March is that time of year in Seattle when I really start getting antsy, when I start itching to shed my coat and my sweater so that I can feel the sun on my shoulders.  It’s the time of year when I’d give anything to just be warm, to wear sandals rather than wool socks and boots.  I remarked last month that this winter was feeling particularly long, with all the sniffles and the stir-craziness, so Shane worked his travel-planning magic and booked us cheap flights and a sweet little cottage in Santa Monica for a long weekend.  Juliette has recently become fascinated by airplanes, pointing to the sky and exclaiming “errrrr-pay!” each time one flies overhead, so she was most certainly up for the adventure.

We set out Thursday morning and made it to the gate with plenty of time to spare – I sipped my coffee while Jules ran circles around us, stopping every couple of minutes to bang on the windows and watch the planes take off.

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We had armed ourselves with a bag full of treats and distractions for the plane ride and decided that any ground rules about screen time or snacks are just that – ground rules.  The air is an anything-goes zone, where there’s no shame in letting your toddler load up on sugar or play with your gadgets.  Juliette spent the first half of the flight munching on cookies and cheddar bunnies while pretending to chat on my phone.

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We played one round of the Peekaboo-Barn app we’d put on the iPad and then, somewhere around Oregon, she crashed, waking just as we pulled up to the gate.  Whew!

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We picked up our rental car without much fuss and made to it Santa Monica in time for a late lunch at True Foods Kitchen.  I bought these silly sunglasses on clearance last fall, and finally!  An excuse to wear them!  Too cool for school, that kid.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the house and then headed to the nearby beach to catch the sunset.  Juliette was a little tentative when I first set her down on the sand, not sure what to make of the way her feet sunk and squished, but once I handed her a shovel and her bucket, she was content to sit and scoop away.

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And then I took her down to the water’s edge so that the waves could lap at her toes, expecting her to be a little nervous at her first encounter with the ocean.

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Nervous, schmervous!  She went nuts, squealing with joy and chasing after the waves as they receded.  Shane and I spent the next half hour running after her, trying (unsuccessfully) to direct her along the water’s edge rather than straight into it.  She face-planted a couple of times in the cold wet sand, but was up and at it again before we could even brush her off.  We’ve got a beach-baby on our hands!

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The beach in Santa Monica is amazing, nearly deserted on a Thursday night and stretching on for miles in either direction.  We stuck around long enough to wave bye-bye to the sun, and then jetted back to the house for bath and bedtime.  Juliette fell asleep about 25 seconds after I turned off her light and Shane and I enjoyed a couple of hours of quiet time, sharing a pizza and a bottle of wine before conking out ourselves.

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We were up bright and early on Friday, eager to see what else Santa Monica had up its sleeve.  We started with breakfast at Huckleberry, for mimosas and monster egg sandwiches.

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Then we drove over to Abbot Kinney to peek in the windows of the hip restaurants and trendy shops.

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Juliette didn’t want anything to do with her stroller that day, so we booked it over to Venice Beach to look for a place to let her loose.

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We found a great little playground right on the beach and she went up and down the slide a few times before settling down on the sand with a few other kids to do some more scooping.

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I jogged back to the house from Venice and met Shane and Jules there just in time to help get her down for her nap.  Once she woke, we were back out the door, in search of a late lunch.  La Verne had recommended ramen from Tsujita, where we snagged a sidewalk table and slurped our bowls of noodles and rich, flavorful broth.

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For dessert, we walked around the corner for green tea shaved ice from Blockheads.  So good.  So, so good.  My only complaint is that I couldn’t keep Juliette away from it – get your spoon away my mochi, kid!

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Bellies full, we played for awhile at Tongva Park, climbing on rocks and bumping down the roller slide.

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We weren’t far from the beach, so we headed over to stake out a perfect patch of sand near the pier to catch another sunset.  But first, more running!  This video sums it up so clearly – I look away for a mere second, and she’s gone.  Her pants were soaked faster that I could say “STOP!”.

Keeping this girl from getting swept out to sea was exhausting, but oh, her unbridled joy!  Completely worth it.

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We finally coaxed her up onto the towel to scoop, pat, dump and demolish.  Sand castles don’t stand a chance with this little one.

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One last jog, before heading out…

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This might be an appropriate time for me to apologize to Los Angeles – I’d always fiercely claimed that I am not an LA person, that the city is all sprawl and traffic and too-tan women in too-high heels, but I take it back.  That evening, as the waves murmured and the sky blazed orange and Juliette excitedly pointed to the seagulls flying overhead, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

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Stay tuned for days 3 and 4!