Archive for the ‘places’ Category

The tree is down, the Christmas music has been put on pause, the sugar cookies have been eaten…the holidays are over.  But gosh, they were good while they lasted, and we fared pretty well last month in the art of tradition-keeping.

Juliette and I have made a thing of a “Downtown Christmas Day”, using one of our days off to hit the Westlake Carousel and the surrounding holiday sights.  How many more years do we have before the magic of merry-go-round wears off?  At least a couple, I hope…

And to warm up afterwards, hot chocolate and an Americano from the Starbucks across the street!

We decided to pass on the Fairmont’s “Teddy Bear Suite” this year but did venture into the hotel lobby to take a spin through the life-size gingerbread house.

And then once Juliette discovered the free candy canes there for the taking, there was another spin through the house, and another…

 

We visited Swanson’s Nursery one Sunday after church to check out the reindeer and the Christmas train and Santa.  Juliette’s not really the type to hop up onto Santa’s lap, but the rest of it was a hit.

 

And cookies!  So many cookies – sugar cookies and raspberry thumbprints and ginger snaps and cranberry coconut bark…  Jules and I are in charge of bringing sweets each year when we head down to Portland, and we take our job very seriously.

 

This was the first year we’ve headed to Bellevue to see Snowflake Lane, which was crowded and crazy but exceedingly festive.

And…fake now!  I mean, really – snow bubbles and baton-twirling elves and All I Want for Christmas is You blaring over loudspeakers?  It was too much.  And I kinda loved it.

 

We spent New Year’s Eve Eve at Gene Coulon Park, checking out the Clam Lights.  I like doing this one post-crowds, post-Christmas – after the excitement and busy-ness of the holidays, it’s nice to be in a place where all feels calm, all feels bright.

 

And then the beloved New Years Eve bonfire at Alki Beach!  We did this a couple of years ago and jumped at the chance for a repeat when the Hickory’s said they were going to pick up a couple of bundles of wood and stake out a fire pit.  The night turned out be windy and COLD, but the kids generated their own body heat by running wild on the shore.

Seattle is a far cry from Mexico, but apparently it’s no less fun.

 

We headed over to Jack and La Verne’s afterward for spaghetti and a sleepover.  The kids were tucked into bed, a third bottle of wine was opened (then a fourth), and then, before the clock had even struck midnight…

Shane was surprisingly spry on New Years morning and agreed to meet up with Jason, Brian, and Nicole for the Polar Bear Plunge at Alki.  Only at 9:58, with just two minutes before plunge-time, his peeps were nowhere to be found.  He stripped down and gave Juliette a very tentative thumbs-up, clearly not at all stoked by the thought of doing this alone.

In one of the most dramatic reunions I’ve ever witnessed, at 9:59 these buddies found each other on the crowded beach and darted into the water together.

…and darted right back out.

I love this event.  You can almost taste the euphoria as the polar bears come back to shore, squealing and hugging and shivering.  And while I’m not about to go running into any 45-degree water, I mooch a little off of everyone else’s high, welcoming the New Year with joy and excitement and a sense of adventure.

Hola, 2018.  It’s good to see you.

We took down our Christmas tree today and I’m feelin’ all sorts of post-holiday blues over here.  SO, let’s go back a week, when I was hot-tubbing in Portland with these beauties and talking about what we thought Santa would bring on his sleigh!

It was a particularly cozy Christmas weekend, made all the warmer by snuggles with Bina, the newest member of the Jarrell family.

Shane brought his Nintendo down with us, which made for some some pretty intense Mario Kart sessions with the cousins.

The excitement was just too much for little Bina.

Icy roads kept us house-bound on Christmas Eve, so we made do with more Bina-time and some indoor shenanigans.

My mom and I are teaching Elise how to knit, a hobby she’s tackling with extreme focus.

The stir-crazies set in shortly after lunch, so we bundled up and headed outdoors to play in the…ice?

There were no snowmen, or even snowballs, but there was plenty of slipping and sliding on the streets and sidewalks.

We sought refuge indoors for a bit and sipped on mugs of Grandma’s hot cocoa, but the sight of big fluffy flakes and neighbors on sleds soon drew the girls back outside.

Morgan’s big birthday wish just a few days earlier had been for a snow day, so this was like a dream come true!

Lord knows I love beachy Jules, but snow-dusted stocking caps and rosy cheeks are such a good luck on both these girls!

And now I bring you…more Bina!  She’s pretty irresistible.

The girls opened their new PJ’s from Grandma that evening, which has become a Christmas Eve tradition.  This year, the dolls got new outfits as well!

And then we lit up the fireplace, made a nest of sleeping bags and pillows, and settled in for the Polar Express.  On a 10-point cozy scale, this gets an 11.

Post-movie, cookies and carrots were left by the fireplace for Santa and his reindeer and three exhausted-but-pumped-up little girls were tucked in with instructions to not get out of bed before 7 am the next morning.

At 7:15 on Christmas morning, the kids were tearing into their stockings, thrilled that SANTA CAME!

The morning was a flurry of wrapping paper and thank you’s.  Ironically, after the weeks I spent hemming and hawing over the perfect gift for Juliette, her favorite present was the Trolls-themed electric toothbrush I tossed in her stocking.

The Zelda action figure that Shane picked out for her was also a huge hit.

I much appreciated my own thoughtfulness when I opened the purse I had ordered on Black Friday.

Morgan was the first of the kids to get dressed that morning, eager to sport her new accessories.  This girl’s style is fierce.

And then…all was calm.

Snow continued to spit from the skies that morning, so once the kids had chowed down on their waffles topped with crumbled candy canes, they headed outside to burn off that sugar rush.

The snow was still too crusty to make into balls, but the smashing of ice sheets was quite satisfying.

And then, driveway sledding.  With tunnels!

Juliette played hard and crashed hard – I had a heck of a time rustling her from nap so that she’d be up (and out of her pajamas!) for Christmas dinner.

The promise of cookie-decorating got her going, though, so the girls worked on dessert while Mitch and Kathryn and Mom put the finishing touches on dinner.

Shane kept Bina from being underfoot in the bustling kitchen.  I thought this guy was allergic to dogs, but…?

We ate a decadent meal of country ham and took turns sharing our 2017 highlights, ending the day on a strong note of gratitude.  We certainly have no shortage of things or people or experiences (or puppies!) to be thankful for.

 

Shane and Jack headed out early on Sunday morning for their scheduled zipline tour through the jungle while LaV and I opted for a quieter sort of adventure, heading over to the beach with the kiddos for a day of playing in the ocean and sand.  First, though, breakfast, where Juliette gazed upon her coconut muffin with total adoration.

We staked out a couple of comfy chaise lounges at the beach and sat back while N and Juliette happily scooped and shoveled, collecting little bits of shell and rock which Juliette pretended to feed to the “baby” she had created from a mound of wet sand.  Jules would join me under my umbrella every few minutes, seeking a shady refuge as the sun blazed hotter and hotter, but she couldn’t ever bear to stay put for more than a couple of minutes.  While the sun and the surf and the fruity drinks left me feeling laid-back and lazy, this kid was totally energized by it all.

Swimsuit, sunglasses, and a hat is hands-down my very favorite look on her…

And…she’s in.

Juliette would declare victory every time a wave crashed over her belly and she managed to stay on her feet.

Bring it on, sea!

The kids “baked” a special cake for La Verne and then sang Happy Birthday to her, insisting afterwards that we each take a bite.

In the late afternoons, the day’s fun-fest would catch up with Juliette and she’d succumb to the waves of sleepiness that lapped at her eyelids.  Sleepy-time is one of the very few chances I get to snuggle with my girl-on-the-go anymore.  I’ll take it.

We sun-setted at the beach once again on Sunday, this time seeing more grays and blues than oranges and pinks in the closed-in sky, but still, it was peaceful and lovely and we all got in the ocean for a salt water dip.  Any day that begins and ends at the beach is a good one.

Since the guys had given the zipline tour rave reviews and since we each had an “excursion” included with our resort package, La Verne and I channeled our inner daredevils and made our own trip out to the jungle on Monday morning.  It was an hour-long ride through small Mexican towns and up along remote mountain roads to the Canopy River outpost, where we were each strapped into a harness, handed a pulley, and told to fly like the wind.  And wowsers, we flew, zipping along the course at heights of 200 feet and speeds of 55 kilometers an hour.  Our guides were silly and fun-loving, but reassuring and encouraging as they sent us from one platform to the next.  La Verne and I toasted to our bravery with a couple of cold beers at the beautiful patio when it was all over, dizzy with pride and the sweet relief that comes with being on solid ground.

We rejoined our crew back at the beach, where we lunched on fish tacos and squeezed in a few minutes of ocean play before herding the kids back to the room for some quiet time.  Juliette’s freckles were a bit darker than when I’d kissed her goodbye few hours earlier!

The rest of the day was another haze of swimming and sunsets and mango tangos.  I had wondered if by our fourth day at the resort I’d be a little antsy, wanting to get out with Shane and Juliette and do the exploring and sight-seeing that’s such a big part of our typical vacations, but…NOPE.  The days of bouncing from pool to beach to pool to beach were just so blissfully easy, and it was abundantly clear that Juliette was perfectly content to swim that same stretch of pool and run that same stretch of beach over and over and over.

THIS IS THE LIFE, huh, kiddo?  (Don’t get too used to it, Jules!  Vacations will include sleeping on the ground and fetching our own water come summer.)

Juliette played an endless game of fetch with the ocean, tossing a stick into the waves and retrieving it from the time and again.

 

We put the kids to bed early on Monday night and settled on a room service dinner – the food was the one thing that had started to feel a bit “tired” at this point, but we got to eat in our pajamas and Cards Against Humanity made for some pretty enthusiastic bouts of laughter.

Tuesday was departure day, but our flight had been pushed back to the evening, which meant:  bonus beach time!  After chilaquiles and cappuccinos, we set up camp at the beach, happily resigned to flying home with a little sand in our hair.

 

Shane spotted a couple of iguanas near the pool and called the kids over to take a look.  They thought it was funny to see these two “hugging”.

We were told that our all-inclusive experience would end at 2:00, so Shane and Jack put in their request for one last round of gin and tonics at 1:55.

And then Juliette and I took one last dip in the pool.

…and then it was time to peel off our swimsuits and put on real clothes for the first time in five days.  NOOOOOOO!!!

You can see that none of us were quite ready to say adios.

It was a long trek home with multiple flight delays and we rolled up to our front door after midnight sleepy and stiff, but fully-dosed with Vitamin D.  And tequila.  Mission accomplished.

2017 has been pretty epic for us, vacation-wise.  We didn’t really set out to go quite so big this year, but gosh, when your brother asks if you want to join him and the family for a few days at a lovely house on the Hood Canal, or when flights to Paris drop to $500, or when your friends scout a deal at a beautiful all-inclusive Mexican resort, you seize the day.

So then, HOLA, MEXICO!

Our flight landed in Puerto Vallarta last Thursday evening and we wound our way through the hoards of eager cabbies to the friendly shuttle driver that awaited us curbside.  It was a quick drive to the resort, where we were ushered into the sparkling lobby and handed a round of margaritas before we’d even checked in.  This all-inclusive thing was looking promising!

We ate dinner at the rooftop bar and then headed back to the room to get settled and tuck in the kids.  Juliette begged to take a dip in the pool that adjoined our back patio and I told her she could put her feet in the water for a minute while I unpacked a few things.  She stripped off her clothes and grabbed her swimsuit as I was rooting around for her pajamas – I protested for all of thirty seconds and then shrugged my shoulders in happy surrender.  We were on vacation!  It was 9 pm, but it was 80 degrees outside!  Go nuts, kiddo.  

And then…this.  (Funny how a four-year-old can occupy an entire King bed!)

We rolled out of bed to discover a beautiful breakfast buffet set up just steps from our back patio, so we headed down to pile up our plates and dine pool-side.

This celery-cactus-pineapple concoction became a morning staple (and Juliette’s daily dose of veggies).

Shane headed out for a morning bike tour after breakfast while Juliette and I hung back and laid low.

I got out for a jog along the beach before lunch, thrilled to discover that our resort sat on a miles-long stretch of wide open shore.

And then, having all gotten our exercise, there was nothing left to do but…lounge.

And drink.

And swim.

We wrapped ourselves in our towels around 4 pm and walked over to the beach to catch the sunset and feel the squish of sand between our toes.

Shane and Juliette assumed their typical beach stance, hands held while the waves broke at their feet.

 

Juliette was delighted to discover how much warmer the ocean water is down in Mexico.

There was a lovely pool perched just over the beach, so we took a quick dip to compare pool temp with ocean temp.

And then the skies got golden and the clouds got all purply-blue so we jetted back down the shore.  Juliette met up with a couple of girls that she had befriended at the pool earlier that day and chased the tide with them, running and splashing and giggling, adding a whole other layer of glow to the magic occurring on the horizon.

MEXICO!  You are so, so bueno.

We went back to the room to change out of our swimsuits and check on poor Nico, who had come down a terrible cold the day before.  Shane, Juliette and I ate dinner at the beach club and took our time meandering back to our room, reveling in the warm breeze and the glittery lights and the absence of any reason to hurry.  This. was. vacation.

La Verne and I kicked off Saturday with a beach jog, in preparation for a full day of all-inclusive gluttony.

Breakfast was chilaquiles and pancakes and mimosas and some of the sweetest, juiciest pineapple I’ve ever tasted.

Thankfully, N was on the mend and ready to romp, so all hopped in the pool after breakfast.

We spent much of the morning in the oversized hot tub, tucked into an idyllic little enclave off the main pool.

“Mango Tangos”:  the beverage of champions!

Juliette was a total fish, paddling up and down the pool in her little purple floaties.

 

We lunched pool-side, luring the kids out of the water with plates of burgers and fries.

And then, more swimming!  This girl was insatiable.

We all dozed in the afternoon and then strolled over to the beach for another sunset show.

I tell you, this Mexican tide was magnetic.

Gah!  She was just SO HAPPY.  It was just SO GOOD.

Juliette’s new buddy appeared on the scene just as we were heading for our lounge chairs, so Juliette about-faced and was back at it again, chasing waves and being chased.

I keep trying to put words to just how magical this particular sunset was, but I’m coming up short.  So I’m just gonna let these pictures speak for themselves…

Once the last hues of orange had faded to gray, we all walked back toward the lobby to watch the 7 pm tree lighting.  It felt a little strange, listening to a guy in a Santa hat belt out Jingle Bells while we sat around in tank tops and sipped champagne, but we rolled with it, certainly feeling merry through it all.

Each of the kids got to light a candle (flip a switch) for the lilies floating in the lobby fountain.  Juliette took great pride in her task, smiling shyly and placing her light just so when the MC called her name.

We cleaned up a bit and then walked back over the beach club for fajitas and cocktails and ice cream.

La Verne and I were on our way out with the kids when we turned around to find that the guys were missing.  This is where we found them (this bar serves cocktails to go!).

By the end of the day, we’d lost count of how many pools we’d swam in or how many margaritas we’d drank.  We only knew that we had lived large and laughed hard.

Up next: more swimming, more sand, and a little adventure!

We didn’t do a whole lot on Tuesday – it was cold and we were lazy.  But there was a lunch date:

A trip to the mall:

A quick jog to the end of the driveway to capture this indigo sky:

Mucho love for Grandpa:

Mucho love for Hayden:

And some intense puzzle-doing!

Wednesday was also quiet, though I did do some fairly strenuous pie-making, chopping apples and rolling dough with my favorite little sous-chef.

It was freezing and windy that day, but we made it outside for a few minutes, to see the cows and pick up sticks and play a game of chase.

I know, I know – this is a whole lotta Jules.  But that hat!  Those rosy cheeks!

Finally, the girl could handle the cold no more and asked Daddy to take her in.

…and then changed her mind about going inside when we got to the porch.  She was feeling the pull of those wide open spaces!

Shane and I went out with Tiff and Jason that evening to the local watering hole for Wednesday wings.  These Minnesota skies are somethin’ else.

Lite beer with green olives is apparently the Minnesotan beverage of choice when consuming massive piles of chicken wings.  Cheers, Tiff!

We exchanged presents that evening, snacking on Christmas cookies and hot apple cider while the kids tore into their gifts.

Juliette, as per usual, made out like a bandit.

Gah!  Watching this guy hug his granddaughter will turn you to mush.  Denny’s heart is BIG and generous and soft.

Thursday morning was full of kitchen time and good smells and lots of laughter as the family gathered at the house.

We were just beginning to feel a bit antsy when Denny pulled up to the porch in his combine.  Your chariot awaits, Juliette!

The fields near the house still needed to be harvested, so Juliette and Shanay kept Grandpa company while he went to work.

Once the kids had put in their time on the combine, we walked next door to chat with the cows and toss them a few ears of corn, to perfectly round out the country experience.

We’re not in Seattle anymore, Juliette!

The kitchen was a frenzy of activity when we got back inside as Pat put the finishing touches on the meal.  Ham and turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry relish and creamed corn and green beans, oh my.

We ate and then collapsed in a pile on the couch, eventually summoning just enough energy to put together a gingerbread house and slice into the apple pie.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

Shane and I had picked up a 1000 piece puzzle mid-week and I stayed up late Thursday working on it, desperate to see it through before our Friday flight back to Seattle.  I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to slip together two perfectly-fit pieces and I was stupidly excited to show Shane the finished product in the morning.  Voila!

We hit the road late Friday morning, waving a teary goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa (and the cows) as we pulled out of the driveway.  I’m so thankful for those kind-hearted Schnells, for several days of rest, for chicken wings and tractors and incredible country sunsets.  I’m especially thankful that I get to share a row with these two.

We haven’t spent a holiday in Minnesota since Juliette was born, foregoing the trip when she was a baby because of the new-parent flight-phobia we felt in those first couple of years, and then opting to make the trip in the summer when she was two and three.  But this year we decided to pull out our hats and mittens and see if our tough girl was tough enough for a true midwestern winter.

We rolled up to Shane’s parents’ house Saturday evening after a long day of travel and were greeted with warm hugs and home-cooked ham.  We were exhausted but looking forward to a few days of solid rest, of cozying up inside with family and food.  A few days of quiet.

We woke late on Sunday and lounged for awhile in our pajamas, eventually rallying to head over to Andes Resort to watch Avery bomb down the big hills on his snowboard and to watch Jules creep down the shallow bunny slope on her skis.  Turns out November in Minnesota agrees with this girl!

She was a bit timid at first, begging Shane to hold her tight as they sloooooowly made their way down the hill.

But she grew a bit bolder with each subsequent run, eventually laughing hysterically as she cried, “Faster, Daddy!  FASTER!”

Shane was also feeling bold and rode the chairlift to the top of the mountain, nailing his first-ever downhill run on skis!

Avery, on the other hand, was a madman out there from the get-go.  Kid’s got skills.

These two were so adorably proud of themselves.  Guess I better learn how to ski soon, or they’re likely to leave me in their dust…

Disappointingly, this afternoon on these slopes (made of manufactured snow, by the way) was our only romp in the powder as the rest of the week was dry, but we made the most of it!

The rest of the day was lovely and low-key – we napped and did puzzles, popping outside for a few minutes of fresh air and a quick check-in with the next-door cows, then retreating indoors for pizza and games with the whole family.

Juliette relished every moment of cousin-time and all three kids were exceedingly generous with their attention. Hayden must have played 47 rounds of Go Fish by the time our week there was over.

Monday was cold, but our lunchtime burgers and milkshakes left Juliette with oodles of energy to burn, so we headed over to Noonan’s Park to hit the playground.

Tell me again, Jules – does the cold weather bother you?

…’cause Grandma and Aunt Tiff are looking a little chilly!

Shane tentatively stepped out onto the newly frozen ice at the pond across the street, at which point Juliette desperately pleaded with him to return to solid ground.  Walking on water wasn’t a concept she could get her head around.

I dunno, Shane…is that really a good idea?!

Ok, seriously, Shane, IS THIS A GOOD IDEA?!

With outdoor swimming clearly out the question, we opted to head to the YMCA for a dip in the indoor heated pool.

Shanay joined us mid-swim and Juliette almost flew into her arms.  I got so much joy out of watching Juliette’s face light up with a million-kilowatt smile every time a new family member appeared on the scene.  The whole week was a chorus of, SHANAY!  GRANDPA!  AUNTIE TIFF!  GRANDMA! UNCLE JASON! HAYDEN!  AVERY!  SHANAAAAAAAY!

Tuesday ended with pink skies and Tiff’s enchiladas.  More Go Fish.  Pat’s peppermint bark.  A bottle of wine.  Vay-cay.

Up next:  presents, puzzles, turkey and a tractor.

We spent last weekend in Portland, convening with my parents at my brother’s house for an early Thanksgiving / birthday celebration for my mom / general cousin love-fest – the whole family typically gets together only at Christmas, so this was a happy bonus. The weekend was wet and chilly, though Mitch and Kathryn’s hot tub and fireplace offered much solace as we eased into winter.

It seems like the age gap between Morgan and Juliette lessens with each visit – these two were thick as thieves, happily bouncing from one activity to another together. Coloring! Dolls! House! Shopkins!

The age gap between Elise and Jules, though, is bigger than ever… This kid would be content to spend an entire day quietly cuddled under a blanket with a book. Kindred spirits, Elise and I.

Despite Saturday morning’s drizzle, we found ourselves itching to get outside. We warmed ourselves with lattes and vanilla steamers and then headed to Mount Tabor Park for a playground romp.

Northwest kids ain’t gonna let a little rain keep them down!

Post-playground, the girls set up a cozy den of sleeping bags and kicked back with a couple of bowls of popcorn and a movie.

And then the moment the credits started rolling on Trolls, the kids were raring to go again.  Back out we went, this time to Westmoreland Park.

We’ve been coming to this playground for the past couple of years, and it’s been fun to see Juliette become a bit bolder with each subsequent visit.  I’ve held her hand as she’s traversed this log a dozen times or more.  Now, though, “Let me do it, Mama!”

Morgan and Juliette deemed me the “bad witch” and banished me from their fort with their imaginary wands.

In the end, though, we all made up.

A sitter came over on Saturday evening to stay with the kids and the grown-ups went out to toast to my mom’s birthday with burgers and beer.  Ahhhh, a table free from coloring sheets and back-up snacks!  What a luxury!  Happy Birthday, Mom.

I woke up on Sunday morning to find that Elise and Juliette had renewed their affection for one another.

Post-breakfast was, of course, PARK TIME.

My heart gets a little ooey-gooey when I see these three put their arms around each other.  I’ve held each of these girls as babies, felt my world rocked with abounding love as I looked into their eyes.  And now, golly, they’re so big.  So different from one another.  And all so beautiful.

Thanksgiving most definitely started early this year – I’m feeling mucho gratitude for this family of mine.

And the autumnal glory continues!  A few more highlights…

We spent a sunny Sunday up in Snohomish at Bob’s Pumpkin Patch, scouring the fields for the perfect pumpkin.  The country vibes were strong out there.

We found out when we got there that getting to the actual pumpkin patch required a short hayride, which seemed like a pain, but Juliette ended up loving the bumpy little jaunt out to the fields.  I’m tellin’ you, COUNTRY VIBES!

And thus, the search begins:

We have our first winner!

Photo cred:  Jules!

I’m so glad she wore her rain boots…

Strike a pose, little one:

Despite the fact that our wheelbarrow was full by this point, we kept wandering further and further out, into the dreamy sunlight.  I couldn’t bring myself to turn back!

We found a little patch of little gourds and Juliette plucked one from the ground, calling it her “maraca” and shaking it all the way back to the tractor.

Seriously, so glad she wore her rain boots.

Thanks, Bob’s!  We’ll see you next year.

And then there was that glorious Mama-Jules/Mama-Nico Friday at Volunteer Park.  Nico and Juliette bee-lined for the playground when we got out of our cars, but La Verne and I both had our sights set on this brilliant patch of sunny grass across the street.  Once we’d completed the swing-slide-twirl circuit, we shepherded the kids to the lawn, promising them magic tree tunnels and a game of chase.

On our third lap we discovered that someone had left us a gift, in the form of a big fluffy pile of Fall leaves…

…and I got shutter-happy.  Keep scrolling!

Ahhhh, sweet, sweet serenity.

Soak it up, kids – winter is coming!

Juliette and I capped off our fun-fest with a climb to the top of the water tower, where we spotted Daddy’s office and Lake Washington and a billion more beautiful trees.

We have made a tradition of visiting Ravenna Park every Fall and Juliette and I headed out there last Sunday, as we found ourselves with several hours to fill while Shane did some work.  It was a little gray that day and the trails were especially quiet.

I spy…two blue eyes.

Just as we were heading back to our car, the sun came out and this grove of trees turned into an Autumn wonderland.  Juliette did a few laps to celebrate!

And then, as Juliette and I were out running errands a couple of days ago, the wind picked up and the rain turned all white and fluffy…it was snowing in Seattle!  One week after our jacket-less romp through Volunteer Park, we were donning our puffy coats and catching snowflakes on our tongues.  It seems winter is here.  Kudos to this girl for greeting its arrival with such glee….I’m gonna need a little time to get on board.

 

And now that Paris is in the books, we return to our regularly scheduled programming, because it is FALL in Seattle and this city is stunning.  We’ve been doing our October circuit these past couple of weeks, playing in leaves and picking pumpkins, oohing and ahhing over the yellows and oranges and reds.

Juliette and I made an impromptu visit to Lincoln Park the Friday after I got back from France, because we were in West Seattle anyway and the sun was shining and we needed to lift our spirits after an especially traumatic doctor’s visit (those four-year-old shots are a  doozy!).

I’m adding this yellow tree to our list of annual October must-see’s…

It felt so good to see this kid smiling again!  There was a moment that morning, as I was holding her down on the doctor’s table while she shrieked and squirmed, when I wondered if she’d ever forgive me.

(She forgave me.)

We made a follow-up bonus trip to Lincoln Park the very next day because Gryff and Isaiah had a soccer game there and Juliette and I were eager to see their fancy footwork.

We made our annual Autumn pilgrimage to Kubota Gardens a couple of weeks ago.  It’s always a little tough to sell Juliette on a visit to a park that doesn’t have a playground, but I kept reminding her that this place has the prettiest trees!

And the best bridges!

And the most magical patch of grass for playing soccer…

Were the sun not setting at what felt like lightning speed, we could have played here for hours…

Shane had Friday off a week and a half ago, so the three of us declared it a day-late celebration for Dad’s birthday and chowed down on soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung for lunch.

Bellies full, we took a crisp afternoon stroll through the Arboretum for more tree-gazing.

Every year, this place takes my breath away.

It just…glows.

Up next:  pumpkins, a rainbow unicorn, and a leaf-jumping marathon.  October rules.

Sunday was our last full day in Paris and the agenda was simple: art, eat, walk, eat.  And maybe drink something bubbly somewhere in between…

La Verne and I had decided to bypass our favorite museums on this trip, as we didn’t want to spend our precious time in the city standing in line, but it hardly felt right to visit Paris without seeing some sort of art , so we settled on checking out the big Christian Dior exhibition at the Musee des Arts.  We had heard the show was huge and amazing and we asked ourselves, “When are we ever going to have another chance like this?”.

Once we made it through the line and past the masses crowded into the first couple of rooms, I was totally swept up in the detail and creativity and evolution of the fashion on display –  some of these dresses are total masterpieces.

I could almost feel the boundaries being pushed, each decade’s norms being broken.

We left the museum hungry and in need of fresh air, so we walked the couple of blocks to Le Fumoir for a terrace lunch.  Our healthy, crisp salads were followed by a couple of steaming mugs of ultra-thick chocolat chaud.  It’s the dessert of champions.

We decided to spend our final afternoon in Paris wandering through gardens and along the river, savoring the flowers and the fountains and the waterfront paths that are so good on an October afternoon.  We started at the courtyard of the Palais Royale and then strolled through its meticulously manicured garden.

From there, we sauntered west through the courtyard of the Louvre into the Jardin des Tuileries, which seems to stretch on forever with its golden trees and bright flowers and crowds of lounging Parisians in those lovely painted green chairs.

We crossed the Seine at Pont de la Concorde, pausing for a final look at the Tour Eiffel.  So long, old friend…

And then we walked and walked and walked, past the Musee d’Orsay and the Institut de France and one big beautiful building after another.

 

At Notre Dame we crossed the river back into our ‘hood, where we grabbed a couple of beautiful eclairs and a bottle of champagne for a happy hour snack.  We ate and drank our treats back at our apartment – with windows like these, it was as ideal a place as any to toast to our last night in Paris!

It looks like La V is about to chow down on a mustard-covered hot dog, but that’s actually a passionfruit eclair sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberries!  And it was AMAZING.

Once the champagne had run dry and we’d licked the last of the passionfruit icing off our fingers, we headed out for dinner.  First though, a stop at Pierre Herme for macarons.  For the kiddos, of course.

We were craving a quintessentially French meal and found it at Boucherie Rouliere in Saint-Germain-des-Pres.  A Kir aperitif, French onion soup, steak frites, wine…  Ohhhh.  La.  La.

We rolled out of the restaurant buzzed on wine and beef and walked a little around Saint-Germain before heading back to our apartment.  Gosh, I was going to miss being out after dark, breezing by dramatic centuries-old cathedrals and brightly lit cobblestoned alleys and the glittering river Seine.  Truly, there’s no place like Paris at night.

I fell asleep with the curtains wide open, wanting to relish every last minute with this view.

La Verne and I rallied hard to pull ourselves out of bed early-ish on Monday, so that we could enjoy a couple of hours out in the city before heading to the airport in the late morning.  We walked past Bastille and down rue Cremieux, hailed as “Paris’ Notting Hill”.

One final cafe creme…

And then a quick loop past some of the greatest hits.

I knew I needed to get back to the apartment and prepare for takeoff, but I couldn’t resist one more trip across the Seine to Ile Saint-Louis.  I popped into Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile and sat for just a moment in one of those chairs, saying a prayer of gratitude for the wonders of the previous few days.

And then, it was go-time.  Farewell, sweet Paris.  Farewell, windows of my dreams.

I sighed a few sad sighs as we headed to the airport, but once we were up in the air, I couldn’t wait to get back to Seattle and wrap my arms around Shane and Juliette.  I needed a hug.  And the minute I got off that Sea-Tac escalator, I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes.  Paris has Notre Dame, but Seattle has this kid.  Seattle wins!

That Monday happened to be my 36th birthday.  I woke up in my favorite place in the world and ended my day at home with my favorite two people in the world.  Happy Birthday to me.