I’m still coming down off a pretty perfect weekend in Portland – we ate, we sun-soaked, we raised our glasses to my brother for his birthday, and best of all, I reveled in some high-quality time with those super-precious nieces of mine.

We kicked off our Portland bonanza at the Saturday Farmer’s Market with Jack and La Verne, who happened to be day-tripping in the city. We laid on the lawn and stuffed ourselves with Italian sausages and the notorious fried chicken/bacon/cheese/fried egg sandwich from Pine State Biscuit (how can something so bad be sooooo good?).  Post-lunch, we stumbled down the aisles in a full-belly haze and picked up a few peaches and cartons of berries, bid farewell to the Chens, and headed over to Mitch’s place.

I prepared myself to find Morgan and Elise much-changed since the last time I saw them, but despite any growth, they turned out to be the same sweet, fun-loving little girls.  Our first stop is always the playground, and Elise was quick to hop and her bike and show Uncle Shane her skills while I watched Morgan go bonkers over the fact that she’s now big enough to climb to the top of the slide and go down it all by herself.

My parents were in town for the weekend and it was a treat to gather around the table and celebrate Mitch and Kathryn’s upcoming birthdays with mojitos, enchiladas, and juicy fruit skewers hot off the grill.  It was like Christmas in July, having the family together.

One more trip to the nearby park on Sunday morning, and then it was time for Shane to head home, all to soon.  I had decided to stay until Monday and take the train back to Seattle, so I settled in for another day of enjoying Portland’s finest (namely, Morgan and Elise).  We read books and stacked blocks and played in the water – never a dull moment…

We spent Sunday evening picnicking at Peninsula Park, enjoying grilled chicken and the free symphony concert.  The rose garden was stunning in the late-day sun, and the sound of so many kids running barefoot through the grass couldn’t have been more quintessentially summer-iffic.

Mitch and Kathryn were back at work Monday morning and my train didn’t leave until 6 pm, so my parents and I packed up the girls and headed out for a little adventure on Sauvie Island.  This little island, just 20 minutes from the city, is home to the best u-pick farm I have ever laid eyes on.  Rows upon rows of raspberries, blueberries, marion berries, peach trees, cabbage, cucumbers, the list goes on and on.  We went right to work – my mom and I grabbed our containers and started on the raspberries with Elise while my dad set out for the blueberry bushes with Morgan.   Elise was a great little helper, although I think she put five berries in her mouth for each one she put in the bin – far be it from me to deny that girl such pure summer pleasure! I checked in with my dad and Morgan and found that it was much the same situation – her belly was looking a little more round than usual with all her expert foraging.  We drove away with quite the bounty of berries and peaches.  At two dollars a pound, I’m calling this the deal of the year!

We grabbed a quick lunch and headed home for naptime.  I read Morgan her Clifford and Animal Sounds books for the fourteenth time and tucked her into her crib.  Elise and I snuggled up with her latest issue of Highlights for some quiet time and then I dozed while she sang and squirmed and did everything in her power to resist sleep (that girl did not inherit her aunt’s proclivity toward napping!).

The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging in the backyard, watching the girls play in the kiddie pool and water the plants with their squirt gun and plastic cups.  I drank a glass of wine with my mom and listened to my dad wish Grandaddy an early Happy Birthday on the phone and felt so incredibly blessed.  The past couple of days were filled with so many simple moments of the perfect joy that comes with being surrounded by people you love.  Morgan’s sweet giggle, a tender hug of encouragement from my mom, an afternoon of watching my dad play with building blocks (with and without the kids!), and my cup overfloweth.