Archive for the ‘places’ Category

We stayed close to home last month, keeping true to our annual commitment to a frugal January – no eating out, no shopping for non-essentials, no spending money on entertainment.  Shane made it the entire month without a single drop of alcohol.  On February 2nd, we patted ourselves on the back for our incredible restraint and then counteracted said restraint with a three-day getaway to Sleeping Lady Lodge in Leavenworth.  On Thursday morning we loaded up the car, swung by REI to pick up my rented skis and a pack of hand-warmers, and jetted toward the mountains.  We rolled into town around lunchtime and chowed down on pizza and beer.  No doubt, Leavenworth has a very faux vibe about it, but there’s no arguing the natural beauty of that backdrop!

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We popped into the candy store after lunch and told Juliette she could pick out a treat – she was over-the-moon thrilled with her single piece of cherry saltwater taffy.  I’m so thankful for the way this kid finds joy in the smallest of things!

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We made our way to the lodge, not entirely sure what to expect (traveler reviews ranged from “bare-bones rustic” to “wonderfully luxurious”).  But from the moment we stepped out of the car and saw the sunlight streaming through the trees onto snow-capped cabins, I was certain we were someplace special.

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Free cider in the lobby?  Juliette’s day just kept getting better and better.

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We had some time to kill before our room was ready, so we headed over to the “Play Barn” to shoot pool and spin foosball.

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Once we had our keys, we settled in for some quiet time – Juliette claimed this little sleeping alcove as her own cozy play space.

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Quiet time was short-lived, as Shane was itching to try out the ski attachment he’d scored on Craigslist for the bike trailer.  We bundled up and hit the nearby Nordic trail.

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I wasn’t sure how Jules would fare in the cold, but with a couple of blankets, a hand warmer, and another cup of hot cider, she was more than happy to sit back and enjoy the ride.

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I know, I’ve said it before, but this man is a STUD.

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We ate dinner Thursday night at the lodge’s bar and all fell into bed satisfyingly exhausted.  Juliette was out like a light by 7:45 and I think I followed suit around 7:50.  Who says a pre-8:00 bedtime is just for kids?

Snow started to fall sometime during the night and we awoke Friday morning to a freshly powdered winter wonderland.

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“Breakfast buffet in the dining hall” usually isn’t a promising phrase in terms of flavor or ambiance, but wowsers, this place does breakfast right.  And those windows!

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After breakfast we strapped our skis to the top of the Forester and drove over to Leavenworth Ski hill for a romp in the freshy-freshy pow-pow.

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Good God, it was gorgeous out there.  And blissfully quiet, the only sounds being the swish of our skis and Juliette’s voice as she belted out “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart“.

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These downhill stretches made me awfully nervous, but Shane stuck ’em all. (I didn’t.)

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Seriously, guys – I think I discovered peace on earth.

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Our zen was momentarily interrupted when we got a little off course, tried to ski through some bushes, and all ended up face-first in the snow, but we quickly dusted ourselves off and found our bearings.  I like to think we’re making the quite the adventurer out of Juliette…

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We ate lunch in town and then settled in for an afternoon of Candyland and books.

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The snow started dumping again late afternoon and wielded its magnetic powers on Shane, so we all headed out for sledding and snow angels.

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This icicle just about blew her mind!

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We ate dinner at the lodge again, too tuckered out to venture any farther.  Juliette was asleep before I’d even finished her bedtime song, but I rallied and opened up a bottle of wine while Shane queued up a show on Netflix.  We ate popcorn and drank wine and watched The People v. O.J. Simpson until the wee hour of 10 pm, at which point we joined Juliette in her deep, deep slumber.  VACATION.  SO GOOD.

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Shane got up early Saturday morning for a solo ski.  Juliette got up early to play Candyland for the 87th time.

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Our morning stroll to the breakfast buffet…

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We soaked up every last minute at Sleeping Lady, doing puzzles in our cozy nook until the clock struck checkout time.

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Even after we’d turned in our keys and loaded up the car, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, so we played in the snow outside our front door for a half hour.

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Magic, I tell you.

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And one last family photo at our little sliver of heaven on earth:

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Still not ready to head back to Seattle, we headed back to the Leavenworth Ski Hill to do some tubing.

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I was a little alarmed when we were told that Juliette would have to go on her own tube rather than sit in Shane’s lap, but once she saw people zipping down the hill, there was no turning back.  She was adamant that she was a big kid and could do it all by herself.  I had a minor panic attack watching that rope tow her away from me…

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Sure enough, she held on and landed safely at the bottom of the hill, slightly stunned (that course was fast!) but quite proud of herself.

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Tubing was fun, but sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate with my arm securely around Juliette felt much better.

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We polished off our hot chocolate and debated whether to head back to Seattle or to make one more snow stop.  Snow for the win!  We drove over to Enchantment Park to play on some slightly smaller hills.

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How many times did she pile snow onto the slide and then launch into it?  Fifteen, easy.

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By this point, I was cold and damp and had my fill, but it was near impossible to tear Jules away.  She most certainly had found her happy place.

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We headed back to the car and peeled off our wet coats and snow pants and mittens, satisfied that we had made the most of our snowy getaway.  Still, it was a little hard for me to wave goodbye to these mountains.  I didn’t know when I booked the trip back in December that we’d be so desperate to unplug and find serenity, but it turned out that this place was exactly what we needed when we needed it.

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Adios, Leavenworth.  Muchas gracias.

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Seattle was very somber in the wake of the election last week and by Friday Shane and I were ready to get out of town.  So we packed our bags and headed to the faraway land of…Portland!  Which was actually just as somber a city as Seattle, if not more so, but there was comfort in being with family.  We rolled up Friday afternoon and headed right to the playground, as Juliette was eager to run free with Morgan and Elise.

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Sitting on Mitch’s front porch and watching the kids play tag has become one of my favorite Portland pastimes.

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Juliette bunked with her cousins that night, and as soon as all was quiet in the kids’ room, the grown-ups gathered in the living room to crack open a bottle of wine and pour our post-election hearts out.  I don’t know that I’ve ever spoken so candidly with Mitch and Kathryn about politics and religion, laying bare my hopes and fears.  I so appreciated their insight and refusal to despair; my brother is ever the optimist, my sister-in-law level-headed and fair.  We ended with evening with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, which had all of us doubled over with laugher, tears streaming down our faces.  Gosh, it felt good to get goofy.

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The kids woke obscenely early on Saturday and all of us dragged a little throughout the day as a result.  We lounged a lot, napped hard, played Candy Land and did puzzles and took inventory of Morgan and Elise’s 200 Shopkins.  Shane and I snuck away in the evening for a drink at The Bible Club, a cozy little speakeasy in Sellwood, and recharged with stiff cocktails and some kid-free conversation.

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Sunday morning was gray and quiet; Mitch made a frittata and the girls did more Shopkin-trading.  Juliette pondered the future from her window seat.

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By 10 am though, the kids were over the whole lazy-Sunday thing, so we headed over to Westmoreland Park to ride bikes and climb trees.

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We grabbed a treat at Grand Central Bakery in Sellwood and let the girls burn off their cinnamon roll sugar-rush with a walk through town.

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With that, it was time to say our goodbyes and hit the road.  Juliette cried as we pulled away from the curb, begging to go back to Morgan and Elise’s house.  Soon, kiddo, soon!  Christmas is just around the corner.

October ended on the highest of notes, with a weekend at the coast with the Chens and Rusts.  Shane, La Verne, and I all had birthdays last month, and we were due for a getaway with the gang anyway, so helllooooooo, Seabrook!

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This is a porch view I could get used to.

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Since we checked in on Friday with only a couple of hours of daylight to spare, we dropped our bags and jetted down to the beach to maximize our time on the sand.

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These two haven’t seen a whole lot of each other recently – together again and it feels so good!

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The fellas set out for a brisk jog while the moms hung back with the kids.

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LaV has a knack for the action shots:

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I love these misty coastlines that seem to stretch on forever.

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Jules was incredibly proud of her “chocolate sand castle” (see pile of poopish mud at bottom right).

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“Daddy’s back!  Daddy’s back!”

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Nancy, LaV, and I took our turn jogging and then I snapped a few more pictures of our filthy kids before heading up to the house for dinner.

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Shane and Jason beat us back to the house, eager to crack open a couple of cold ones on the porch.

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Magic, I tell ya’.

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Friday was LaV’s birthday, so we raised glasses of champagne to her, gorged ourselves on Jack’s delectable pasta, and then closed out the night with chocolate cake and an epic sugar-induced dance party.  These people got moves.

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Saturday morning brought a foot-high stack of pancakes (thanks, Jack!), and cold, crisp sunshine.

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We had planned to hit the indoor community pool, but with blue skies like that, the beach beckoned.

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Muddy and chilled, we decided to head over to the pool after all and warm ourselves in the hot tub.

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By the time we got back to the house, the skies had clouded over and big fat raindrops started to fall (just as Jack threw our lunchtime burgers on the grill).  He still managed a perfect char, though, and we retired to our rooms for naptime with full bellies.

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We were tired.

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The town of Seabrook hosted trick or treating for the littles on Saturday night, so the kids donned their costumes and grabbed their candy bags.  Juliette’s flamingo outfit came together at the very last minute – that’s 20 feet of pink feather boas and a whole lot of safety pins!

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Seabrook is a funny little town, full of row after row of perfectly-kept homes with perfectly-kept lawns and a charming little main street with a candy shop and a pizza parlor, all relatively new but designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia.  It was a little eerie, like we’d landed on the movie set of Pleasantville.  The people sure were friendly, though!

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Biggest pumpkin ever!

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The kids made out like bandits – Juliette kept looking into her basket, eyes wide, like she couldn’t believe how lucky she’d gotten.

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She savored the one piece of candy she was allowed before dinner and then I hid the rest of her loot, hoping she’d forget about it (she didn’t).

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We shared dessert that night with some friends that were also in Seabrook for the weekend, tucked our exhausted trick-or-treaters into bed, and then stayed up into the wee hours of the night, polishing off a bottle of Port and covering a gamut of conversation topics.  These late-night chats are so few and far between.

We were all a little bleary-eyed on Sunday morning, but Jack perked us up with yet another home-cooked meal.  His chilaquiles are insane.  The kids busted into the game closet and did us the grand favor of entertaining themselves while we sipped our coffee.

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With only a couple of hours left before check-out, I was determined to breathe in a little more of that salty air, so Shane, Jules, and I headed outside to take the fat bike Shane had rented for a spin.  I felt a little silly on it, like I was riding a motorcycle with no motor, but dang, that’s a smooth cruise.

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I’m so glad we tossed Juliette’s bike into the trunk as were packing up on Friday, as she wanted in on the action.

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I LOVE THIS GUY.

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Eventually, regretfully, it was go-time.  We picked up coffee from the town bakery, visited a couple of random Seabrook landmarks, and bid farewell to our beachfront abode.

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What a glorious, friend/food/fun-filled weekend.  Kudos to Jack for feeding us like royalty.  Kudos to the kids for playing so well together.  Kudos to Nance for keeping the late-night chats hilariously spicy.  Kudos to my mom, Shane’s mom, and LaV’s mom for birthing the three of us in October.  And kudos to the Washington Coast for being awesome.  See you soon.

It’s been a dark and stormy month – when I went in at 7:00 yesterday morning to wake up Juliette, she rubbed her eyes and sleepily asked, “Is it still night time?”, confused by the sun-less sky out her window.  October has been full of wind and rain and only a handful of sun breaks.  But man, when that golden sun breaks

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The clouds cleared as we were leaving church a couple of Sundays ago, so we popped over to Ravenna Park for a stroll.  It actually started drizzling again once we’d wound our way down to the trail, but I insisted we press on.  These leaves won’t be around much longer!

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I know, Jules!  So lovely, right?!

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Shane had last Friday off, so the three of us headed over to Bellevue Botanical Gardens to take a deep breath after a very traumatic dentist appointment (just a check-up, but you’d think our girl was getting a root canal!).

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Run free, kiddo!

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We spent awhile bouncing our way back and forth across the suspension bridge, stopping every lap or two to toss leaves into the creek below.

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And then a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek in the woods.

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THIS.  This is why I’m so thankful that my work week ends on Thursday.

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Saturday was perfectly rain-free, so we seized the day and drove up to Snohomish for a day at The Farm at Swan’s Trail, on a quest for the perfect pumpkin.

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So many to choose from!

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We loaded up our wheelbarrow with three pumpkins and one three year old and called it good.

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Ok, ok, one more!

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We jetted down to Lincoln Park after the pumpkin patch to watch the Rust boys show off their fancy footwork on the soccer field.  Get it, Gryff!

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Shane had to work most of the day on Sunday, but we squeezed in a family romp through Kubota Gardens before he clocked in.  This place is most definitely at its autumn peak.

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I spy…

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Ok, so apparently October wasn’t so gloomy after all!  (Typed as the rain patters against our living room window.)

The older I get, the less exciting my birthday becomes – I know, wiser and deeper and yada yada yada, but really, I wouldn’t mind staying in my early thirties for a few more years.  So when I saw my 35th looming on the calendar, my first inclination was to keep it fanfare-free – maybe just go out for pizza and then come home to put on my stretchy pants and crack open a pint of ice cream.  That felt like a missed opportunity to do something special in such a lovely time of year, though, so Shane booked us a last-minute rental in Yakima and we set out on Friday for a weekend celebration in wine country.

We arrived a couple of hours before we could check into our house, so we spent some time strolling along the Cowiche Canyon Trail, peeling off our sweatshirts as the sun blazed overhead.

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No golden oak trees or bright orange maples here, but these scrubby fall colors were beautiful in their own right.

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We arrived at our Airbnb mid-afternoon and were greeted with this stunning view from the front porch.  Well done, Shane.

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We ate dinner Friday night at Cowiche Canyon in “downtown” Yakima.  I slurped down one of the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted and Juliette’s chicken and rice came with an unexpected side of french fries, so we both left there very happy.

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Shane went for a run on Saturday morning while Juliette and I stayed back at the house and enjoyed the view of that hazy early sunlight grazing the treetops.

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We grabbed breakfast and beverages at North Town Coffee…

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And then got on with the day’s main business:  WINE!  Yakima is chock-full of wineries and we kicked things off at VanArman Vineyards with sunshine, a glass of Merlot, and a hammock – SO GOOD.

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I wasn’t quite sure how we’d manage wine-tasting with a three year old in tow, but with lawn games and wide open spaces like this, it’s actually pretty grand!

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These rows between the vines were the perfect racetrack.

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Seriously, SO GOOD!

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Our second stop was Dineen Vineyards – I was worried we wouldn’t find another place nearly as kid-friendly as VanArman, but when I spotted this swing, I figured we’d be welcome to hang here awhile.

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Another bonus?  Wood-fired pizzas served right next to the tasting room.

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And soccer!

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This might be one of my all-time favorites:

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We were closing in on naptime and wanted to check out one more place, so we zipped over to Bonair Winery for a final taste.  No brick ovens or soccer balls, but this place had ducks!

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And all the grapes a girl could eat.

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I could have happily done another few rounds, but…

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So we headed back to the house to cozy up on the couch and doze a little.

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A snack with a view…

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We ate dinner at a small Mexican joint and spent the rest of the evening at the house listening to the Giants game.  They didn’t come through like we’d hoped, but still, it had been a perfect day.

Sunday was my birthday, which meant I was free to linger in bed as long as I pleased while Shane took Jules-duty.

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I eventually rallied, though, eager to do a little more exploring before heading back to Seattle.  We snapped a couple of last pics from the porch and set out for the day.

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Our first stop was the Yakima Farmers Market, for fresh-picked apples.  And Kettle corn.

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We ate a hearty diner breakfast and drove toward the mountains, stopping a couple of times along the Naches River to take in the fall colors.

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We had hoped to do some hiking up at the pass, but as soon as the road climbed upward, the skies turned gray and the rain started to fall.  So rather than mountaineering, we pushed through to Seattle and settled for a stroll at the Arboretum.

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Not a bad back-up plan!

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This little pond is one of our favorite spots, and I’ve never seen it look lovelier.

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Juliette drew pictures in the water with her walking stick while I sat back and counted all the different shades of green.

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We capped off the day with cocktails, chicken wings, and coconut sticky rice at Soi.  Happy hour, indeed.

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Cheers to a very promising start to year 35!

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OCTOBER, you trickster, you…always arriving before I’m quite ready for you, making me melancholy over the passage of summer but then wooing me with your color and crispness.  These first couple weeks of Fall have been good to us, with plenty of sun and just enough rain to save me from having to water the plants.

I’m afraid paddle board Sundays are a thing of the past, but bike rides are lovelier than ever.

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And gosh, these arboretum strolls…on a sunny evening, this place is magic.

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The kids harvested (inedible) berries one Sunday evening while the grown-ups cracked open a bottle of Sauv Blanc.

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MY WORD, kids!  Lay it on thick!

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It’s been a few months since I’ve had a work-free, kid-free day to myself, so I called in tired one day last week and headed out to Twin Falls for a little refresh.

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These gorgeous gushing falls are just 45 minutes from Seattle, and on this cloudy Tuesday, I had them nearly to myself.

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The sun peeked out as I was heading back to the car and the forest positively glowed.

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So I stretched out on a big smooth rock and read for awhile, savoring that rare feeling of taking my own sweet time.

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Me-days are grand, but Mama-Jules days have their own charm.  We spent past Friday at Volunteer Park, romping in the sun and taking in the view from the Observatory.

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Jules was having some…digestive… issues yesterday, so we stayed close to home, but by 4 pm we were all climbing the walls, so we headed over to Kubota Gardens for our annual leaf-fest.

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We were a bit early for full-on reds and golds, but hey, green is good, too.

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This girl was thrilled to be free!

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Oh, and how ’bout them GIANTS?!  Sunday afternoon baseball tea parties are a thing in our house now.  And October baseball is the very best kind of baseball, so don’t let us down on Wednesday, boys!

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Juliette turned to me when we were walking home from lightrail the other evening and said, “Mommy?  I’m sad because the leaves are coming off the trees.”  I feel ya, kiddo…it was indeed one heck of a summer.  In addition to the camping trips and the family vacations through the mid- and north-wests and that fun impromptu getaway at the coast, there was much savoring of summertime in Seattle as we made sun-soaking part of our weekend routine.

After years of insisting that I am not comfortable on two wheels, family bike rides became a new favorite pastime.  We did Lake Washington Boulevard and the Sammamish River Trail and the Burke Gilman and, on one gorgeous Sunday, a 6-mile stretch of the Green River Trail.  One of the advantages of hauling Jules in the bike trailer is that we can also load it up with a picnic lunch for a mid-ride break!

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Friday family dinners with the Rusts have become a mainstay in our calendar, rain or shine.  Shine is extra-good, though, when we can pick up BBQ and eat outside.

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Jefferson Spray Park continues to be the perfect place for a close-to-home cool-off.

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And oh, those evenings at Lake Washington…those are what I’ll miss most as the weather cools.  We’ve always loved the lake, but since we bought our paddle board, we’re enjoying it all the more.  This girl looks good in a life jacket!

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THIS.  I want more of this!

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But alas, seasons change and daylight wanes, so we’ll find new ways to fill our weekends.  Frisbee golf shows some promise as an autumn hobby – the three of us ventured out to Lakewood a couple of weeks ago and while I usually play the part of the observer so as not to embarrass myself, I took some pointers from Shane and after a few holes, my discs were consistently traveling in the forward direction!

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Still, I have nowhere near the power of this animal…

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After frisbee golf that day, we all headed over to Pioneer Square to check out some of the early happenings at the Seattle Design Festival.  I was perplexed when Shane said he really wanted to see the 10-ton ice cube, but I’ll admit, it was cool.  Ice cool.  I so appreciate this guy’s knack for finding out-of-the-ordinary ways for us to get out together.

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And now, all ten tons of that ice have melted and we’ve started wearing jackets when we leave the house.  Sayonara, summer 2016.  You were dope.

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We had a couple of things on the agenda on Friday, the first of which was COFFEE.  I loved everything about Sisters Coffee Company, from the velvety lattes to the deer heads mounted on the wall.  Perfect spot for a proper Grandma-Mama-Jules date.

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Around the corner from the cafe is a beautiful little quilt shop – we popped in to drool over fabric while Juliette excitedly pointed to all the pretty “blankies” on the wall.

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Once we’d painted downtown Sisters red, we drove over to Smith Rock for a good dose of nature.  The desert landscape was stunning and in such sharp contrast to the densely wooded Metolius River we’d strolled along the day before – this place is like the southwest of the northwest.

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Lord knows I love green, but it turns out brown can be gorgeous, too.

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I spy Shane and Jules…

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We made our way down to the base of the rocks and then I peeled away from the group to hike up and over the cliffs.  Juliette wasn’t thrilled about being left behind, but the summit was calling my name!

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I breathlessly scampered to the top and then paused for a couple of minutes to take in the view.  That spire on the left is called Monkey Face.  It took me awhile to figure out why, and then I made out the strong brow and small mouth facing out of frame – see it?

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Kudos to Central Oregon’s weather for being so good to us that week.

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It was a quick, steep descent down the backside of the mountain to the quiet river below.

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I hooked up with Shane, my dad, and Jules and we stopped to eat our lunch in a patch of shade.

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I sometimes wonder if this girl understands how lucky she is…

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Hey, buddy!

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We made it back to the car just as Juliette was on the verge of crashing.  I thought she might doze on the way home, but there was just too much exciting stuff flying by the car window.  Like these alpacas!  I spotted those adorable little babies and asked Shane to slam on the brakes.

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I want one.

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We got back to the house and immediately passed out for a solid family nap – it seemed that a week of adventuring had caught up with us.

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Rested and refreshed, Shane and I skipped out before dinner for a little gin tasting at the Cascade Street Distillery.  We finished a gin/vodka flight and a round of cocktails in the space of about 30 minutes – don’t we look happy?

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There are few things this guy loves more than walking out of a liquor store with a hefty box in his arms.

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We ate dinner at the house and then made the short drive over to Sisters Meat and Smokehouse for a dessert of beer and beef jerky.  When in rural Oregon…

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We had breakfast in town on Saturday morning and waved to the deer that grazed in the field near the house.  I sure was going to miss these guys!

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We said our good-byes and hit the road to Portland around 10:00.  First, though, one more deer spotting…

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And one more Sisters latte!

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We popped by Suttle Lake on the way to Mitch and Kathryn’s.  Calm, clear water, a recently renovated lodge, and a lawn full of games – we’re already looking at making reservations for this place for summer 2017!

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We arrived in Portland late afternoon and kicked back on the porch while the girls partook in a joyous reunion.

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Ok, I kicked back.  Uncle Shane is just too fun to stay out of the fray.

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Morgan and Jules enjoyed a little downtime before dinner…

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And then really revved it up after dinner for a pretty intense dance party.  Miley Cyrus for the win!

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We squeezed in one final adventure on Sunday morning before heading back to Seattle, loading up the bikes and scooter for a ride across the Tilikum Bridge.

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I had my doubts about whether or not Juliette could make it across the whole thing, but she rocked it.

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We ended our ride at Elizabeth Caruthers Park, where the girls splashed in the fountains, hoodies and all.  65-degree weather be damned!

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And with that, Schnell Family Tour de Oregon 2016 was a wrap.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for showing us the sights and stoking those backyard campfires and making us feel so at home in your little corner of northwestern paradise!

We left La Pine Wednesday morning, full of energy after a hearty breakfast and a round of veggie-rich green smoothies (seriously, thanks, Mom!).  We decided to take the circuitous route to our rental house in Sisters and make a stop at Hosmer Lake, as I had heard that the super-clear waters were a good place to paddle board and kayak.  We had a little trouble finding the one small stretch of non-marshy water access, but once we landed, Shane pumped up the board, Jules buckled her life jacket, and they were off!

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They took a quick spin around the inlet and then came back to pick me up.  I wasn’t convinced that our inflatable board would support all three of us, but we managed a family loop and landed back at shore with only slightly wet butts.

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Since I was coming off four days of single parenting, I figured it was fair to ask Shane if I could sneak away for a solo paddle while he and Juliette ate lunch on the shore.  He happily obliged and I set off to find my SUP-mojo.

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Found it.

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I made my way through the channels, getting stuck in the reeds only once, while Mount Bachelor soared in the distance and rainbow trout glided beneath me.  The water was so clear.  So quiet.  So perfect.

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I rowed like hell back to Shane and Jules once I realized how long I’d been gone and then plopped myself down on a log to sip the jar of Rosé my mom had thoughtfully packed in our cooler.  Jules gulped down some of Grandma’s home-brewed Kombucha, and then we were off to Elk Lake for another water fix.

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We spread out our blanket on the rocky beach at Elk Lake and splashed for a bit.  It was gorgeous there, but Juliette was much more taken with the ice cream the kid next to us was eating than she was with the scenery.

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So we caved.  Ice cream for the win!

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I told her she had to share her scoop of salted caramel with her dad.  Which she did, happily.

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And then she swiped the rest of my mocha almond cone…  I really need to learn how to say no to this kid.

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But she lays it on so dang thick!

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We joined my mom and dad in Sisters later that afternoon.  We’d blown past naptime and had a little time to kill before dinner, so Shane set up his tent in the backyard for Juliette to play in.  When we asked her a couple of days ago what her favorite part of vacation was, she said, “Being in the tent!”.  Two year olds can be so wonderfully easy to please.

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We ate dinner and drank beer at Three Creeks and then Shane tucked in a wiped-out Jules while I headed out with my dad to snap a few photos of that gorgeous country evening light.

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Fields and mountains and sage brush…this is the stuff of my dreams.

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We kicked off Thursday in “downtown” Sisters, which consists of a few blocks of charming shops and eateries.  We met up with a couple of college friends for coffee, did the bakery circuit, and scored a like-new one-dollar Thomas the Train book for Juliette at the thrift store.

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We drove up to the Metolius River later that morning to check out the fish hatchery and walk along the water.  We pumped our quarters into the fish food dispenser and watched Juliette toss handful after handful of pellets into the tanks.

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She could have fed those fish for hours.

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When we ran out of quarters, Shane got thrifty!

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Finally, we pried Jules away from her fish friends and headed down to the bridge.

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I’ve never seen a river this color before – aqua and foamy in the fast-moving parts, deep deep blue in the calmer waters.

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Juliette looks a little concerned, doesn’t she?

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That’s better.

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We ate lunch on the banks of the river and watched the water change colors as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.

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Digging his new aviators…

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And I know, I’m gushing, but these colors.

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We walked for a bit, sat for a bit, and then headed home.

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While on his bike ride earlier that week, Shane had met a guy that described the Metolius as “magical”.  I now see what he meant!

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We ate burgers back at the house and then grabbed a beer at the pub around the corner.  Doesn’t my dad look thrilled to have a drinking buddy?

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We took the long way home, watching the clouds roll in over the mountains and waving to a few deer that hung out in the field across from the house.  I love Seattle, but…I could get used to this.

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Up next:  a rocky hike and some more time with the cousins!

Just as the post-vacation sheen from our time in Minnesota was beginning to wear off, we packed our bags and headed out again, this time for a week in Central Oregon with my parents – I love August!

To break up the seven-hour haul to La Pine, we spent last Friday night in Portland.  Bonus: a quick catch-up with Morgan and Elise!

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My dad was in town and joined us for a brew-pub dinner with the kids.

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These girls may have had one too many beers…

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We enjoyed a leisurely Saturday morning at the house, soaking up the cousin time.

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And then Shane strapped on his bike helmet, packed (and repacked, and repacked) his bags, and tossed me the car keys – my stud of a husband set out on a four-day 200-mile bike-packing trek from Portland to Bend!

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See you on the flip side, hon!

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Meanwhile, my dad, Jules, and I made the relatively short (but still sooooo long) four-hour drive to La Pine.  We were greeted by my mom and Bernie and quickly settled into life among the trees – evening strolls in the woods and subsequent bucket baths to wash away the dust that sneaks between your toes.

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Sunday was warm and sunny, so my dad and I took Juliette to the Sun River Aquatic Center for a dip in their pools.

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She dug it.

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So did I.

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We dined that night at La Pine’s finest Mexican joint and then hit the local playground for a sunset romp.

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That wink!

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As we turned onto my mom and dad’s street that evening, we spotted a deer and hopped out to say hello.

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It’s so nice to let this little spitfire run free on the traffic-less open roads…

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We came back from our deer hunt to find a campfire roaring in my parents’ backyard.  This is the face of a kid that knows without a doubt, fire=marshmallows.

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Jules and I woke on Monday morning to the smell of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon (thanks, Mom!).  I think this guy wanted in on the breakfast action:

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Fueled by caffeine and home cooking, Juliette and I headed out for a morning run/deer hunt.  No bucks spotted this time around, but we did encounter a very sweet bunny and several bushy-tailed squirrels.

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We spent the afternoon out at Cultus Lake, paddling and floating and splashing.  This may be my favorite of the several Cascade lakes we’ve visited – a large, shallow bay with ultra-clear water and then the prettiest rich turquoises as you paddle further out.

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She’s a great first mate.

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We’re still making use of the cheap little floaty boat we bought for Juliette two years ago – she cruised around the shallow waters for nearly an hour.

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We missed having Shane around, but…mama-Jules time was pretty special.  We’d start out each naptime laying side-by-side, and then Juliette would snuggle a little closer, and then put her head on my chest, and eventually just stretch out her whole body on top of mine, whispering, “I want to be close, Mommy!”.  Homegirl is gettin’ heavy, so I eventually had to roll her off of me in order to catch my breath, but those few minutes brought back such sweet memories of her baby days.

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Post-nap, Juliette “helped” Grandpa man the grill for dinner…

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And post-chicken, savored one more gooey s’more.

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This is the point at which I realized I was in for one heck of a bedtime battle…

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Juliette got her final wiggles out with a bike ride to the neighbor’s house to deliver some leftover chicken and then we called it a day.

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A fun-filled, dirt-packed, joyous kind of day…  Someone fill a bath for this kid, stat!

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Tuesday morning we had one main objective:  head to Bend and FIND DADDY!  We met up with a tired, slightly scruffy Shane at Drake Park around 11:30.  Jules shouted “Daddy!  Daddy!  My daddy’s here!” as he rounded the corner and then bounded into his arms – it was quite the reunion.

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We sat on a park bench for a few minutes to have a drink and hear the major highlights.

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Shane had rocked his ride, covering 200 miles and some serious elevation gain with his tent, sleeping bag, and food strapped on the back of his bike.  I’m so proud of him.  And so glad he got his adventure-fix – it’s good to have him back with us!

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We laid low in the afternoon, tossing the ball around with Jules and letting her roam a little on her bike.

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The weather was perfect for a river-side stroll, so after dinner we drove over to Wyeth Campground to watch the sun go down on the Deschutes.

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Juliette did some bird-watching while her dad skipped rocks.

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I love the pine trees and the water and the frequent deer sightings, but man, that Central Oregon dust makes for some seriously grimy feet!

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Jules spent a little quality time with Bernie on the back deck when we got home, and then there were baths/books/bed and a morning good-bye to La Pine as we set out for part 2 of our vacation, at a rental house in Sisters, Oregon.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for a perfect few days at Grandma-Grandpa camp!

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