Archive for the ‘places’ Category

When I told Juliette back in July that Morgan and Elise would be coming to visit in mid-August, she excitedly said, “You mean they’re coming tomorrow?!”  I told her that their visit was still a month away, to which she replied, “You mean in two days?!”  And thus the torturous wait began.  We made a countdown calendar, but the boxes just couldn’t be checked fast enough – when Mitch and the girls finally rolled up last month, Juliette flew across the room to greet them.  Her cousin-love runs deep.

Kathryn was away on a work trip and Mitch was flying solo with his girls, so I figured I’d take Juliette to school on Thursday since I had to be in the office.  But when Uncle Mitch asked Juliette if she wanted to spend the day with him and her cousins instead of going to school, she about keeled over with joy.  They hit four playgrounds, the beach, and a coffee shop that day.  And he still had energy for a post-dinner round of Candyland.  My brother’s the bomb.

I was thrilled to join in on the fun on Friday.  Also thrilled to roll out of bed much later than usual and find these three quietly reading in Juliette’s room.

Also thrilled to be entertained by a super-fly dance trio during my morning coffee.

Mitch and Kathryn had just bought a new paddle board and the girls were eager to try it out, so we spent Friday afternoon bobbing around Lake Sammamish.  The new SUP was great, though for some reason Mitch had a tough time building any momentum.

These three are water-babies through and through.

Lake life 4-ever.

Before we left, I insisted that all three girls get back out on the mermaid one more time, as I had spent longer blowing it up than they’d spent using it.  All that effort couldn’t be for naught!

Juliette and Elise took my request very seriously and spent a good 45 minutes drifting around while Morgan took a nap on the beach blanket.

I’d say I got my breath’s worth.

We dined that night at home on Mitch’s famous burgers…

And then took our dessert down to the water for a sunset fix.

Heart: FULL.

Kathryn joined us late Friday night and then the Jarrell clan set out for Whistler on Saturday morning.  First, though, one more walk along the waterfront, so they could stretch their legs before the journey ahead.

Juliette, as expected, cried when they left.  I, as expected, pulled out my calendar and started planning our next trip down to Portland.  Cousins, we’re coming for ya.

After our June and July camping bonanzas, we stayed close to home this month, soaking in the beauty of our own backyard.  I mean, I would gladly spend the entirety of summer out on Orcas Island, but August in Seattle ain’t too shabby…

The extra-warm days were spent splashing in the kiddie pool…

And then reading bedtime books on the back patio.

(Meanwhile, I got out for a sunset walk as often as possible).

We occasionally hear a little knock on our door after dinnertime and find the neighborhood kids standing there asking if Juliette wants to come out and play – she has her shoes on before I can even nod yes.  We made numerous trips to the local playground, cruising on two wheels:

And then four:

Juliette’s not quite solid enough on the bike to bomb down the extra-hilly streets near our house, so when she wants to get out for a legit ride we head down to the flat, scenic waterfront.  Lincoln Park at sunset is A++ (even in the smoke).

And this little stretch of Sound-front down the hill from us is prime biking territory.

I was feeling that old Lake Longing a few weeks ago, so we packed up our paddle board and drove over to Beaver Lake in Sammamish to check out the scene there.  And the scene there was…good.

It’s a mellow little spot and the perfect place to drift around on a giant mermaid floaty (an impulse buy I have not the slightest regret over).

By mid-afternoon the lake was hoppin’, but Juliette navigated among the unicorns and rafts with total ease.  Next year, she might be ready for her own mini paddle board!

SO HAPPY.

The three of us checked an item off our Seattle bucket list when we spent a Friday afternoon at Colman Pool.  I’ve heard this waterfront outdoor pool is amazing, and it was high time that we saw it for ourselves.

Juliette sported Shane’s cool goggles and made excellent progress on conquering her fear of getting her face in the water.

Cannon ballllllll!

Every time we got out of the pool for a snack/warm-up break I figured we were finished with the swimming, but…

Nope.

Dad’s turn!

Seriously, see what we’ve been missing for the past 13 years?  Shame on us!

And so…August is a wrap.  And I’m fine.  It’s fine.  Everything is fine.  (Subtext:  SUMMER, DON’T GOOOOOOO!!!)

Despite the extra hours of daylight, it somehow feels like time actually accelerates in Seattle during the summer.  My stomach does a sad little flip with each page-turn of the calendar.  I mean, it’s already August!  AUGUST!  Where did July go?  (Turns out, in looking back through my photo stream, I can tell you exactly where it went…)

The Fourth of July was spent at Rattlesnake Lake, shivering a bit in the morning breeze and then eventually letting the sun lure us into the water.

 

The winds out in the middle of the lake were pretty intense, causing Jack to take an unexpected dip in the water.

And this posse started out with toe-dips but was soaked by the time we left.

Seriously, our Lake Love runs deep.

 

Back at home, we brought out the sparklers and smoke bombs with the neighbors.

Ah, this age where excitement is found in the simplest of pleasures!

The other neighbor kids came and knocked on our door after dinner and asked if we wanted to watch their fireworks show – we walked over to find an arsenal of Ground Blooms and Fountains and Bottle Rockets on the sidewalk while one of the dads stood by with a blow torch.  The next hour was a barrage of booms and fizzles and children squealing, “Light this one, Daddy!  Light this one!”.

Golly, I love our street.

A couple of days later, Juliette and I headed to Remlinger Farms for our annual berry-picking pilgrimage.  Jules got right to work, popping huge red raspberries into her bucket (and her mouth).

Six pounds later, we were done.

(And quite proud of ourselves.)

The three of us hit up Lake Washington Boulevard a couple of times last month for bicycle Sundays – Juliette continues to be a little champ on two wheels.

And Friend-Fridays!  They’ve been extra-good lately.  We spent one sunny morning with N and LaV at Gene Coulon Park, trying (and failing) to catch minnows in buckets.

Last Friday we went to Henry Moses Aquatic Center for some legit summer swimming, and these two little fishes had the time of their lives.

We’ve been doing the splash park circuit on the weekends, meeting up with friends to romp at Jefferson Park and Georgetown Playfield.

And ’tis the season for baseball!  The three of us took in a Mariners game with my co-workers at my office’s summer picnic.

Juliette was really into it for about half an inning, but lost interest when she found out the Giants weren’t playing (I get it, kiddo).

But, the Giants were playing at Safeco a week later, so we played hooky with the Chens on a Wednesday afternoon to cheer on our boys.

Sadly, the Giants lost, but at least there were no gloating Mariners fans in our midst as we were surrounded by orange and black.

La Verne asked us last weekend if we were interested in tagging along with them to the Seattle Chamber Music performance at Volunteer Park, so we packed our cooler with wine and watermelon and joined them for a perfect evening of classical music.

…and contemporary art!

And now, it’s August.  The last full month of summer.  May it be chock-full of warmth, water, and more simple wonders.

I wasn’t super-jazzed about outdoor sleeping when a crow woke Juliette up at 5:45 on Saturday morning, but when Shane and the guys returned at 6:15 from their sunrise bike ride up Mount Constitution (those crazy cats!), I sent her out to hang with him and dozed for another hour while the sun came up and sufficiently warmed our tent.  Once I was up and ready to take over Jules-duty, Shane snagged his own morning snooze.

We packed up our coolers and drove over to Cascade Lake around lunchtime for some beach action.  La Verne and I ran a quick(ish) loop around the lake before settling in with the group for sandwiches, Spikeball, and cold beverages.

I took Jules out for a paddle but got no more than 20 feet off-shore before deciding to head back because of the heavy winds.  Only, I couldn’t head back…after several minutes of fighting the current and paddling in-place, we let the breeze carry us down-shore, where Shane met us and pulled us up to dry land.

These brave little mates were rewarded with ice cream for keeping their cool on the troubled waters.

And, home, sweet home…

Jordan had joined us that morning but clearly had some recuperating to do after his uber-early ferry ride.

Jordan’s chair quickly became Biscuit’s favorite seat in the house.

The afternoon and evening was filled with water play, hammock time, and campfire chats.

Shane offered to cover bedtime so that I could sneak away with La Verne and Jordan to Mount Constitution to catch the sunset.

And it was amazing up there.  Dusky and purply and so much like a soft pastel painting.

GOOD night.

The Chens packed up camp on Sunday morning and bid us farewell, as they needed to get back to Seattle.  First, though, a couple of pics…

And a trip into town for pastries and WiFi.

Back at camp, Jordan converted his Honda into a party pad and the kids perched up there for awhile, launching pine cones at miscellaneous targets.

I had spotted the serene-looking Twin Lakes from Mount Constitution the night before and proposed we make the 2-mile trek.  We headed out around lunchtime, backpacks filled with water and snacks and swimsuits.  We’d heard murmurings of a rope swing on Mountain Lake and came across it a half-mile in.  Seeing as how it was Jason’s birthday, he got first dibs.

Jason Tarzanned into the water, then Jordan, then Shane, and then I channeled my inner adventurer and had a go.

The exhilaration!  The glee!  The water up my nose!  It was a blast.

After multiple shenanigans, we eventually put our shoes back on and hit the trail to Twin Lakes.  We ate lunch at one of the lake’s quiet shores while Biscuit went for a swim.

And our way back, we took our own dip at a quiet stretch of shore on Mountain Lake.

I swam part of the way back to camp while the rest of the group hiked and was plumb tuckered out by late afternoon, sitting back in a chair while the kids slack-lined and deer-hunted.

We all got in one last paddle session before dinner…

And then we kicked backed in front of the roaring campfire, courtesy of Isaiah.

Happy birthday, J!  I can’t imagine a better place to turn another year older.

Monday was go-day, but I was determined to savor every last minute on the water.  Juliette and I paddled out to one of the lake’s little islands and she hid a special rock that she had colored the day before, thrilled by the idea of someone someday finding her special treasure.

We pretended we were legitimate explorers and combed the island for special sticks to bring back to Shane.

Gah!  This girl and this place.  Pure joy.

Nance and I went for a quick swim while Shane deflated our paddle board and then it was time to go.  Jules was none-too-pleased by the idea of leaving our site.

…Or our buddies.

But alas, Seattle was calling us back.  Shane and I agree this was our favorite-ever campsite.  Totally worth the nine-month wait.  Totally.

Shane’s a planner. I love him for it. And sometimes I capitol-L L-o-v-e him for it, like when he gets up early on an October morning to reserve a campsite for the following July. We’ve been dreaming of setting up our tent on Orcas Island for a couple of years but weren’t ever able to secure a spot, as the best sites book nine months out. This year, though, this was our year! A couple of Thursdays ago we boarded the Anacortes ferry and floated toward Orcas to claim our reservation at Mountain Lake in Moran State Park.

(We were all pumped.)

We had invited the gang along and found the Chen tent already pitched when we rolled up. Jules greeted her best buddy with a hug while I stood still for a moment and took in the smell of the trees and sparkle of the lake and the sound of the wind. The woods have become our summer home away from home, and I felt home.

Over the course of the afternoon and evening, paddle boards were inflated, a hammock was strung, swimsuits were donned, and margaritas were mixed. When we settle into camp, we settle in!

The Rust clan rolled in around dinnertime and by 7 pm we were gathered around a campfire with our crew, eating brats and drinking beer and watching the sun dip and suffuse our site with that glorious late-day smoky glow.

Our collective watercraft have never been more well-utilized than they were during this camp trip.

Oh, to end each day this way…

Mornings were always leisurely, with a long, lazy breakfast, maybe an early paddle.  I mean, why rush off from here?

But we eventually summoned enough get-up-and-go to pack up a picnic lunch and head to Obstruction Pass for a short hike and some water-side lounging.

The rocky beach was warm and quiet – we found a shady spot to spread out our blankets and then cracked open the canned Rosé.

The kids and their dads scampered on the rocks and hunted for tiny crabs while I fell into a sun-and-wine stupor…

We swung by Buck Bay on the way back to camp to check out their fresh seafood offerings. This place was charming and chill, with picnic tables and mermaid murals and buckets scattered about with labels that read “Toss Empty Oyster Shells Here”.

Juliette was a little perplexed by the thought of plucking a live crab out of the water and cracking it open as a snack.

Jack’s planner-proclivities come through whenever food and drink is involved, and sure enough, he pulled out a bottle of chilled white wine just as a dozen oysters arrived at our table.

You can see from Shane’s face here that he hasn’t entirely recovered from the oyster trauma he endured at Hood Canal last summer…

Back at camp, Jack and Shane took a dip while the kids cheered them on from the shore.

It wasn’t long before all the kids had their swimsuits on as well.

I took Nico and Jules out on the paddle board to meet up with Jack mid-swim.

I agree, Gryff – this lake gets TWO THUMBS UP.

Dinnertime!

And dessert!

La Verne and I hopped on our paddle boards after s’mores for a sunset row. La Verne remarked at how good the water felt as she waded in and stood up on her board; I launched myself right behind her and then, as if in slow motion, watched the tip of my board bump into the back of hers, causing her to lose her balance and tumbled right into the lake. I apologized profusely and offered to grab her a towel and dry clothes, but she was incredibly gracious and hopped right back up for our evening paddle, wet clothes and all! I felt terrible.  But I mean, the water was lovely that night. I got out for my own short swim before bed, rinsing off a couple of days of camp life in the glassy lake.

Up next:  paddle, swim, eat, repeat.

Ahhh, June. We spent more weekends last month sleeping on the ground than we did in our bed!  Back in February I came across a Facebook post about family-friendly Lake Sylvia and promptly booked us a June weekend at a waterfront site.  We did waffle for a moment about whether or not we really wanted to head back outdoors just four days post-Bainbridge, but we ultimately decided to go for it.  I was eager to see someplace new, and a lot of our gear was still in the back of our car, anyway.

We rolled into camp on a Thursday afternoon and…our brows furrowed a little. Sites were tight. RVs outnumbered tents. Kids zipped by us left and right on bikes and scooters. We’ve held our remote Canadian enclave of last summer as the pinnacle of campground dreams, and this was hardly it.  But we pitched our tent and blew up our paddle board and set up our chairs at the lake’s edge.  Then Juliette wandered over to the site next door to toss rocks with two other little girls while I watched a gaggle of geese float by and I decided, alright, this place was amazing!

Plus, free salmonberries for the taking!

The campground loop was relatively flat and relatively small, so it was the perfect place for Juliette to get back on two wheels after a winter/spring biking hiatus.  I jogged along side her for a couple of loops, thrilled to see that her sense of balance was still intact.

And then she asked me to stay behind while she did a loop with the neighbor girls – a lump rose in my throat, as she ended up with a bruised a bloodied shoulder the last time I let her pedal out of my sight, but I swallowed that lump right down and told her to Go For It.  And except for one minor brush with a bush, she rocked it.

Shane eventually coaxed Juliette off her bike and onto the paddle board, so that they could go salamander-hunting while I got dinner ready.

And then, after brats and veggies, Juliette and her new buddy settled in together for some puzzle-making.  She can actually be quite timid with strangers at the get-go, hanging back to observe and get a vibe, but after about three minutes the urge to engage completely overwhelms her and she inserts herself into the fold – when faced with an option, she always chooses the company of others.  Shane and I are often the only “others” around and I want to cry out, “Can’t you play alone for just FIVE MINUTES?!”, but really, I admire her boldness and vulnerability and desire to connect.  She didn’t get those extroverted genes from me!

Sadly, our neighbor buddies rolled out on Friday morning, but Juliette befriended the resident geese and spent much of the day feeding leftover hot dog buns to Fella, Gree, Greeda, Greedo, and Beeba.

Lazy mornings…

We set out around lunchtime for a hike on one of the park’s many trails, crossing a bridge into the deep, dark woods.

And the woods were stunning.  Lush and green and dotted with the most magnificent fuchsias and yellows.

 

Oh, Daddy.  So strong…

And so tall!

We had trouble finding the bridge that was supposed to lead us over the creek to the trail back to camp, but we made a way.  Barely.

And…done!  Four miles deserves a high-five!

Jeepers, I’m proud of this little northwestern kid.

Back at camp, I kicked back with my book and a can of Rose while Shane and Juliette rested in the tent.  Mary Oliver and sunshine and bubbles, oh my…

And then, just as I took my last sip, our go-getter was begging for a spin on the paddle board.  Shane rowed her over to the beach on the other side of the lake while I hoofed it across the bridge to meet them at the shallow waters.

We made a quick trip into town for firewood and a latte (this campground scores two points for easy access to espresso!) and then laid low the rest of the evening.  Jules did a few (dozen) solo loops on her bike and beamed at me proudly each time she rounded the bend and saw me waiting for her back at the site.  We sat by the water and then by the campfire and ate Indian food and s’mores.  These two people + water + woods are…LIFE.

The realities of a busy campground smacked us in the face on Saturday morning when we heard kids scootering past our tent at 7 am, but this girl’s smile (and sleeping accessories!) did much to relieve my crankiness.

I drank my coffee while Juliette took some star shots of Shane.  “Be funny, Daddy, be funny!”

Before we officially packed it up, Juliette really wanted to pet a salamander and I really wanted to get out for one more paddle.  We both scored.

This was actually the first time that Shane, Jules and I have camped without any of our crew, and while I missed seeing our friends pop out of their tents in the morning, missed the evening game of s’more du jour, I did relish the three-of-us time.  Shane and I talked more that weekend than we have in weeks.  Juliette snuggled into my lap for long stretches in the evenings, seeking warmth and rest.  Roughing it, schmuffing it – camp life is nothing short of luxurious.

Camp season continues!  Mid-June brought what has become our annual group camp trip to Bainbridge Island; all of us had a grand time spreading out on the lawn here last summer and felt we were due for a reunion.  We trickled into the site on a sunny Friday afternoon and made ourselves at home, cracking open cold beers while setting up our tents and watercraft.

There was such a happy, chill-but-active vibe around the site – seemed a ball was always being tossed around, seemed there were always a handful of people kicking back near the fire pit.

Also, seemed like Jack was always grilling up meat of some sort…

Note:  pack extra, extra wet wipes when camping with kids!  Another note:  the super-sized marshmallows I picked up at the store are too much mallow.

We were one of the last families to emerge from our tent on Saturday, reluctant to leave our cozy nest.

But once we unzipped our front door, Jules was off, eager to play with her best bud.

We walked down to the beach after breakfast to toss the ball around, catch some rays, and squish sand between our toes.

Felt so good.

We capitalized on the super-windy conditions and pulled out our kite for awhile.

Then, took refuge in the fort.

Golly, I adore this kid.

While the kids lunched…

La Verne, Nance and I got out for a paddle.  The water was crazy-choppy, so I never made it into the full standing position on the paddleboard, but a good time was had by all.  Despite our wet butts!

The grown-ups happy-houred before dinner and Baby J took a snooze.  The kiddos played hard all weekend and this girl was feelin’ it!

I’m all for a creative s’more, pro-potato chip or peanut butter cup between the graham crackers, but when J started mixing in barbecue chicken, I tapped out.

Juliette and Shane hit the hay a little early on Saturday night, which left me free to walk down to the water for my beloved solo sunset stroll.  The sky was…wow.

…And, happy Sunday morning!  Don’t mind if I do, Jack!

We sipped mimosas and ate Jack’s famous chilaquiles and the kids gathered around Father Goose for a story and a good laugh.

We went down to the beach one last time before heading out, to get a little more sun and search for crabs.

It was Father’s Day, and as I watched these papas hang with their kiddos on the beach, I was struck by how uniquely wonderful each of them is at loving their kids.

My numero unos…

We made a quick stop in Winslow for lavender lemonade from Blackbird Bakery and then hopped in line for the ferry back to Seattle, a little grubby and a lot happy.  Emily is already talking about next year’s Bainbridge getaway.  COUNT US IN.

We spent a few days earlier this month in Minnesota, celebrating our niece’s high school graduation and catching up with our beloved Schnells. While there was some busy-ness with festivities and ceremonies, there was also ample time to slow down, to sit on the porch and drink beer, to stand by the fence and coo at the brand-new baby calves.

We arrived Thursday evening and after a round of hugs from Grandma and Grandpa, Juliette darted across the yard to say hello to the animals.

While Jules fell head over heels for the cows, I became smitten with these golden greens…

The temperatures weren’t quite warm enough for us to pull out our swimsuits on Friday, but Shane was still up for a ride on a french fry floaty at Lake Latoka.

Meanwhile, Jules and Hayden snuggled up together under beach towels.

We spent most of the afternoon setting up the church for Shanay’s big graduation shin-dig and then headed home for a stroll around the farm.

Denny just bought ten baby pigs and they are the cutest.  We loved watching them dart from one end of the pen to the other, wooing them closer to us by dumping a heap of leftovers into their food trough.

 

Fatten up, little ones…  Grandpa’s got big plans for you.

Outside the barn, we stopped to hang out with the cows.  This sweet baby calf was just a few days old!

Back at the house, the cousins caught up with each other on the porch while Shane grilled up a whole lotta hot dogs.

We ended every day around this table, eating and drinking and laughing with the family.

We used the time change to allow ourselves (Juliette included) to stay up late and sleep in late.  Our mornings were lazy – Juliette romping around the porch in her underwear, Shane and I taking our sweet time eating our breakfast.

We drove over to the church late Saturday morning for Shanay’s big graduation celebration.  We’re so proud of this lovely young lady – she’s bright and generous and incredibly kind and now, a bonafide adult!

We spent the afternoon tinkering around the house, watching Grandpa work on his motorcycle and then spending more time with our cow friends.

This girl loves her grandpa somethin’ fierce – any time he entered a room, Juliette ran to him with arms wide open, exclaiming “GRANDPA!”, as if she hadn’t seen him just ten minutes earlier.

By late afternoon Jules was getting a case of the crankies, so I took her out for a lemonade reboot at the coffee shop.  A little one-on-one time does wonders for the both of us.

The weather had turned super-warm and I still had our beach bag in the trunk, so we detoured on the way home for a toe-dip at the lake.

We dined at Chet’s that night with the whole family, feasting on fried chicken with our lovely graduate.

And as we settled into our porch chairs for beer and a sunset show, we saw tiny flickers of light appear over the field.  Fireflies!

Shane offered to catch one for Juliette in a jar and I admittedly doubted his prowess, wondering how on earth he’d capture one of these fleeting-and-few-between bugs.  But alas, DAD FOR THE WIN.

The country in the summertime is a magical place.

I went for a blissfully quiet walk on Sunday morning before heading to the high school for the big ceremony.

Shanay!  You did it!

After setting our graduate free to hang out with her friends for the afternoon, we all headed home for yet another stroll through the farm.  Never got old.

Roo, the cow Juliette is trying to feed, is known as being particularly troublesome, breaking loose from the pen any chance she gets.  Jules developed a special fondness for this rascal, cooing, “Oh, Roo…” every time she came close.

Hayden loves animals, but does not love the resident bull, Pretty Boy.  She avoided eye contact at all costs.

Hey, piggies!

Gosh, I miss these little fellas!  They had so much personality.

These Minnesota Schnell kids are top-notch.  Patient and fun and affectionate – Juliette hit the cousin jackpot.

We gathered on the porch again on Sunday evening, this time raising our glasses to Avery, who had just turned 14.  Happy Birthday, Bud!

We lingered especially late around the table that night, Tiff and I savoring our super-sized beers and Shane sipping his little shot glass of top-shelf scotch.  I can’t imagine feeling more at home with a family that’s not actually my blood.  Thanks for a makin’ a girl feel welcome, Schnells…

We pulled away from the farm on Monday morning and set out for Minneapolis, Juliette yelling “Bye, Roo, you old troublemaker!” as we made our way down the road.  We had a few hours to pass in the city before our flight, so we took a walk along the Mighty Mississippi and then grabbed lunch downtown.

 

 

 

We parked ourselves in this hip little coffee shop for a solid hour, sipping our drinks and playing game after game of Go Fish.  I’m so glad that Juliette loves cafe time as much as I do.

Eventually, later than planned, we boarded our plane for Seattle and headed west.  We rolled up to our house after midnight, weary but rested.  We’re self-declared city folk, Shane and I, but a few days in the country sure does us good.

The past couple of months have been pretty spectacular, what with the beach-combing in Florida and the partying in Portland and the camp-firing at Fort Flagler.  PLUS, there’s been a smorgasbord of April and May goodness right here at home.

Home.  HOME!  We super-duper love our new one!  We got our keys the evening before we left for Florida and hauled a carload of boxes right over, eager as we were to settle into our new place.

Moving was a bear, but family really came through in a clutch.  Clearly, Jules was a stellar assistant with all the unpacking:

And my parents!  They were heroes.  As soon as we all returned from Florida, my dad and I got right to work giving all our rooms a nice fresh coat of white while my mom meticulously organized the kitchen.

And then Shane’s mom came to visit for a weekend in May – we hit Ikea together and she helped me get our closets in order.

We warmed our house with a (furniture-less) picnic dinner at the end of April, determined to have the Hickory clan over before they set off on their Colorado move.

We’ve shared so many big ups and big downs with this crew – breaking bread with these people in our new house is an up I’ll remember forever.

But saying good-bye to Brian, Nicole, Eden and Stella…total down.  We miss these guys so much already!

Juliette gave one final farewell to our townhouse the first weekend in May and then we were officially out.

This place was good to us for the past eleven years.  It will always be our first house, the place where we hosted the small group that turned out to be full of our life-long nearest and dearest friends (the very same ones that were there for our first meal in our new house!).  Our townhouse was the place that we watched Juliette take her first steps, the place in which we decorated a decade’s worth of Christmas trees.  I sniffled just a bit when I pulled out of the driveway for the very last time.

But then I drove across the bridge and we ate dinner in our new backyard and Juliette and Nico frolicked in the grass and I was overcome with the feeling that this next chapter in our lives is going to be a good one.

Getting to know our new neighborhood has been such a joy – meeting the super-friendly families on all sides of us, discovering the views around every corner, soaking up these western skies…

I look forward to my evening walks with a whole new kind of fervor.  I never really pictured myself as a West Seattle-ite, committed as I was to the South End, but suddenly I’m all in.

And golly, this backyard of ours…  We’ve loved dining al fresco, feeling like we finally have space to play the role of host.  The Rusts popped by one Saturday night just to say hello and then did a little jig when we told them we had extra burgers and dogs on the grill for them.

Aunt Val came to visit while Shane’s mom was in town and she filled me in on what exactly is planted in our yard, pointing out the peonies that were about to bloom and the lilac bush that smells so, so good.

We moved in at the right time of year, I tell ya.

This corner lot comes at a cost, though – we’ve quickly discovered the amount of work that goes into keeping this yard in tip-top shape.  Yowsers!  (But more gadgets for Shane!)

In other good-things news, Mother’s Day was lovely this year – Shane and Juliette made french toast and grapefruit mimosas for me and Shane’s mom and then we all headed to Alki Beach for a sun-break.

And Jules and I have been loving lots of quality time with LaV and Nico, soaking in our last couple of months of Fridays together before this guy heads off to kindergarten in the Fall.

We had a grand time celebrating his space-themed fifth birthday, watching him blast off to a year of new adventures.

These two…making each other smile since 2013.

They were especially awesome together on our Memorial Day hike to Coal Creek Falls, trooping through the trek with very little complaining – La Verne didn’t have to bust out the gummy bribes until mile 2.5!

This is our fourth or fifth time on this trail, and it continues to be one of our faves – not too crowded, not too steep, and always a rock to sit on mid-way to take a rest and have a snack.

And now, June.  We just got back from Minnesota, we’ve got a couple of camping trips on the books over the next two weekends, and my peonies are at their peak.  Life’s good.

It’s CAMPING SEASON!  The most wonderful time of the year!  We knew we were rolling the dice weather-wise when we headed out at the very beginning of June, but we were exceedingly eager to take a break from house to-do’s, pull out our tent, and fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees.  Nancy booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park, since we had such a grand time there last year and felt it was worthy of a repeat.

Juliette is more and more helpful with each subsequent year and was a perfect first mate for Shane as he set up the tent.

Mission accomplished!

Once we’d properly gotten settled, Juliette and I took a walk down to the water to check a few things off of her Junior Ranger Treasure Hunt list.

Found crabs!  And a feather, and clouds, and other miscellaneous outdoor goodies.

Back at camp, Isaiah dazzled us with his champion fire-builder skills as he coached Juliette on finding the perfect sort of twigs to toss into the ring to really get the flames roaring.

The question of the weekend, from all three kids, was, “Can I throw this in the fire?”  The answer was usually yes, though we learned we needed to add a few qualifiers – crumple up that paper bag before it’s tossed into the flames!

We ate our traditional fare of bratwursts and grilled veggies for dinner, paired with red wine that somehow tasted so good out of a plastic cup.  I tell you, these trees work wonders on your taste buds!

After s’mores and clean-up, we walked down to the water with mugs of hot tea to skip rocks and watch the sun go down.

Juliette has a particularly fierce fondness for Jason these days and snuggles up next to him every chance she gets.  I think he likes the attention.

We made it through the night with no significant wake-ups, but Juliette was up early with the birds, so I brewed myself an extra-large cup of coffee with our skillet of sausage, eggs, and hash browns.

And then, after breakfast, I just…sat.  The kids ran around and tracked each other with their walkie-talkies, Shane strung up the hammock, Jason walked his slack-line, and I reveled in being completely stationary.

Eventually, though, the trails beckoned and we packed up a lunch for a hike along the bluff.

This trail is amazing.  Lush and densely green for long stretches, and then it will open up to an expansive view of the water or a glowing, grassy pasture.

It’s also dotted with relics from its days as a World War II military fort, which make for some fun-but-slightly-spooky detours.

There’s no other crew I’d rather trek with…

Seriously, parts of this path felt straight out of The Shire.  Dark green!  Light green!  Yellow-green!  Olive green, Emerald green, Kelly green, oh my.

We all chilled for awhile when we got back to camp and then busted out the Monopoly cards for some friendly competition.  It’s nice to play with people that don’t gloat when they win.  (HA!)

Juliette had no interest in post-hike chill-axing, so we took her down to the water to let her try her hand at kite-flying at the park’s breezy coastline.

There’s always a little bit of let-down when the kids realize the actual monotony of flying a kite, but Jules got a huge kick out of trying to catch the kite as Shane reeled it in.  And so he reeled it in, and tossed it back up, and reeled it in, and tossed it back up.

Also, watching the boys work on their headers was kind of hilarious.

Once the kite and the soccer ball lost their charm, we walked down to the beach for some fort-building.

Isaiah quickly declared himself captain.  Jules was the driver.  Jason was the chef.  I was the ship’s photographer.

We dined that night over another roaring fire, courtesy of Isaiah.

There were a couple of boys close to G and Z’s ages at the site across from us and Juliette did her damnedest to keep up with the big kids.  She was thrilled when they invited her to come along on their race around the campground loop.

And then, S’MORES.

Such a good life.

After the dishes were washed and the kids were pajama’d, I walked down to the water for a solo sunset stroll.  (There goes that Moana song again!)

We broke down camp on Sunday morning immediately after breakfast – I’ll begrudgingly give kudos to Shane for rushing me through my morning campfire coffee as it was awfully nice to have the tent packed up as raindrops began to fall.  The kids stayed dry in the car as we gathered up the last few things.  I mean, it wouldn’t be a true June PNW camping trip without a little drizzle!

Cheers, gang!  Camp season 2018 is off to a very promising start.