, pausing for a moment to put my hand on my chest and sigh deeply when Mr. Lawrence gifted Beth with the piano that his little girl used to play.  AND NOW IT CAN MAKE MUSIC AGAIN!  Waaahhhh!  Juliette helped for a hot minute, but was back out the door to play before I’d even pulled out the ingredients for my almond toffee.

Nonetheless, the March sisters proved to be awfully good company.  And when I was done, I got to lick the chocolate off the spatula without sharing.

Rudolph was a great little helper with deliveries, though – we made the rounds with our homemade goodie bags and bid all our neighbors a very merry Christmas.

 

We mixed it up for our annual Seattle family dinner this year and decided to gather our motley crew at MorFire in Capitol Hill for some holiday hot pot.  We gathered around a long table over pots of simmering broth, watching the kids toss in bunches of greens and noodles and shrimp.  Communal dining at its finest!

We gathered back at our house after dinner to open gifts and drink mulled wine and generally engage in more merriment.

This crew does “merry” so very well.

Gifts included a cashmere scarf and plush blankets and a wine shop gift card, but the present that garnered the most excitement was a box of Mario Brothers cereal.  Go figure!

Also, new flashlights!  Perfect for turning off all the lights and jumping on the bed!  (Overwhelming, inexpensive childhood joy is such a beautiful thing.)

 

Our neighbors told us that the Menashe House down on Beach Drive is a holiday must-see for West Seattle-ites, so we popped over there after dinner one night and it did not disappoint.  Lights and a nativity scene and about 15 different Santa figures, perched on the roof and in trees and on the front porch.

And about three million lights.  So good!

 

Juliette has shown an increased interest in Santa this year, catching Shane and I by surprise a couple of weeks ago when she piped up from the back seat, “So, Mommy, Daddy, is Santa really real?”  Shane and I exchanged a quick nervous glance, not entirely sure what our story was.  We’ve never made a big deal about Santa, never really played up the charade or pushed when Juliette’s taken a pass on going to visit him.  Shane, ever the diplomat, responded with, “What do you think?”  Juliette thought for a minute and said, “I guess so…”  And so, I guess we’re rolling with it!  I’m treating as another layer of magic to the season, second of course to the birth of baby Jesus, but still an opportunity for wonder and delight.  There’s a nice mellow Santa chair set up at one of our neighborhood home stores and we took Juliette there this morning to visit the big guy.  She hopped right up on his lap, requested Dentist Barbie (career Barbies are all the rage these days), and then proudly claimed her candy cane.

 

And now, this latest round of work mayhem has passed, Juliette’s school has closed for the year, and we have officially begun Christmas vacation, with eleven luxurious, stress-free days stretching out before us like the plushiest of red velvet carpets.  I might get that December peace and quiet after all…Praise God.

Merry December!  This holiday season has felt extra-cozy as we’ve cranked up our fireplace and really settled into our house.  It seemed fitting that Shane and I should host a Thanksgiving gathering this year, as our expanded dining area is one of the things we love most about our home, so we asked my parents to come over for a few days and asked the Rust clan join us for a big ol’ Thursday meal.  And then, we cooked.

I found great joy in setting the table on Thursday morning, pulling out my mom and dad’s wedding silver and my grandma’s antique wine glasses.  Juliette folded the napkins just-so and I snipped a few sprigs off our backyard fir.

 

We dined on cranberry sauce (a la Jules) and turkey (a la Mom) and mashed potatoes (a la Nance) and cornbread and green beans and salad.  Jason made two pies and I made a rather unfortunate crostada and we ate and drank ourselves silly.

During cleanup, just when I was about to give props to our very outdated kitchen for rising to the occasion, our garbage disposal got stuck in the “on” position, so Jason, Shane and my dad spent some time under the kitchen sink fiddling with buttons and wires, trying to get the thing to grind to a halt.  Turns out it was fixed with a $4 part from Home Depot, but “kitchen update” is quickly moving up on the 2019 priority list!

We spent the rest of the evening lounging by the fire, then heading downstairs for a very rousing game of Mario Party with the kids.

Thankful for both given family and chosen family…

We ventured out on Friday for a stroll at Lincoln Park and a couple of rounds at Beer Star.

My mom and I trekked through the rain for Americanos at the neighborhood coffee shop…

And then we spent the rest of the weekend largely holed up indoors, playing games and reading books and polishing off the leftover turkey.

 

My parents left on Sunday morning and then Shane, Jules and I set out on our annual tree hunt at Mountain Creek Farm.  We met up with the Chens, who were on a similar mission.

I had a particularly hard time settling on just the right tree this year – maybe because I was busy trying to keep track of these kiddos, who spent the afternoon running very big circles around us?

Found it!  I love a lush, fluffy Grand Fir.

 

We went home, cranked up the Charlie Brown, and got to work stringing lights and hanging ornaments.  While sipping egg nog.

There’s about an inch of clearance between the ceiling and the top of our tree.  Perfection!

 

And in further tradition-keeping, Nance, LaV and I spent last weekend on our annual “retreat” to Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac.  We talked, we ate ice cream, we shopped…

We, like, really shopped.  For ourselves and our guys and our kids.  Mostly for ourselves, though.  The post-mall fashion show we host in our hotel room is one of my favorite parts of the weekend.

We also watched four and a half Twilight movies over the course of two days.  That’s nine steamy hours of vampires and werewolves.  Phew!

If our eyes look a little glazed-over, it’s because we O.D.’d on Edward.  Cheers, ladies!

 

And finally, in new traditions, Shane and I took Juliette to see the Nutcracker at McCaw Hall last Sunday.  We scored a deal on some tickets and figured Juliette was old enough to sit through the two-hour program.

In a happy coincidence, Jack and La Verne had bought tickets for the very same show.  We joined them in their otherwise-empty box at intermission so that Jules and N could soak in the magic of the second half together.

The whole thing was so stinking beautiful – the music and the sets and the costumes and the dancers.  It was a smorgasbord of creativity, all wrapped up in the prettiest of paper.

As we were walking to the car, Juliette looked up and me and exclaimed, “That was so super-special, Mommy!”  For me too, kiddo!

 

And up next:  ALL.  THE.  LIGHTS.  We’re holiday-ing hard up in here.

And suddenly, we were waking up to our last full day in Paris!  I made my usual five-step walk from the bed to the balcony and bid the city Good Morning.

We laced up our sneakers and set out for a full day of city-soaking.  We started in Montmartre on Rue des Martyrs, on a mission for the neighborhood’s best croissants.  We found them at Farine & O, which was hands-down Lav’s and my favorite boulangerie of the several we visited.  Buttery and puffy and flaky and buttery.  And gosh, so buttery!

The streets of Montmartre hold such a beautiful mix of bright (or dark) murals and renegade wall art.

And then, you round a corner and find yourself on a rue lined with pristinely Parisian buildings.

Oh, to be the child that sits on the back of this bike and cruises around Paris with mom or dad.  LUCKY.

We followed the crowds to Sacre Couer and hung out for a moment on the jam-packed terrace overlooking the city.

And then made our descent, in search of lunch and a quiet place to sit.

We Metro-ed back toward Ile de la Cite, grabbed a couple of savory crepes with a couple of cups of vin chaud, and sat on a bench near Notre Dame to savor the good life.

We wandered through the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, a monument built in honor of the 200,000 French people that were deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Our feet started to feel their usual wear in mid-afternoon, so we headed back toward the apartment.  We passed this kid-filled plaza on the way and paused for minute to watch them play – I missed Juliette somethin’ fierce.

And so we stopped at Pierre Herme and loaded up on macarons for the little ones.  Mama’s coming home with treats, Jules!

We spent awhile at our sunny abode, snacking on the assortment of goodies we’d collected over the previous couple of days.  I challenge you to find a window better than this one!

This balcony was our happy place.

Lav and I split up for a bit to do some shopping in the Marais and then reconvened to head south and stroll the streets of St. Germain.

Our miles and miles of walking hit me like bag of bricks on Saturday afternoon, so we actually spent more time sitting than strolling – suddenly, I was beat.  But still, there are sights to be seen from a cafe terrace!

…or a quaint Brasserie!

We dined at Boucherie Rouliere that night, wanting to close out our trip with the French staples of onion soup and steak frites.  We came here last year as well and have declared it an official must-visit anytime we’re in Paris – the space is happy and bustling, the service is friendly, and the soup is extra-cheesy.

We took the circuitous route home, reveling in the joy of a packed terraces, bright lights, and a sidewalk quartet.

We rounded out the night with crepes from La Droguerie in the Marais.  NUTELLLLLLLA!

We happily discovered on Sunday morning that daylight savings had ended during the night, so we found ourselves with an extra hour before we had to head to the airport.  I set out with my camera before the sun had fully come up, wanting to enjoy a few quiet moments with the city.  My dear, dear city.

I thought about turning around at the Pompidou, but checked my watch and decided to just keep on trekking.

The Tuilieries was nearly deserted, leaving me free to snap endless photos of those quintessential green chairs.  I love those green chairs.

 

This was the point at which I decided I better book it back to the Marais.  Sights seen.

I met up with La Verne for one last croissant and coffee before heading back to the apartment to finish packing up.

And then it was time to squeeze back into that tiny elevator and bump our suitcases along the sidewalks to the RER.  Don’t let Lav’s friendly smile fool you – we were crying on the inside as we said goodbye to our sweet little street…

It was a long day of travel back to Seattle – we toasted to La Verne’s birthday with glasses of in-flight Prosecco somewhere over the Atlantic and watched three or four movies.  I was feeling some pretty serious post-Paris blues, but the moment Juliette’s and Shane’s faces came into view at the top of the airport escalator, all felt right again.  Paris will always be there, ready to welcome us back the next time those $500 flights show up in my inbox.  And it will be as magical as ever.

We were tempted to sleep in on on our kid-free vacation, but Paris is not a city for catching up on your Z’s.  Paris is a city for early-morning strolls to the Place des Vosges!

Lav and I knew we’d only have time for one museum during our visit, so we settled on the Pompidou for our art fix.  We grabbed a couple of croissants and coffees on Rue Montorguiel and then hopped in line to beat the crowds.

This place!  I had an annual pass to the Pompidou during my year abroad and would pop in every couple of weeks to visit Dubuffet and Matisse and Kandinsky.  This place is where I learned to love art.

GIACOMETTI.  I missed him.

Our energy waned a couple of hours into our visit, so we took a rest under a web of earbuds.   Quite serene, actually!

We grabbed lunch back in the Marais, and my warm Chevre-topped salad and glass of white wine left me ready to jam again.  Off we went to the Promenade Plantee!

This elevated walking path near Bastille offers up-high views of Parisian streets and then dips down to a series of tunnels and woods.  Much of the trail was new to me – it was fun to turn over a new French stone.

We hung out at the apartment for a bit before dinner and then struck back out for dinner at Le Rigmarole.  First though, a quick stop at Carette for salted caramel macarons.

And a quick stop at this little shop for earrings.  Being able to pop into any little store on any little whim felt like such a luxury.

We reveled in our two-hour, eight-course meal and then caught the Metro to Trocadero.  And…there she is!

Not a bad place to end the day.  Not bad at all.

It felt a bit extravagant to book another trip to Paris just one year after Lav’s and my 2017 romp through the City of Lights, but… Those killer IcelandAir deals!  That lovely Marais apartment!  Those two sweet dads that gladly offered to hang back with the kids!  I mean, we could hardly afford not to go.  And so off we went.  After a brief moment of flight-change / missed-flight panic, we were PARIS-BOUND!  With complimentary wine to boot!

It was a long but luxuriously quiet flight, with a short stop at London-Heathrow for a cup of coffee and a good stretch.  We landed in France on a Wednesday evening, bumped our suitcases the two blocks from the St. Paul Metro to our building on Rue du Trésor, squeezed into the tiniest elevator ever, and then opened our sixth-floor door to a charming one-bedroom with a balcony that dreams are made of.

We freshened up a bit and then jetted right back out for dinner and drinks at my old fave Les Philosophes, which was just a few doors down from our apartment.

I’d read about a light show happening that evening at Notre Dame, so we wandered that way and found ourselves a little perch on a stretch of bridge to take in the action.  This old Dame really rolled out the welcome wagon for us!

We strolled back toward the Marais once the church went dark, stopping to gaze upon the glittery Seine…

and then grabbed a gelato and wandered a bit more, warding off our jet lag with that irresistible Paris buzz.

It felt so, so, so good to be back.

We were up at a respectably early hour on Thursday, ready to tick off the sights on our clipboard of fun.  The city was beckoning!

First, though, coffee and croissants.

We hopped on the Metro and headed toward Rue Monge, stopping briefly at a beautifully well-curated kids store for gifts for the littles.

We grabbed a couple of sandwiches and tarts from a sidewalk vendor and trekked toward Jardin du Luxembourg.

We walked by Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont on the way and popped in.  On a whim.  PARIS.  So much magic around every corner.

We eventually landed at Luxembourg, staked our claim at a couple of green chairs, and settled in to watch the kids with their sailboats while we happily carbo-loaded.

Fall seemed to be breathing one of its last, glorious gasps while we were there.

We wanted to catch the afternoon tour at the top of the Pantheon, so we walked back that way after lunch, again doing a quick church loop on our way.  Saint-Sulpice was such a dark and lovely contrast to Saint-Etienne-du-Mont.

 

And then, the Pantheon.  I had been inside this place several times but had never made my way to the top – bring on the stairs!

The first upstairs vantage point overlooked the patterned floor below…

And then we climbed some more, finally arriving at the outdoor balcony.  Hello, Eiffel!

I love Paris from up high – the city’s rooftops are just so distinctly…Parisian.

We made our descent and then did another quick-and-lovely driveby, this time at the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve across the street.  Can you imagine doing your homework in here?

By this point we’d logged six or seven miles on our Nikes.  I needed a cold beer.

And an espresso.

Once we’d recharged, we walked toward the Seine, stopping at Shakespeare and Co., the flower market, and Pont Notre Dame along the way.

We kicked back at the apartment for awhile before dinner, munching on the perfect little honey-laced birds’ nests we’d picked up at Maison Aleph.  When La Verne asked the man at the counter what the nests were made of, he replied in all seriousness, “the hair of angels”.  I don’t doubt it.

We weren’t able to snag a table at the little cafe we’d been eyeing for dinner, so instead we settled on the best fallafel ever from L’As du Fallafel.  I ate a lot of these sandwiches during my year in Paris.  They are just as good as I remember them.

We ate at the plaza at Hotel de Ville, harissa running down our fingers, and then wiped our hands and walked west to the Louvre.  I know I use the word “magic” a lot in these Paris posts, but I mean…TA-DAAAA!

Lav and I both ranked this evening as one of the biggest highlights of our trip.  We were two of only a handful of people in the courtyard that night – the quiet air and the glowing moon and the brilliant lights were all so…enchanting (thanks, thesaurus!).

We closed out our eleven-mile walking tour with a drink at a neighborhood bar, leaning into that very happy, very tired feeling that comes with a day of sightseeing and a glass of Cotes du Rhone.  Bonne nuit, mes amis.

Back-tracking a bit here, but work has trumped blog these past few weeks and I’m just now getting back to this space I’ve missed so much.  And so, Idaho!  In mid-October!  Did I mention my parents moved to Idaho?  They visited Couer d’Alene in May and were so smitten with it that they decided to bid La Pine farewell and embark on a new adventure.  And while I relished our time in Central Oregon, I gotta say, North Idaho shows definite promise.

We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the playground at Falls Park, as Juliette was gunning to go after several hours in the car.  She bee-lined to the jungle gym while I checked out the rugged views of the Spokane River.

So happy together…

We grabbed a beer while the sun set over the water and then headed back to my mom and dad’s place for homemade meatballs.  Three hours into our visit, I was already seeing the appeal…

On Thursday morning we headed into Couer d’Alene to check out spot #2 on our grand circuit du playgrounds.  City Park was beautiful though swarming with aphids, which infest the city’s ash trees for two weeks every year.  We took a quick spin on the monkey bars and then moved on.

Oh, and AUTUMN!  So good here.

We popped over to McEuen Park next, which was decidedly less buggy.  We ate our picnic lunch, Juliette playgrounded with a new friend, and then we took a short walk around Tubbs Hill, which fronts Lake Couer d’Alene.

Can’t wait to get our paddle board out onto this water next summer!

Shane and I sent Juliette home with my parents and then set out to do a little exploring on our own.  We landed on the trail at Mineral Ridge, a three-mile hike with a lovely lake lookout.

Day dates are my favorite.

My mom and dad took Shane and I out for dinner that night to celebrate our October birthdays.  (Juliette free-loaded.)

On Friday we headed into the nearby farmland (of which there was plenty!) to scout some pumpkins and hot cider.  We started at Hidden Acres Orchards, which offered apple trees and a pet pig and a (dinky) corn maze and a two-dollar hayride.

Juliette ate it all up.

We crossed the street to another little patch and settled in at a picnic table to eat our lunch.  First though, one more pumpkin.  I couldn’t stop!

(This one’s for you, Uncle Doug!)

Juliette and I had just enough energy left after our pumpkin bonanza to get out for a jog/bikeride.  We found a perfect stretch of flat, carless trail and she rode like the wind while I huffed behind her.

My parents offered to watch Juliette that evening while Shane and I slipped away for the first grown-up movie we’ve seen in the theater in years.  Such luxury!

Saturday was our last full day in Idaho, so I got an early start and headed back out to Tubbs Hill for a walk with my mom.

Idaho, I’m falling for you!

We picked up the guys (and kid) and then drove out to Spirit Lake for a quiet lunch on the patio.

Again with the paddle-boarding possibilities..

The town of Spirit Lake is tiny, but boasts a quintessentially cute Main Street with an ice cream shop and a pottery store where you just slip your payment through a mail slot, so as not to disturb the potter while he’s at work.

We swung by Falls Park before dinner for one last playground romp with Grandpa, master twirler.  My dad ended up with a large flock of children around him and he pushed them all on the merry-go-round, trying to tag them at each spin while they giggled and squealed.  He’s the funnest.

There were lots of snuggles with Bernie on Sunday morning as we packed our things.

And Grandma!  She’s pretty snuggly, too.

I’m going to miss the Bend brew scene and Central Oregon lake life but…Idaho seems realllll nice.  We’re going to tear that state up next summer.

I am up to my ears in photos of the past month, with a trips to Idaho and PARIS on the books, but I’ll start with a couple of closer-to-home happenings.

Halloween came and went with much fanfare – there was a Fall Fest and a school party and a trick-or-treating bonanza.  Juliette rocked her Wonder Woman costume in true hero form.

After September’s post-birthday Princess kick, it was nice to see her in something a little less…poofy.

Shane pulls out his old Kevin Durant jersey every year and dresses up as a…basketball player?  In jeans?  I’m not really sure what’s going on here.

But dang, they are so stinking cute.

And…we’re off!

We hooked up with some neighbors and zig-zagged our way around the ‘hood.  Jules was thrilled to be out with such experienced trick-or-treaters – these kids knew exactly which houses doled out the full-size candy bars.

This guy buys 52 pumpkins every Halloween Eve and spends the next day carving each and every one of them.  I told Shane that we have GOT to step up our porch game next year.

We hurried home when it started to rain, Juliette’s bucket brimming with treats.  I have since pilfered all the Snickers bars and Shane has eaten every last Reese’s.  Happy Halloween!

This past week has felt decidedly more Wintry than Autumnal, so we’re squeezing in a couple of final golden strolls before the trees shed their leaves completely.  Juliette and I popped over to Kubota Gardens before her swim lesson one Friday afternoon for a brisk romp.  This place never disappoints.

I know, this headband is a little ridiculous, but it’s her new favorite.  Last night she slept with it on!

We’ve got our route through this place down pat now.  Up the hill, down the hill, over the bridge, under the tree tunnel, to the fish bond, and over the other bridge.

My little mushroom forager…

FRIDAYS!!!

 

And finally, a quick international jaunt with the Chens, lest the dads and the kids felt left out after Lav’s and my week in Paris.  We rolled into Canada on a very rainy Saturday, and after a dim sum fix in Richmond bought tickets at the Vancouver Aquarium for an afternoon of indoor sightseeing.

This is Juliette’s attempt at a fish face:

Jack leveraged his hotel points to snag us all a luxurious suite at the Fairmount, and after settling into our swanky space, we hit the pool.  In the rain!

We all dined on assorted meat skewers at Zakushi for dinner that night.  Juliette was in meatball heaven, and my rich, runny quail egg was to die for.

Back at the hotel, the kids fell asleep in seven seconds flat:

And the fellas picked us up a round of champagne to-go from the hotel bar.

We were determined to savor every last minute of our digs until our noon check-out time on Sunday, so the guys and kids spent the morning at the pool while LaV and I made use of our complimentary spa access.

I’d come back to this place for the mini-robes alone!

We slurped down a ramen lunch and then strolled through Stanley Park before heading south.

Sunday’s sunshine more than made up for Saturday’s downpour.

It was a long ride back to Seattle, even with the Nexus passes that allowed us to zip through the border crossing, but we made it.  We’re HOME for the foreseeable future.  And it feels so good.