Archive for the ‘cali’ Category

We ended our California vacation with a couple of days in our old stomping grounds.  It feels good to pull up to Amanda’s house and pick up right where we last left off.  And now Juliette and Sadie are picking right up where they left off, as well!

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Amanda’s house is kind of a toddler wonderland – a roomful of toys, a trampoline, and…a spare pair of pink boots!

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Amanda and I had plans that night to go out to dinner with the ladies, and though the little ones weren’t invited, they still wanted to gussy up with us.

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We spent the evening catching up with old friends at the neighborhood bar and grill – it was like a mini high school reunion, sitting around a table with these ladies that were a part of so many of my teenage memories.  We relived the ups and downs and then caught up each other’s latest.  Although it’s been 17 years (!) since we were fellow Bulldogs, I still see so much of the girls I used to stroll the aisles of Hollywood Video with in each of these women.

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We laid pretty low on Sunday, playing Barbies and Legos and drums.

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Juliette was so at home there.  I mean, the plethora of toys is amazing, but it’s Uncle Josh and Aunt Amanda that seal the deal.

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Oh, and can we talk for a minute about this kid?!  JACK!  You’ve won my heart, you sweet little softy.

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We ventured out for a bit to the college to feed the ducks and run around the amphitheater.

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THESE GIRLS!  If only our playdates were weekly rather than annual…

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While the ladies played and lunched, Shane was catching up with his buddy Steve during a hike around Knight’s Ferry.  Shane said their morning together was a 5-hour meandering-but-seamless conversation.  Lifelong friends, these two…

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Any trip back to Turlock wouldn’t be complete without a drink with Marco and Lisa!

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We ended the day with group story time (focus, Jules!), all piled on Amanda’s bed.  My heart hurts a little when I look at this picture – next time we do this, Jack will be well out of the bottle phase and Juliette and Sadie will likely both be four.

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The girls squeezed in a little more playtime on Monday morning…

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(For the record, lest I paint too rosy a picture of our time there, this game of Candy Land ended with both kids in tears!)

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And then it was time to say our farewells.  Thanks, Amanda, for making your home one of the most welcoming places on earth.

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It was a long trek home, with a nearly 2-hour drive to the airport and a delayed flight, but Juliette was a great sport through it all.  We’re making a pretty good traveler out of this girl.

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She’s even started pulling her own weight, luggage-wise!

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That was exhausting (see Shane’s eyes?), but really, so much fun (Juliette’s smile says it all!).

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We’ve made something of a ritual of heading down to California in late winter for a Vitamin D fix.  And you know what pairs perfectly with Vitamin D?  WINE!  Jack and La Verne recommended a long weekend in Napa in lieu of repeating the Santa Monica trip we took last year and Shane and I jumped at the chance to wine-taste with our aficionado-friends.  We landed in Oakland last Wednesday after an uneventful flight and made a quick stop at In-N-Out for burgers and fries before jetting toward Napa.

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We rolled up to Artesa Winery mid-afternoon after winding our way through sun-kissed vineyards.  I forgot how beautiful this valley can be…

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would fare at these grown-up venues, but they were troopers – Juliette used her carton of milk to toast to Shane’s Chardonnay and remained (relatively) well-behaved while we tasted our way through the menu.

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Just when I thought we’d had our last round, another four glasses would appear.  MAGIC.

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Finally, after sipping the range from bubbly Brut to rich Cabernet, we’d had our fill and were ready to head out.  Run free, Jules!

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Cabernet makes you jump, jump…

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Thick as thieves…

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Dreamy, isn’t it?

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Even Shane couldn’t resist the pull of that wide-open lawn!

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(photo by La Verne)

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(photo by La Verne)

Cheers to a very promising start to this trip!

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We checked into our vacation house in Sonoma and promptly changed into our swimsuits to hit the hot tub.

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This girl loves a good long soak, apparently!

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Jack had packed a jar of homemade pesto in his suitcase because, well, he’s Jack, and he whipped up a decadent pasta dish for dinner, perfectly paired with a bottle of Chardonnay we’d picked up at Artesa.

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The kids went down with very little struggle and the grownups stayed up later than we should have, drinking and talking and settling comfortably into vacation-mode.

The guys headed out early on Thursday for a run while La Verne and I stayed back to feed the munchkins.

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After breakfast, we sent the kids out to the backyard to burn off a little energy before heading out for our grand tour de wine.

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It was a longer-than expected drive out to El Molino due to an accident and a re-route, but nearly two hours after we set out, we arrived!

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We were all eager to stretch our legs.

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This little gem of a winery is run by a couple that does it all and the owner/winemaker/grape-stomper, Jon, spent a couple of hours graciously showing us around.

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Juliette carefully arranged pinecones while the rest of us intently listened to Jon about his process (i.e., schemed about how to run our own winery someday).

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While Jon poured us a tasting, the kids got friendly with the chickens.  Seriously, this place was a dream.

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As was the Chardonnay!

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With a bottle of Chardonnay under one arm and a bottle Pinot under the other, Jack left there a happy man.

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We grabbed sandwiches to-go from a deli in St. Helena and blazed onward.

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We landed at Pride Mountain mid-afternoon and opted to skip the hour-long cave tour due to the dubious looks cast Juliette’s way by the host.  We settled on a patio tasting and a romp through the vineyards.

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When we booked this trip, there was a part of me that wondered if it was fair to ask Juliette to come along on a wine-tasting excursion.  Looking back at these photos, I’d hardly say she suffered.

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Sufficiently wined, we headed out, making a quick stop at the Napa outlets and then settling in at the house for crafts, hot tubbing, a very active round of Simon Says, and takeout burritos.

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We awoke Friday to the sound of raindrops – a storm had moved in and the forecast called for a soaking-wet day.  We grabbed a bite at Bouchon Bakery and then took our seats at the tasting table at Sullivan Vineyards.

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Juliette was stoked that this place actually served something she could consume – she pounded about eight of these breadsticks!

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(photo by Jack)

We leisurely sipped our way through the menu while the kids got their daily dose of screen time.

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And then we all spent awhile looking longingly out the window while the skies gushed – this definitely wasn’t vineyard-strolling weather!

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(photo by La Verne)

We lunched on burgers at Gott’s and then treated Juliette to ice cream at the Oxbow Market.

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The upside to a pouring wet California afternoon?  No shame in holing up indoors for a good long nap!

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The house was pretty quiet all afternoon – most of us dozed and then La Verne and I did a little living room Barre3.  Jack and La Verne prepared another mighty-fine meal and we were joined by Jack’s mom and sister for dinner.

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I almost went to bed with Juliette at 8:00 but rallied – as this was our last night there, we had wine and snacks to polish off (Cabernet and Cool Ranch Doritos for the win!).

The skies had cleared on Saturday morning, so Juliette and I took the hot tub for one last spin.  When I asked her what her favorite part of the trip had been, she quickly replied, “The cave!” (at El Molino).  But a moment later, after glancing around the yard, she changed her mind and said the vacation house was her favorite.  I wasn’t too eager to leave, either…

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A rousing game of Ring Around the Rosie…

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And then we said farewell to the Chens as they headed to the airport.

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Shane and I were sticking around California for a couple more days to visit our friends in Turlock.  Before heading to the Central Valley, though, one last winery…  We popped into Ravenswood for a 10:30 am tasting (!).

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This girl…I’m so proud of her for hanging with us while we imbibed.  You’re a good sport, Jules.

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And on that note, we said good-bye to Napa’s rolling green hills.  Next stop, T-Town!

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Saturday morning in Santa Monica was sunny and warm, so we convened on the brightest patch of the grass in our house’s front yard to enjoy a leisurely breakfast.  Jack picked up donuts from three neighborhood joints and we oohed and aahed over the crispy old fashioned from Don’s, the passion fruit/cayenne donut from Blue Star, the butter and salt cake from Sidecar. Aggggh, donuts. So bad. But so good.

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Sugar rushed, we drove over to Griffith Park to meet up with La Verne’s sister and her family for a walk in the woods. The path was beautiful, shady and lushly planted. And we had all the time in the world to enjoy it, as it took us 30 minutes to walk a quarter-mile with three toddlers in tow!

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We eventually landed at at a small playground and lounged in the sun while the kids played.

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We spent the afternoon close to the house; the kids dozed while the grown-ups read or got out for a run. As soon as everyone was back up and at ’em, we squeezed into our rental car, picked up salads and meatballs from Lemonade, and set out for a picnic dinner on the beach.

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It was a gorgeous night, but dang, so chilly!  That ocean wind is something else.  I don’t think N’s arms ever made it out of his towel blanket!

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Jules couldn’t resist one quick lap down to the water’s edge and back.

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Teeth chattering, we packed it up and called it a day just as the sun hit the horizon.

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The kids took a bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub and were promptly sent to bed so that the rest of us could open a bottle of wine and end our day by the warmth of the living room fireplace.  Perhaps I over-did it on the bubbles.

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We got a slow start on Sunday – Jack headed back to Seattle that morning for a Monday work commitment and LaV read to the kids while I went out to grab coffee.

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We eventually rallied, packing up our towels and plastic buckets for a day at the Santa Monica beach.

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Apparently Juliette isn’t the only one in our family amused by the tide!

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Our friend Emily was in California visiting family and met up with us for a couple of hours. Does this kid look like he’s bringing the party or what?!

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I’m already itching to get back to the water with Juliette – her joyous spirit and love of adventure is so evident at the ocean.

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Beach bums!

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Our hunger eventually got the best of us and we headed over to True Foods for lunch. The kale smoothie was a major hit.

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We left the restaurant to find a hip hop flash dance happening in the plaza.  Work it, Oli!

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The kids bopped around for awhile and then it was time to head home for naps (aka, mama-Jules snuggle time!).

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We met up with La Verne’s sister and her family one more time on Sunday evening, for dinner in Korea Town.  Jules slurped down miso soup, Shane gnawed on his Kalbi short ribs, and I dug into my sashimi-topped salad.  Best food court meal I’ve ever had.

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Bedtime was often a bit of a bear at the house, as the kids weren’t entirely sure what to make of sleeping in a new place (together), but by night #4 they went down without much fuss.  Success!

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Monday was go-day, but we had an afternoon flight and a few hours to kill before heading to the airport.  Get those wiggles out, kids!

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After breakfast, we loaded up the car and drove over to Kenneth Hahn Park to hit the playground.  (May I take your order?)

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After 400 pushes on the swings, 12 rounds down the slide, and 45 laps around the lawn, it was time to hit the road.  These two were such great little travel buddies throughout the weekend, entertaining each other as we sat in restaurants or waited in lines.  They’d say the goofiest things, speaking a language we often couldn’t decipher (“Juliette!  Where’s your goo-goo?!”), and then throw their heads back and hold their bellies as they laughed like crazy.  There was also the occasional tear-filled battle over a particular toy or the whiny tattle over an accidental push, but that comes with the territory – love hurts sometimes!  N frequently tells Juliette “You’re my best friend!”, to which she’d replies “Yeah!  I’m your best friend!”  I’m so glad they’re in each other’s lives.

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The flight home was long, as we had to sit on the runway for over two hours before take-off due to an issue with the plane.  Thank goodness for TV screens.  And snacks.  And that little bottle of gin Shane stowed in his carry on.

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We made it home eventually, with a little sand in our suitcases and a little pink on our cheeks.  Thanks for doing right by us once again, L.A.!  We’ll see you next year.

Shane, Jules, and I had such a good time on our Santa Monica trip last year that we decided to make it an annual tradition – March tends to be the time of year that I start to desperately crave a sun break, anyway.  We asked Jack and La Verne if they’d be up for joining us and they agreed with very little (no) arm-twisting.  We hopped on a plane last Thursday and headed south, happily waving farewell to a particularly gray, rainy sky.

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The flight went off without a hitch and by mid-afternoon we were walking through the door of our Marina del Rey rental.  Jules and I dozed while the guys went for a run and at 5:30 we piled into our cars to make the short drive to Venice Beach.  Ahhhh, the California Coast.  My happy place.

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I remember being surprised last year by just how much Juliette loved the ocean.  I also remember how exhausting it was, scooping her up as she darted full-speed toward the water time and again!  She has slightly better judgement now, but still couldn’t resist putting her toes in the foamy tide, laughing hysterically as we chased the waves and they chased us right back.

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This picture was taken right before a wave set off a chain of toddler dominoes, at which point we wrapped our soaked kids in towels and decided to head home for dinner, bath, and bed.

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Our house was just a few blocks from Abbot Kinney, so Intellegentsia coffee seemed like the perfect place to kick-start our Friday.  These two were big fans of the pastry offerings.

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Properly carbed and caffeinated, we drove over to Tongva Park for a romp on the playground.  Juliette immediately set up shop in this big metal egg, inviting Shane and me to place an order at her restaurant window (I recommend the imaginary pizza with broccoli and watermelon on top).

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Interest in the playground quickly waned when the kids heard the sound of running water.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that they probably ran 80 laps in this shallow pool, like little ducks splish-splashing back and forth, back and forth.

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Bird-watching break.

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And then a little boogie.

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What, now?  A spray park?  This just keeps getting better and better!

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I remember taking Juliette down this slide last year – those rollers were a little rough on the rear.  They still are.

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Lunch at Tsujita Ramen followed by dessert at Blockhead has apparently also become something of a tradition.

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That green tea shaved ice is the stuff of dreams!

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Shane, Juliette, and I all piled into bed at naptime – “bed-sharing” with Juliette hasn’t worked well for us in the past, as she prefers to play rather than sleep when we’re around, but water and sun seem to be the magic ticket for a solid crash.  I came to love these afternoon snuggles.

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The Chens had a dinner date with some friends Friday night, so we struck out on our own in search of margaritas and tacos.  Happy Hour at Mercado hit the spot – the carnitas tamales with green sauce were amazing.  We left the restaurant at prime sunset time and Juliette and I jogged the couple blocks to the waterfront while Shane paid the bill and got the car.  Made it!  Barely!

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But jeez, was it windy!

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Juliette and I took a quick walk down the Santa Monica pier and then we called it a day.  A very, very good day.

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Saturday and Sunday were also packed with sand and sun – stay tuned!

It felt so good to pull up to Amanda and Josh’s house on Thursday afternoon, unstrap Jules from her carseat, and tell her she was free to wander through the house, to run through the backyard, to go enjoy the luxury of space after several days in a hotel.  Coincidentally, my dad was in town for work through Friday and was able to pop over that evening for a visit.  Juliette ran right into Grandpa’s arms, as if we’d left their house in La Pine just last week.

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Juliette and Sadie were fast friends – they woke up Friday morning ready to play hard and get dirty.  So dirty.  (Look at those feet!)

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Amanda and I have a ritual of visiting our favorite discount shoe warehouse every time I visit and thought it was time to inaugurate our daughters.  They loved it, pulling shoes off the shelves and strutting down the aisles in sneakers and sandals and bright pink boots.  Girls after our own hearts.

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Turns out Juliette has a flair for flashy footwear.

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Sadie and Jules were attached at the hip throughout the whole day, saying a very tearful goodbye once their bath was over and it was time for them to settle into their separate beds.

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Poor Sadie woke up with the flu on Saturday morning, so Shane and I took Juliette out to Knights Ferry to give her buddy a play break.

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We scaled a few rocks and found a perfect little nook down by the water to get our feet wet.

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I know, the Central Valley isn’t known for it’s beauty, but it has its gems.  This is one of them.

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There’s a beautiful old covered bridge over the river – a perfect RUNway for Juliette.

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Sadie perked up in the afternoon, much to Juliette’s delight.  My delight, too, as I was tired of pushing that car around!

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This girl really doesn’t like to wear clothes.  My word, though, can’t blame her for wanting to show off that belly.

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A few friends came over on Saturday evening for backyard pizza and some quality catching up.

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GIRLS.  Old friends and new!

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Sunday morning was go-time – Sadie and Juliette squeezed in a few more precious moments of playtime, and then we said our sad good-byes.

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Amanda and I remarked over how hard it is to miss watching each other’s daughters grow.  But our girls make these annual visits extra-special, make us feel extra-close as we share in each other’s mothering joys and struggles and anxieties.  Amanda’s so good at getting me, so genuine in her exclamations of, “I know what you mean!”, so wonderful at offering advice without even the slightest twinge of condescension or judgement.  I miss her already.

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Sunday was a long day of travel, but we made it back to Seattle without any major hiccups, thankful for a week free of illness or sleepless nights, a week so full of adventure and beauty and time with friends.

After all the excitement of the museum and the pier, Jules and I were ready on Wednesday for an easy-going day closer to our hotel.  I opened up Google Maps and was happy to see there were two large rectangles of green about a mile up California Street, so we grabbed a breakfast sandwich at Flour & Co and set out for some park-hopping.  First stop: Lafayette Park in Pacific Heights.

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Winding, wooded paths criss-crossed the block – plenty of trees to climb and flowers to smell.

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I resolved not to rush us along and let Juliette move at her own pace.  This meant letting her stop to touch every single sprinkler head along the path.  Twenty minutes later, every fiber of my being was screaming, “LET’S MOVE IT!”, but I held my tongue.

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Finally, her urge to run kicked in.

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We were stoked to find a great playground at the other side of the park and spent an hour exploring the terrain.

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From Lafayette, we walked a few blocks up to Alta Plaza Park – Juliette and I came here last year and I was eager to revisit the super-active playground.  And the view!

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Seriously.  That view.

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After a picnic bench lunch at the park across the street from our hotel, we settled into our room for quiet time.  By this point, I’d given up on calling it naptime, as Juliette doesn’t want to have anything to do with afternoon sleep anymore.  She was pretty good about entertaining herself with books and coloring for about…12 minutes, at which point I’d succumb and let her watch an episode of Curious George while I took a breather.

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We headed out after quiet time to meet up with Shane – Juliette was a champ in the stroller while we were in the city, patiently sitting still while I pushed her up and down Nob Hill several times over.  She loved using her new vocabulary, pointing out motorcycles and flags and green lights.

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I needed a boost and we popped into Bread and Cocoa for a short Americano and a tall milk.  Coffee dates with this kid are my new favorite thing.

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Seeing Shane at the end of the day was always so thrilling – the way Juliette ran into his arms, you’d think he’d been gone for weeks!

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We opted again for an outdoor dinner and grabbed burgers from Super Duper to eat on the lawn at Yerba Buena.  My old friend and college roommate, Brieanne, joined us and we compared notes on motherhood and work and the quest to do it all.

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Juliette was fried by the time we returned to the hotel, as was I, so Shane offered to take care of bath and bedtime while I headed down to the hotel lounge for a glass of Prosecco and some cherished time to myself.

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Shane had a pretty light conference schedule on Thursday, so the three of us ate breakfast together at The Grove and then bopped around for awhile.

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This little plaza off Mission Street contains some of my favorite public art.

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I’ve seen this sculpture a couple of times but didn’t realize it was so “interactive” until Juliette pulled us into it for a 15-minute game of peek-a-boo.

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Shane headed out around 10:00 to catch his morning session while Juliette and I walked over to Rincon Park for one last stint by the Bay.

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And one last visit to the Ferry Building, for a vase from Heath Ceramics and macarons from Miette.

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We ate our treats on our favorite bench, snapped one last pic, and then called a wrap, as it was time to head back to the hotel and pack up our things.  And not a moment too soon – Juliette and I had a really, really great time romping through the city together, but shortly after this photo was taken, she took off running in the wrong direction and smacked me in the face when I scooped her up to put her in the stroller, at which point I had to exercise the utmost self-control not to toss her in the bay.  We were both wearing thin after so much go-go-going.  The museum and the carousel and the countless parks had been a blast, but they had left us exhausted.

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Case in point:

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Thank goodness for a chance to recharge with old friends in mellow Turlock!

Jules and I have been flying solo these past couple of days, as Shane has been busy at his conference.  Chasing a toddler around the city was much easier with a partner, but I’m hanging in there and when I’m not yelling at her to “wait for mama!!!”, we’re having a really great time.

The California Academy of Sciences was at the top of my list of places to take Juliette, so we set out for Golden Gate Park on Monday morning.  First, though, coffee.  I knew I was going to need it.

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We got to the park 45 minutes before the museum opened, so we took a walk through the botanical gardens.  The sprinklers were on and hitting our pathway, but I thought we could dart through them, super-quick, and stay relatively dry.  I was wrong – just as I barreled down the path, another sprinkler rotated just-so and drenched us.  Jules was a good sport about it, but my hair was not so forgiving.  Oops.

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We headed back toward the museum and found a sunny bench where we could finish drying out, while taking in the view of that beautiful De Young.

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Our first stop inside the Academy of Sciences was the rainforest – parrots squawked from tree branches while butterflies fluttered overhead.  A few of the butterflies fluttered a little too close to Juliette’s face and sent her running to my arms, but she eventually loosened up and was taken up in the magic of the place.

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From the rainforest, we descended down into the aquarium for some serious fish-gazing.  This was a hit – Juliette has just started to master her colors and loved pointing out the orange fish, the yellow one, the blue one, the purple one…so many fish.

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We took a quick spin through Africa after the aquarium, but hit the road just as Juliette was threatening to climb into the zebra exhibit.

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We grabbed lunch at a little cafe near the park and then caught the N train back toward our hotel.  Jules was wearing a little thin by the time we rolled up to our stop…

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And then this happened, 10 feet from our door.  Can’t.  Walk.  Any.  Further…

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We spent a couple of hours recharging in our room and then headed down to Yerba Buena to meet up with Shane for dinner.  Juliette was back on her game by this point, running and running and running.  And running.

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We chowed down on Indian takeout at the park and then called it a day and headed back to our hotel.  I love being on Nob Hill – the climb is brutal, but the views are amazing.

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We kicked off Tuesday morning with coffee at Blue Bottle and treats from Frog Hollow at the Ferry Building.  Gosh, that Ferry Building – I find something new and delicious every time we go there.

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Plus, the wide open hall is perfect for…running!  (Notice a theme here?)

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We strolled along the waterfront after breakfast, stopping every 10 piers or so to look at the boats or go for a quick jog or play a game of peek-a-boo behind the lamp posts.

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Finally, we made it up to Pier 39 to see what the sea lions were up to.  They were out in full force, active and loud and so fun to watch.

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I took Juliette here last year and she just stared at the docks blankly, unimpressed by the action.  But yesterday I could hardly tear her away from them, as she arf-arfed back at them and exclaimed, “look at that one, mama!  splash!”.

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Fisherman’s Wharf has always felt like a giant tourist trap to me – it’s not high on Shane’s and my list of San Francisco hot spots.  But dang, the look on her face when she saw those horses.  I couldn’t resist.

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Jules was pretty heartbroken when the ride stopped spinning and she was asked to say goodbye to her shiny plastic zebra.  This is where the responsible mom would calmly explain that the ride was over and that whining afterwards can take away the fun.  Or, you could just distract your kid with a trip to the candy store!  I gave Jules a bucket and let her wander down the rows of taffy barrels, telling her she could pick out a few pieces.  She picked out about 50 pieces (and I put 40 of them back when she wasn’t looking – I’m not that much of a pushover!).  We shared a piece on the bench outside the store and then I hid the rest away in the bottom of my backpack.  This girl on a sugar high?  I feared for my sanity.

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I strapped Jules back into the stroller and we made our way toward the hotel, stopping at Washington Square Park to eat our lunch and have a go on the swings.  She constantly insists “higher!  faster!  higher!” – this is probably as high as it goes, baby.

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We “rested” (I use that term loosely – stubborn kid is on a nap strike!) in our room and then met up with Shane to catch a ride over to the Mission for dinner.  We picked up burritos and took them to Dolores Park to eat on the lawn with all the champagne-sipping, guitar-playing hipsters.

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Jules looks a little out of place, doesn’t she?

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But the playground there!  Now we’re talkin’!  It’s amazing – tons of places to climb and swing and slide while enjoying a great view of the city.

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Jules and I turned in early last night while Shane went out to party with his fellow techies – sun and strolling and swinging had us both beat.  We’re rockin’ this city.

When Shane told me that he’d be going to San Francisco again for his annual VMware conference, there was a moment of pause in deciding whether or Juliette and I should join him.  But it was a brief moment of pause – forget about last year’s trip, with it’s plague of roseola and sleepless nights in the hotel!  I’d be danged if I was going to turn down a chance to spend a few days in one of my favorite cities, even with all the challenges that come with bringing our feisty, unpredictable extra baggage.  Let’s do this!

We left Seattle yesterday morning and landed in SF after an exhausting day of travel.  A two-hour flight should be no big deal, but when you factor in security lines and waiting at the gate and waiting in the plane while other passengers board and runway taxi time at both ends and waiting for baggage and getting from the airport to the hotel and checking into your room, you’re looking at about six hours of desperately trying to keep your toddler quiet and entertained.  Six hours of asking, with increasing levels of panic, “Do you want your new coloring book?  Do you want pretzels?  Do you want to play with mama’s phone?  Do you want dried mangoes?  Do you want to look out the window?  Do you want pretzels?  Please, just EAT SOME PRETZELS AND BE STILL!”.  Ok, I’ve dramatized the journey a little, and Juliette did pretty well, but it wasn’t without a great deal of effort on Shane’s and my part.   We were beat by the time we unlocked the door of our room at the Fairmont.  We unpacked a few things, laid down for about three minutes, and then headed back out, because Juliette was plum full of energy after sitting all day!  Thankfully, we found ourselves a boost in the form of margaritas and carnitas tacos at Tacolicious.

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Best-looking kids meal I’ve ever seen.

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We took a spin around Washington Square Park after dinner to burn off those last few wiggles.

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It worked.

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We headed back to our hotel, soaking in that marvelous San Francisco golden hour.

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Hotel living can feel extra-tight with a kid in tow, but it has its perks – I can lay in bed while keeping an eye on Jules during bathtime!

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Juliette hit the hay hard after just a couple of books.  She conked out around 7:30 and I wasn’t far behind her.

After a solid night’s sleep, we set out this morning in search of breakfast.  We walked down California Street, stopping to enjoy each glimpse of the water, and eventually landed at the Ferry Building.

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We spent awhile enjoying the waterfront (and a Blue Bottle Americano) while we waited for Il Cane Rosso to open for the day.

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We eventually landed a couple of killer breakfast sandwiches and an outdoor table.  The makings of a perfect Sunday.

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After breakfast, we headed across the street to the Sue Bierman playground.  Spin, swing, slide, repeat.

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We spent the afternoon at the Giants game – again, there was pause in deciding whether or not Jules would be up for it, but c’mon!  It’s the Giants.  And Juliette ended up being a champ through the whole thing.  We had to vacate our seats a couple of times to let her run laps around the club level, but there were periods when she actually seemed interested in the game, shouting “Hit it, Buster!” as each player stepped up to the plate and gasping with excitement as each foul ball sailed into the stands.  She’s a fan!  And I’m over the moon about it.

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Speaking of being over the moon, do you know that on Sundays kids get to go down to the field and run the bases?!  How fortuitous!  Skipped nap be damned, we were doin’ it.  Shane might have been even more thrilled than Jules.  The sight of the two of them, rounding third at AT&T – I’ll remember that forever.

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(She was so proud of herself.)

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(Crazy proud.)

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We snapped a couple last photos and then shouted “Bye bye baseball!”.  What. A. Day.

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Shane and I were again pooped by 5 pm, so we kept dinner easy and picked up a pizza and salad to eat at the park across the street from our hotel.  Juliette ran around the playground, a regular Energizer Bunny.  I’m in denial over the fact that she seems not to need an afternoon nap anymore.

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One last go on the slide (seven times), and then we headed back to our room.  Juliette went to bed with very little protest, Shane headed out for drinks with some friends, and I made myself a cup of tea, watched a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls on the iPad while going through photos, and put together this post, so thankful for the quiet.  But also thankful for a day full of running and clapping and laughing.  This trip is off to a pretty grand start.

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Saturday brought more sun and temps approaching 80 degrees, so we grabbed our beach towel and sunscreen and headed out to grab some rays.  But first, breakfast at M Street Kitchen.

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(Please, Mama, can I have pancakes and syrup, light on the pancakes, heavy on the syrup?)

We spent the rest of the morning at Annenberg Beach House, melting into our lounge chairs while Juliette ran wild in the splash park.  Dude, this girl loves water.

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I went for a run while Shane put a tuckered-out Jules down for a nap and then hydrated with a bottle of bubbly on our house’s patio.  Perfecto.

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Juliette woke up pink-cheeked and crazy-haired and came out to join me.  Those arms!  I’ve missed seeing them these past few months.

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We packed up our things and then spent an hour strolling down the 3rd Street promenade, stopping every few minutes to watch the street performers and share a fro-yo.  Since we were so close to Tongva Park, and since Juliette had such a blast there the day before, we popped over for another go at the playground.

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Soon it was beach:30, so we made our way to the sand, armed with pail and shovel, and settled in for another sunset.

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She makes me so damn happy.  I love to be able to return the favor.

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A breeze kicked up as the sun went down and Juliette wanted nothing more than to crawl into papa’s lap and snuggle.  It took about 37 laps up and down the shore, but we had finally worn this girl out!

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I sighed as we watched the sun drop behind the horizon, sad to see our final evening in Santa Monica come to a close.  Shane consoled me by volunteering to go pick up burgers and shakes from In-N-Out for dinner while I put Juliette to bed.  Yes, please!  We wolfed down our takeout and then I fell asleep on the couch at 8:00, exhausted in the most satisfying way.

We didn’t need to head to the airport until late morning on Sunday, so we swung by the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market for awhile to eat breakfast and let Jules get her pre-flight wiggles out.  She was a big fan of the folk band that was playing there, knee-slapping and hand-clapping along with the beat.

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And then, too soon, it was time to head to LAX and make the trek back to Seattle.  Juliette did alright on the flight, squirming a bit through the first half, but eventually passing out in my arms.  And then, we were home.  Home sweet home, where we don’t have to worry about getting a sunburn or dumping the sand out of our shoes (I’m doing my best to look on the bright side here).

Thanks, Santa Monica, for treating us right!  See you next winter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One last jog, before heading out…

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

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Stay tuned for days 3 and 4!