We’ve got a five-day camping trip on the books where I expect I’ll take a boatload of photos, so I figured I better get up-to-date here on my summer snapshots – in addition to Friday Fun-days, Saturdays and Sundays have been pretty grand as well.

We convened with the gang in Issaquah in early June for a hike out to Coal Creek Falls.  Actually, let’s call it more of a “saunter” – 6 adults, 5 kids, and 1 dog made for a less-than-nimble group.

Oh, and add two babies to the tally!

This place is was so much greener than it was on our walk just a few weeks earlier.

Isaiah kissed a slug, proudly earning a new notch on his nature belt.

Seriously, people, the goin’ was slow!

Made it!

Steady, Gryff!

And…homeward bound!

We made it back to the car in record time, logging a speedy 35-minute mile.  Nicely done, kids.

In other news, Grandma was here!  My mom spent a couple of days in Seattle en route to Florida in mid-June and we hit up Jefferson Park on a sunny afternoon…

Then lounged in the backyard with white wine and kombucha.

We walked my mom to Lightrail on her final morning here and Juliette sobbed for 15 minutes once we said our good-byes, as if we’d never ever see Grandma again (we’ll see her next month).

We spent last Saturday in Mukilteo, visiting Shane’s aunt, uncle, and cousins.  Doug and Val have a condo right near the ferry terminal and the Mukilteo lighthouse, so we spent a little time exploring the sights.

And I snapped some Schnell family pics, since it’s so rare that their whole family gets to be together, with the kids spread from coast to coast.  See that strapping young man on the right?  I used to read him bedtime stories when he was Juliette’s age!

We spent much of the afternoon at the pool, floating on noodles and working on our tans.

Juliette got swim lessons from Auntie Val…

And loved it.

I soaked up some rays while Juliette pouted about the fact that pooltime was over.

We took an evening walk along the beach with ice cream cones from the corner brewpub and overturned rocks in search of crabs.

Thanks as always, Schnells, for showing us a great time!

With all the out-and-abouting we’ve been doing lately, we opted for a laid-back Fourth of July at home, venturing no farther than our own backyard.

I sometimes forget how good the simple pleasures can be.

SUMMMMMMMERRRRRRRRR!

We ended the day with a stroll down to the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand, raising our cups to the entrepreneurial spirit of the good ol’ U.S. of A.

We woke up to another magical 80-degree forecast on Saturday and drove over to Pine Lake to check out the Eastside water scene.

Shane and I each got out for a solo spin on the SUP and then Juliette asked if she could try.  We let her climb on but hovered close by, sure that we’d soon have a soaking wet kid on our hands.

Steady, baby…

She’s a natural, folks.

A few minutes in, she hopped off the board and ran to grab her life jacket, as a way of letting us know she was ready to venture a little farther out.

Shane took the fin off the bottom of the board so that Juliette paddled in circles around us, reveling in her newfound freedom.

What’s better than bobbing along in a cool lake with your favorite people on a warm day in the PNW?  Quite possibly nothin’.

There were a series of Fridays in the Spring when work crept into my “day off”, as I was asked to come into the office for a quick meeting or dial in for a call; I often found myself volunteering to check in around lunchtime and then getting sucked into a mid-day email vortex.  The reality is that architecture isn’t incredibly well-suited to a four-day work week.  But dang it, there’s summertime fun to be had with my favorite three year old, so I reset some boundaries and have recommitted to Mama-Jules time.  We’re painting this town red!

We kicked off Fun-Only Fridays in early June with a trip down to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.  Juliette grabbed a map and planned our route:  fish, tigers, polar bears, goats.

Dory, Mama!  DORY!!!

The tiger was my favorite – such a striking, beautiful animal.

But a little scary, too – he’s got his eye on her!

The goats were our last stop and I expected we’d breeze by there, as Juliette and I were both a little beat by this point, and I mean, they’re just goats.  Turns out they were adorable goats.  Hungry goats.  And there was a food dispenser.  We were here for awhile.

That poor guy in the back was insatiable!

Ok, buddy.  ONE MORE.

I finally coaxed Juliette away from her livestock friends and we hit the road back to Seattle.  Lucky kid:

Lucky me!

We spent a much grayer Friday a couple of weeks ago at the Pacific Science Center, making use of the membership that we purchased on a stormy weekend in January.  First, though, pancakes and coffee at Five Spot.

The Pacific Science Center, like many children’s museums, feels a little worn-out (this place takes a beating!), but the butterflies are beautiful.

Juliette was quite distressed when she saw the large-scale chessboard in total disarray and got right to work fixing it up.

Legos for days.  Sometimes it’s nice to sit still…

Shane’s work schedule permits him to join us from time to time on our Friday shenanigans and the three of us spent the last Friday of June at Rattlesnake Lake, paddle-boarding and picnicking.

I don’t know if it’s the ball cap or the khaki-colored shorts or the way he’s leaning in with his hand on Juliette’s back, but Shane has never looked more Dad to me than he does in this photo…

I got out for a long solo paddle while Shane and Juliette ate their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the shore.  Now this is a form of exercise I can get on board with!

We checked berry-picking off our list yesterday, as we made the trek out to Carnation to scour the raspberry vines.  We stopped at Sandy’s on the way there for fuel in the form of coffee and muffins, enjoying their sunny little patio.

The pickin’ was good yesterday, with plenty of huge, sweet berries hanging from the vines.  For each one Juliette put in her bucket, she put one in her mouth.

Seriously, I felt like we should slip the guy at the register a few extra dollars…

This photo needs a little thought bubble in the upper right corner saying, “Life is GOOD”.

For all the fun we had, Juliette took her harvesting very seriously.

Seven pounds of sheer joy in that crate right there!

Work schmerk.  Thank Goodness for Fridays.

Camping Trip Numero Dos is in the books, and though we stayed pretty close to home this time, venturing only as far as Bainbridge Island, it was a super-special weekend.  We haven’t done the big-gang camping thing in years and so when five of our favorite families agreed to sleep under the stars with us for a couple of days, we were stoked.  Let the mayhem begin!

We boarded the Bainbridge Ferry on Friday afternoon, cars loaded down with bikes and kayaks and paddleboards and marshmallows.  Peace out, Seattle!

Helloooooooo, Rainier!

No trip to Bainbridge is complete without a stop at Mora’s for ice cream.

I wiped the last drip of strawberry ice cream from Juliette’s chin and then we hopped in the Forester to set out for camp.  The gentlemen took an alternate mode of transportation.

We rolled up to our three sites at Fay Bainbridge State Park and were thrilled to find that we had in fact reserved a big stretch of lovely lawn, perfect for running and rolling and lounging.

And caterpillar-hunting!

The kids did their own version of summer sledding by hauling each other around on picnic blankets.

And Shane did some bike wheel triage while chatting with Jack over home-brewed Caipirinhas.

Once we’d set up camp and gulped down our first round of cocktails, we walked down to the beach to play in the sand and soak in the sun.

We bought a kite a few weeks ago and have been looking for the perfect place for its maiden voyage.  Found it!

This little driftwood fort was pretty magical, especially with Rainier shining in the distance.  Jules and Stella set up a “restaurant” in there – hot coffee was served in clam shells, with a sprinkle of sand on top.

Captain of the ship!

The grown-ups took to the water on paddle boards and kayaks.

And this little lady ran naked through the sea grass.  Ah, to be young again!

We grilled burgers for dinner and followed up with the requisite s’mores.

Jules and N spent some time mind-melding before bed – they’d squeeze their eyes shut tight, link their hands, and then Jack would ask Juliette what number she was thinking of.  She’d shout increasingly complex digits, like “twenty one hundred seven!”.  Jack would then turn to Nico and ask, “Nico, what number was Juliette thinking of?”  When he repeated, “twenty one hundred seven!”, the two of them would jump up and down, hardly able to believe the mind-reading magic of it all.

Seriously, to be young again!

BTW, this kid is a maniac on the RipStik.

All was (relatively) quiet by about 10 pm and all slept well (ok, not really).  There were a few tired kiddos and parents around the breakfast table on Saturday morning, but once coffee was brewed and the sun fully shone, everyone seemed to find their mojo.  The gentlemen headed out for a bike ride…

While the women and children headed down to the beach.

YOU GUYS.

The tide was super-low that morning and we combed the kelp for crabs, clams, and other sea treasures.

As soon as Shane returned from his ride, I headed out with Nicole and La Verne for an afternoon paddle.  The water was choppy, so Nicole and I “kayaked” on our paddle boards, returning to shore with soaking wet butts but newly browned shoulders.

Blue Crush, mid-thirties mama-style!

Juliette had played so hard that morning that I expected to return to camp to find her passed out in the tent, but…not so much.

Emily and La Verne ran to the store for a couple of things and returned with popsicles and margarita fixin’s.  Effusive gratitude was felt all around.

Jules and Stella shared a Moana moment…

While Eden and Shane played the sweetest-ever game of peek-a-boo.

I’m storing this moment with this crew in the memory bank, as we drifted in and out of the circle, story-telling and group-parenting and laughing like family.

Bop it, Bups.

These two pulled out all the stops when stalling at bedtime – it was almost as if Nico whispered in Juliette’s ear, “Hug me!  They’ll take our picture and forget about tooth-brushing!”

Finally, though, everyone was tucked in and camp was quiet (ok, not really).  Juliette woke up at 2 am desperate to poop and while I very reluctantly agreed to take her to the bathroom, all was made right when we crossed the clearing on the way to the Honey Bucket and she looked up at the sky to gasp, “Mommy, the stars!  They’re so beautiful!”  We turned off our head lamps and crouched there in the middle of the grass for a moment, feelin’ that camping buzz something fierce.

One of the three of us woke up the next morning with bright eyes and a smile on her face.  Guess which one.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at camp, letting the kids harvest unripe berries while the adults pounded the coffee that Jack had graciously picked up at Starbucks.

We got in one last beach-fix, kayaking and shell-hunting and kite-flying…

And then it was time to catch our 1:10 ferry back to the real world.  Thankfully, the real world offers showers and indoor bathrooms.  Otherwise, I might never have wanted to leave our little island oasis…

There are lots of reasons to be giddy about the arrival of Summer in the PNW, but the onset of camping season tops my list.  And so the first free June weekend we had, we put “CAMPING” on our calendar, heading for the hills with a hope and a prayer that the questionable weather forecast would turn in our favor (Lord knows we weren’t so lucky last time we camped in June, but I was feeling optimistic).

Nancy had booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park up near Port Townsend, and there’s always a bit of anxiety that comes with rolling into a campground you’ve never visited before – would the sites be crammed together?  would the tent spots be right next to the road?  would it be sparsely wooded?  OR, would it be sheltered and spacious and totally amazing?  From the minute I stepped out of the car, I knew this one was the latter!

Shane got right to work setting up the tent while Juliette and I explored the nearby trails, hunting for spiders and squirrels.

Juliette and I spent a few minutes laying down in the tent, but the moment we heard the Rust clan roll up, she shot up like a dart – in no time, all three kids were helmeted and on some form of wheels.

The beach was a two-minute drive from our site and we all headed down there before dinner to check out the scene.  And the scene was…BLUE!

Shane gave Gryff some lessons in rock skipping while Jules and Isaiah watched from their sunny perch.

Juliette has fully fallen into the role of the pesky kid sister, spending much of the weekend shouting, “Come sit by me, Gryff!  Gryff!  GRYFFIN!!!”  He’s so sweet to indulge her…

Can you believe the forecast that day was for steady drizzle?  Psssshhhhh.

We headed back to camp for brats and corn and cold beer around the campfire.

And, of course, the mallows.

I was eager to see the sunset, so Shane graciously offered to put Juliette to bed while I grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach (get your scroll finger ready!).

I mean, Holy Moly, this place was lovely.

I strolled to the end of a sandy spit and then stopped to sit on a piece of driftwood for awhile and fully breathe it all in.

I headed back to camp as the sun dipped below the horizon.  The water faded to darker shades of purple and blue, looking so much like a real-life Monet.

We all slept like rocks that night and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (ok, Shane was hardly bright-eyed, but Jules was feelin’ the camping joy!).

Juliette was convinced that giants lived under this metal hatch near the restrooms, so it was crucial that we tip-toed and wore our headlamps on our morning pee-run, just in case.

After we’d caffeinated and breakfasted and taken our sweet time getting out of our pajamas, we set out for a hike along the bluff.

This kid was channeling his inner Hulk (a la Halloween 2016).

Flagler was a military fort manned during World Wars 1 and 2 and the trail was dotted with bunkers and searchlights and batteries.

And…deer!

We eventually made it to the end of the trail and down to the beach for fort-building and shell-searching.

Shane set out on a bike ride while I hung back with Juliette (climb, baby, climb!).

Jules took an afternoon snooze and then we went back down to the beach to fill her bucket with purple shells and dried-out crabs.

It was like Halloween, watching her lay out all her loot back at camp!

We ate another hearty meal around the campfire and then Juliette waited not-so-patiently for Dad to roast her marshmallow.

We found ourselves with just enough pre-bedtime buzz to walk back down to that irresistible beach to catch the day’s last rays.

Driftwood shenanigans…

Good night, sun…

We stayed close to camp Sunday morning, slowly packing up while the kids made smoke signals and played soccer.

Juliette’s a bit young to be a legitimate playmate for a seven year old, but there were certainly moments when I saw these two having a grand ol’ time together…

Cheers to a killer start to camping season!

Shane decided he wanted to make the 50-mile trek to the Bainbridge Ferry on his bike (talk about a Hulk!), so Juliette and I made our own adventure of getting home, heading to Bremerton to check out Harborside Fountains and catch the ferry from there.

She hung back for the first half-hour, timidly dipping her toes in the water’s edge.

But soon she waded farther in…

And before long the pants were off.

We caught the 3:00 ferry to Seattle and I bought Juliette her first Choco Taco as a thank you for being such a good travel companion that day.  She took that first bite and asked with astonished delight, “Do I get to eat the whole thing?!”  Have at it, kiddo.

I was pooped and asked Juliette if we could just spend some time quietly sitting on a bench inside.  Sweet kid offered to read me a story while I rested!

And then our boat cruised up to the Seattle dock and we were home, sun-kissed and smelling of campfire smoke.  Next weekend, we head out for Camping Round 2.  The future is bright!

Memorial Day weekend was long and sunny and filled with good times with the gang – dare I say that summer has come a little early this year???

Juliette and I heralded the arrival of 80-plus temps with a Mama-Jules Friday at Gene Coulon Beach.

She rides a little lower every time she gets in that boat, but somehow, it still floats!

I’m so looking forward to a summer of Fridays with this kid…

After leaving the beach, we stopped by Target for paper towels and walked out with an inflatable pool, because, I mean, 82 degrees, people!  We just lived through Seattle’s coldest winter in 32 years!

We dusted off the paddle board on Saturday morning for a jaunt around Lake Washington…

And then set up camp on the lawn with our peeps.  It was a long, lazy morning of mimosas and baseball and water bazookas.

We celebrated N’s fourth birthday that evening with a dinosaur egg hunt and generously frosted cupcakes.

It was like Easter in May!  Brilliant party planning, La Verne…

Happiest of birthdays to this sweet boy!

Jules and N haven’t seen a whole lot of each other this past few weeks and seemed quite happy to be reunited again.

While the littler kids played with their eggs, G and Z did dare-devil stunts with scooters and riding toys down the Chens’ steep driveway.  Rough and tumble, these two…

Shane scored a big-kids bike on Craigslist on Saturday and gave Juliette her first pedal lesson on Sunday.  She’s got a ways to go before she’s cruising around this thing on her own, but biking lessons seem like a perfect father-daughter summer project.

I, on the other hand, am quite comfortable with my new wheels and loved our Sunday afternoon ride down to the lake and around Seward Park.  Check us out!  We’re a biking family!

 

We ran into the Chens down on the Boulevard and biked with them for awhile.

Juliette was such a good sport on our 14-mile trek that we let her maximize her pre-bed playtime by eating dinner in her new swimming pool.  Copper River salmon has never tasted so good!

Tempted as I was to lay super-low on Monday, Shane was gunning for another family ride, so we strapped our bikes to the Forester and drove over to Marymoor Park for a Redhook Ride.

I have to say, the Brewery payoff felt slightly out of proportion with the meager seven miles we rode to get there…  But hey!  It was a holiday!

We capped off our weekend o’ sun back at Seward Park, where I laid on the grass while the kids splashed in the lake.

And with that, May Madness is a wrap.

With the flurry of the England trip and the Portland trip, I missed a couple of other May happenings!

My mom and dad came to visit at the beginning of the month – it was a weekend full of walks at the park and tri-generational coffee dates:

The forecast was iffy the Saturday they were here, but once we woke that morning and saw blue skies overhead, we deemed it ferry weather.

Hello, Bainbridge!

First stop: Blackbird Bakery for Americanos and cookies.  Cafe-hopping is one of my favorite things to do with my mom and it’s been fun to fold Juliette into our ritual (even if it’s just with warm milk).

We wandered around Winslow for a couple of hours, hitting the toy store and Doc’s Marina Grill and, of course, Mora’s for ice cream.

Bainbridge is nice and all, but I think the ferry ride to and from there might be even nicer!

Sunday was another surprising lovely day, so we spent the morning at Seward Park, strolling and biking and throwing rocks.

My mom and dad hit the road a couple of hours before I caught my plane to England – I like to think we all spent that weekend filling Juliette’s love bank to the brim before splitting town!

Thankfully, I got back from my trip in time to spend Mother’s Day at home.  Though Shane was probably ready for a break, he was up early with Juliette Sunday morning to run to the bakery for a loaf of my favorite bread.  I came downstairs to find him plating avocado toast with bacon and eggs while Jules ground my coffee beans.  I’m the luckiest.

And then, in an even grander gesture, we went to the bike store to pick out a gift for me!  We kicked off a summer of family bike rides with a whirl on the Green River Trail.

Post-ride hydration at Schooner Exact Brewery…

Juliette then woo’ed me by pulling all of the floor mats out of the Forester and scrubbing them clean.  Just when I think this girl couldn’t possible wriggle her way any deeper into my heart…

I tell ya’, motherhood is some kind of special…

Juliette has been begging for a Portland trip for weeks now, calling down to me well after she’s been tucked into bed to forlornly cry, “Mommyyyyyyyy?  I really miss my cousins!”  We finally found ourselves with a free weekend and were happy to indulge her – it had been far too long since we’d crossed that Oregon/Washington border!

We arrived in Portland around lunchtime on Friday and headed over to Milk Glass Market for a healthy hipster lunch.

The weather was beautiful and we had a couple of hours before Morgan and Elise would be out of school, so we hopped on our bikes for a family ride on the Marine Drive Trail.

Sweet, sweet serenity.

And gosh, how ’bout those freckles?!

When we got to Mitch and Kathryn’s, Juliette excitedly hopped in the car with her aunt to go pick up the girls from school.  When they returned together, Juliette was beaming.  And Elise was…TALL.

Morgan was long-haired and beautiful and sporting a brand new smile.

We spent the afternoon watching the kids run circles around the yard, went out for a hearty dinner, and then it was back to the house for more lawn shenanigans.

I heard the pitter-patter/stomp-stomp of children’s feet early the next morning, but enjoyed the luxury of lingering in bed for a bit as Morgan and Elise have become so adept at looking out for their kid cousin.  Plus, SHOPKINS!

Morgan had her last soccer game of the season on Saturday morning and we all showed up to cheer her on – she’s got some serious hustle!

I was a little taken aback by how much Morgan has changed since we last saw her at Christmas – she seems so much more confident, so much more independent now.

And Elise!  Wanna move to Seattle and be our new babysitter???

There were certainly moments when the goalie was caught picking daisies 10 feet outside the goal, but all in all, these girls played a pretty focused game!

Juliette wanted in on the action, so Elise engaged her in a one-on-one match.

Good game, Miss Morgan!

We ate lunch back at the house and lounged around for a bit, but were soon back out the door with our three amped-up girls plus a friend of Morgan’s.  We drove down to George Rogers Park to catch some afternoon rays by the water.

I figured that surely the water would be too cold for them to put their feet in, but what do I know?

My little Northwest Hula Girl…

We spent awhile on the playground and then went back to the house for more Front Yard Olympics.  Temps topped out at nearly 80 degrees that day and I stretched out on the lawn with a pint of Mitch’s home-brew, soaking up the sounds and smells and tastes of summer.

Shane and I celebrated our 11th anniversary that night with dinner at Pok Pok while Mitch and Kathryn (and Elise) watched Juliette.  As we sat across from one another, we cried (those crazy-spicy bird’s-eye chilis!) and laughed (those crazy-good mango-mint cocktails!).  It was a superb meal with a superb man.

We ate waffles for breakfast on Sunday and then the girls took a spin around the neighborhood with Uncle Shane.

We spent the rest of the morning at the Kenton Street Fair in North Portland, walking a tight rope and shooting arrows and chasing giant bubbles.

Such focus!

Juliette had her first sno-cone and declared it so, so, soooooo delicious.

We hit the road around lunchtime and Juliette crashed hard near Olympia.  She woke up an hour later, wondering “When are we going back to Portland, Mommy?”  This girl is insatiable.

I got an email from my office’s principal a few weeks ago asking if I’d be willing to give a presentation on her behalf at a science and tech conference in York, England, as she had something else come up.  My initial gut reaction was…I can’t.  It’s so far away!  It’s so much pressure!  It’s so much to ask of Shane!

And yet…it’s so hard to imagine passing up an opportunity like this.

Shane agreed, I couldn’t let something like this slip through my fingers on account of a few measly jitters, so tickets were booked, slides were prepped, and I was off to merry old England!  There were a few tears at the airport curb as I said my good-byes to Shane and Juliette, but once I’d settled into my seat with my complimentary glass of champagne and queued up La La Land on my personal TV, I felt pretty grand.

I landed in London on Monday morning and immediately hopped on the Underground to catch my train to York.  It was fun, flexing my navigational muscles again – took me back to my study-abroad days when I trekked across Europe with my rail pass and my backpack!  Conference festivities began that evening with cocktails and dinner at Gray’s Court.  Some parts of this hotel date back to 1080 and I felt pretty fancy, wandering the historic halls with my Pimm’s Cup in hand.

The dinner host told me I could catch a taxi back to my hotel at the taxi stand around the corner, “just look for the church”.  Found it!

Tuesday was full of keynote speakers and breakout sessions and some pretty epic struggles to keep my eyes open.  The day ended with a formal dinner at the racecourse and while I did my best to hang with the Brits (those folks can drink!), I turned in earlier than most, wanting to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for my Wednesday morning presentation.

My Wednesday spiel on the Allen Institute went off without a hitch, and after dealing out a few business cards and bidding farewell to my London colleagues, I found myself with 24 free hours in England!  I took my time getting to the York train station, stopping every couple of blocks to snap a picture of a particularly charming old building or peer into a lovely old courtyard.

I rolled into London mid-afternoon and rushed to check into my hotel, as I had a FaceTime date with Shane and Juliette that I didn’t want to miss.  The time change made phone calls tricky, but I was able to catch them for just a few minutes before they headed out for school and work.  My eyes welled up with tears the second I saw their faces – I tried to blame my emotional state on sleep deprivation, but the reality was that I really, really, realllllly missed them.  I was comforted, though, by the fact that Juliette seemed to be enjoying Daddy-Jules week.

Once I’d cleaned myself up a bit, I laced up my tennis shoes and set out to make the most of my several hours in London.  It was a beautiful afternoon, and while I was tempted to stop and stretch out on a sunny patch of grass in St. James Park, I kept moving.

I made my way past the crowds surrounding Buckingham Palace and breezed by Big Ben on my way to the river.

My plan was to cross the Westminster Bridge and then follow the riverfront to the Tower Bridge, hitting the main attractions and any hidden gems along the way.

And I saw a lot.  The Golden Jubilee Bridge…

This quaint little plaza lined with quaint little shops, where I picked up a couple of trinkets for Juliette…

And the Tate Modern!  Shane and I visited this place when we were in London in 2003 and it stands out as one of my all-time favorite museum experiences.

I wandered a bit through the permanent collection, spending awhile in front of a beautifully crusty Dubuffet and finding myself inspired to get back into the print studio by this Lygia Pape woodcut.

Such drama in this building!

I eventually peeled myself away from the museum, grabbed a panini and a latte from a little cafe, and set off again.

England, you are too cute sometimes…

Something good around every corner!

The Tower Bridge is so perfect it hardly looks real – while walking across it, I expected a Disney princess to pop out at any moment.

I wandered into this pristine little courtyard and again felt slightly out of touch with reality.

And then back into the bustle of the city…

As I approached this crowd I wondered what all the fuss was about – were they in line for a show?  A new iPhone release?  Turns out it was just a bunch of merry Englishman enjoying a post-work pint.  It was 6 pm and the pubs (plus their sidewalks) were packed.

More fun surprises…

This Sauerbruch Hutton project is one I’ve seen in magazines many times over.  London is such a lovely mix of old and new.

I made it back to my hotel just as the sun set, feet aching but heart full.  Europe, I’ve missed you!

I had a couple of free hours on Thursday morning to take another stroll before heading to the airport, so I walked over to nearby Hyde Park to check out the flowers and hang with the swans.

And then, too soon and not soon enough, it was time to say my good-byes to England.  It was a long day of travel (again made easier by that complimentary champagne!) and I tapped my foot impatiently while waiting to de-board the plane in Seattle, wanting to get home in time to pick up Juliette from school.  I was desperate to get my arms around that kid.  Shane thoughtfully anticipated my desperation and was waiting with Juliette for me right outside of Customs.  Gosh, it felt good to hold the two of them close.  I was home.

I’m so glad I seized this opportunity, so thankful for the chance to put myself out there in so many ways.  There were times when my head ached with jet lag and my heart ached with homesickness, but those were relatively small prices to pay for the horizons I broadened.  What. A. Trip.

Seattle’s fleeting cherry blossoms come in two waves every year, and I feared we had missed the second wave of bright pink pom-poms while we were down in Los Angeles.  Turns out we made it back just in time!

I picked up Juliette a little early from school one day last week and when I saw her apropos ultra-pink outfit set against clear blue skies, I figured we should jet down to Lake Washington to check out the scene.  I mean, this tree branch was just begging to be sat upon by a girl in a pink tutu!

Right?

I miss those evening golden hours back at Santa Monica beach, but “pink hour” along Lake Washington is also pretty magical.

Riiiiiight?!

Shane and I tag-team parented much of last weekend due to some work stuff and a church meeting, but we did set aside Saturday morning for some quality family time.  We hit the trail to Coal Creek Falls at Cougar Mountain mid-morning – Juliette has outgrown the hiking backpack but assured us she could make it all the way on her own.

So much promise in these woods – this path feels like it’s on the verge of exploding with all shades of green.

Ahhhh, green, green, green!

Oh, and about Jules making it all the way “on her own”…

Thanks, Dad…

The sound of rushing water grew louder, then fainter, then louder again, and just when we all started to wonder if we’d ever get there…

Found it.

One of the advantages of hiking on a gray April day?  You get an oasis like this all to yourself.

This kid could have spent all day fishing for special rocks in the shallow water.  I told her she could pick three to take home with her and after carefully considering her options, she slipped a brown one, a black one, and a striped one into her pocket.  She gave each of them very dramatic names like “The Waterfall of the Sea” and “The Seasons of the Grass”.  I’m guessing her teachers have been reading her fairy tales at school?

I know, Jules, I know – it’s so thrilling to see leaves on the trees!  Cheers to a Spring and Summer of gettin’ outside.

And now, the final installment of our California adventures!  Friday may have been my favorite day – all beach, all sun, ALL DAY.  The restorative power of Vitamin D is real, people!

We tossed our beach towels and sand toys into the car first thing in the morning, stopped at Rose Cafe for coffee and avocado toast, and headed toward Malibu.

This area was new to us and well worth the 30-minute drive – the rugged shores of El Matador State Beach were a fun contrast to the wide-open sand-for-miles beaches of Santa Monica.

I hadn’t even finished spreading out our towels before Juliette had her toes in the water.

Ahhh, the return of the Giants hat!  A welcome change from the knitted purple beanie Juliette’s been donning for months!

Shane, with his eagle eyes, spotted some kind of creature doing circles way off-shore.

Is that a shark fin in the distance?!

Juliette recently checked out We’re Going On A Bear Hunt from the library and was desperately hoping to find a great big bear in this cave, but alas…

Just a papa bear.

She zig-zagged all over that beach, returning to Shane and I every few minutes to pull us out the water’s edge or to look at a sea anemone she’d discovered tucked into a big rock.

“Mama, come!  COME!”

The bestest of buddies…

Her body says she’s tuckered out, but her eyes say otherwise…

I know, I know, STOP with the Juliette pictures!  Gah, though!  The faces on this girl.

Photo cred for this one of Shane goes to Juliette, who’s become alarmingly adept with the iPhone camera.

After our adventurous morning, we were happy to spend the rest of the afternoon just chilling out at the house.  Juliette did some rock art on the patio…

And Shane popped open a bottle of bubbly.

We picked up a hefty watermelon on our first day in town and Juliette gobbled her way through most of it.  Gosh, it’s been too long since I’ve seen this girl’s shoulders, seen fruit juice dribble down her chin.

We started feeling the magnetic pull of the beach around 5:00.  Resistance is futile.

Juliette was very into her version of beach volleyball during our time at the house, so her mind was blown when she saw the real thing in action.

And then, in an instant, she looked over at the water and was off like a dart.

I think I have enough photos for a full-wall series titled, “Dad and Girl at Ocean’s Edge”.

Happy Schnells:

Photo cred (and composition) for this one also goes to Juliette.  The kid’s got an eye, I think:

This last sunset made my heart hurt just a little – I could have used a few more days of this…

Our flight back to Seattle on Saturday wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so we had time in the morning to soak up a few last rays.  Juliette and I took a walk around the neighborhood in search of our dream bungalow.  We found about seventeen of them.

THESE SIDEWALKS!

We popped into the grocery store for a Kombucha and a very expensive (but very delicious) green smoothie.

With T minus four hours to flight time, we packed our bags and said good-bye our sweet little home away from home.  Juliette whined as we climbed into the car, “But I want to stay here forever!”

Thankfully, I had just the thing up my sleeve to cheer her up:

It was particularly warm that day, so I figured we’d check out the splash pad at Alondra Park to cool off and get the pre-flight wiggles out.  Juliette was timid at first, not wanting to expose herself to more than a few drops of water.  To be fair, she’s a little out of practice in the art of spray-parking.

Soon, though, she got the hang of it.

This photo makes me wish for the onset of summer in Seattle with the desperation of a thousand suns…

Eventually, we had to say our all-too-soon farewell to California and board our plane.  Kudos to Shane for pulling Juliette out of her post-vacation melancholy with an exuberant game of thumb wrestling.  This left me free to wail, “But I don’t wannnnna leave!”

Adios, Cali.  You were just what we needed, with your passion fruit donuts and 80-degree days.  We’ll catch you next Spring.