Archive for the ‘cali’ Category

Ok, this is it gang – the final installment of our California adventures and then we’ll get on with business of May (since tomorrow is JUNE!)…

We spent Friday morning at Liberty Public Market, a large food hall near the airport packed with vendors selling tacos and macarons and fresh-squeezed juices.  Juliette and I grabbed a latte and a steamer and wandered around while munching on a flaky croissant.  We each carefully selected our treats – a meat empanada for Shane, a bag of radioactive-colored popcorn for Juliette, and a dainty pair of gold earrings for me!  Score, score, score.

We left the market late morning and headed up to Del Mar to claim our lunch reservations at Poseidon.  First, though, a few beach sprints:

I opened the stopwatch on my phone and stretched out on a towel while Juliette spent several minutes seeing if she could dart to the water’s edge and back in less than 30 seconds (she could!).

The patio at Poseidon was the perfect place to sip Bloody Mary’s and chow down on Cioppino (or Sprite and coconut shrimp for the little track star).

The afternoon was a lazy blur of napping and puzzling back at the house.  We headed to La Jolla Cove again in the evening to wander around the tide pools and hunt for crabs.

Anenomes!

We took the steps down to our favorite little stretch of beach and played some whiffle ball, since the water was feeling particularly chilly that evening.

I mean, this little beach.  COME ON!

We joined a crowd of people to watch this guy propose to his girlfriend on a petal-strewn bluff (spoiler:  she said yes), then grabbed dinner in town and called it a night.

We took our time packing up on Saturday morning, reluctant to leave our cozy cottage.  I put the final pieces in the 80% brown puzzle I’d been working on all week while Juliette finished up the surf shop Lego set she’d scored on Thursday.  Ta-daaaa!

We drove over to University Heights for brunch at Madison, an uber-cool restaurant opened and owned by one of Shane’s high school buddies.  The charcoal mimosa was…interesting, the breakfast tacos were spot-on, and the waffle churros were a definite crowd pleaser.

We had a few hours before our evening flight, so we went down to Mission Beach for one last fix.  The water was every shade of aqua down here!

We had left all of the beach toys and towels back at the AirBnB, so we made do with games of “bury Mama’s feet in the sand” and “see how big a hole you can dig”.

Plus, more sprints.

 

Hot damn, beach life suits you, kiddo.

We snapped one last family pic, stopped for acai bowls on the way to the airport, and then called it a wrap.  I want to say I was ready to get home, but…not so much.  Not yet.

It’s hard to put into words just how happy I was during these few days with my two favorites.  Not only during the spectacular ocean-view sunsets or the thrilling roller-coaster rides, but in those simple moments, when we all doubled over with laughter at lunch because of Juliette’s impression of Shane, in which she squints her eyes and scratches her armpits and talks in a super-low voice.  I loved our nightly hot tub ritual, where we played animal charades and recounted our favorite parts of the day and watched clouds pass in front of the nearly-full moon.  It felt so good to have Juliette crawl into bed with us at 2 am and ask me to snuggle her close.   I’m so thankful for this little family of mine, for a chance to unplug and reconnect and be reminded that life is exceedingly, heart-achingly good.

We took a break from the regularly-scheduled beach programming on Thursday to check out Legoland in nearby Carlsbad.  The three of us walked into the theme park right as the gates opened, not entirely sure what to expect.  I mean, it seemed pretty likely that Juliette would have a blast, but neither Shane nor I are big theme park people – we don’t have any magical childhood memories of Disneyland, no inclination toward twirly rides or elephant ears.  We don’t like big crowds and aren’t particularly patient when it comes to lines.  The things we do for the ones we love…here goes nothin’!

Our inner scrooges were quieted when we breezed through the first line and witnessed Juliette’s utter delight during a mellow boat cruise through fairytale land, where Little Red Riding Hood is made of thousands of Legos.

We moved onto the merry-go-round and then Juliette zipped around in a little car and cozied up to a bunch of life-size Lego figures – she was digging this place.

Then we got on “Captain Cranky’s Challenge”, a ship that swings and turns like a speeding, giant pendulum.  Juliette laughed wildly through the whole thing.  Our little thrill-seeker!

We hit a couple more rides, scarfed down some pizza, and then took a break from the lines to stroll through Miniland USA.  The New Orleans replica, complete with a jazz parade, was my favorite.

We were pretty weary by mid-afternoon and decided to end on a high note, with a whirl on the Coastersaurus.  The ride was short, but the joy was BIG.

Thanks, Legoland.  We’ll be back!  (Ok, let’s be real – probably not.  But you were fun!)

Juliette and I napped together back at the house (which I enjoyed almost as much as the Coastersaurus!) and then we made the quick trip up to La Jolla Cove for some sunset beach play.  I tell you, I could watch this girl splash in the ocean for hours.  One of my top five favorite pastimes.  Maybe top three?

 

Ok, top ONE!  It’s times like this that I really get a glimpse of the world through her eyes – the wonder and joy and beauty of it all.  I mean, clearly this place is gorgeous, but Juliette has this way of engaging with the places she’s in, rather than just observing.  I’m trying to do more of that.

I’m falling for San Diego awfully hard – while I love the wide-open stretches of beach at Santa Monica, these little coves are pretty magical.

After we’d packed up our towels and buckets, we walked down to the beach at Children’s Pool to perch over the aqua waters and check out the lazy sea lions.

 

We dined on pasta at a little patio in La Jolla before hopping into the hot tub for our nightly wind-down.  This, folks, is the good life…

I’ve been traveling to San Diego every other week for the past few months for a project I’m working on, but had yet to let Shane and Juliette in on the fun (though having to look at the ocean through a conference room window?  not so fun!).  And so we booked ourselves a few days at an AirBNB in La Jolla for a mid-April no-work, all-play dose of sunshine.

We landed in SD on a Tuesday afternoon and high-tailed it from the airport to In-N-Out.  Ahhhh, tastes like Cali!

We settled into our cozy little La Jolla cottage and quickly raided their selection of lawn toys.

Gosh I love you, Jules.

We popped over to La Jolla Shores, just a few blocks away, to check out the sand scene.  Despite the clouds and the cold Pacific waters, we ran and splashed and lived our best beach lives.

From the moment the first waves lapped at her toes, she was all grins.

Should have worn my swimsuit…  Or shorts, at least!

After months of Facetiming Juliette from SD, it felt so good to have her there with me.

We grabbed tacos at Puesto and then walked down to La Jolla Cove to visit the sea lions.

They were out in full force that evening, lounging and barking and scooting around the rocks.

Juliette and Shane rented an electric scooter and bopped around while I got in a short walk.

The evening winds picked up and Shane had left his sweatshirt at the house, so we quickly called it a night and jetted back to our abode for a warm-up in the hot tub.

When I saw the sky turn pink, I couldn’t resist – I threw on a sweatshirt and jogged over to the beach to catch the day’s last rays while Shane got Juliette ready for bed.  This. Is. Vacation.

Wednesday was all about taking it slow – Juliette and I strolled over to the café mid-morning and sipped our steamer and latte while Shane went for a jog.  Shane joined us for an iced Chai, and then we grabbed a stack of towels and a pile of sand toys and drove down to Coronado Beach.

I had heard that the sand on this beach sparkles, but was still struck by how legitimately golden it is.  Bling!

We splashed around and hunted for shells and reapplied sunscreen on 30-minute intervals.  Juliette and I burned the soles of our feet on the dry, hot sand when heading back to the car.  #beachproblems.

We ate lunch in Little Italy and then spent some time walking and scootering around Balboa Park.  I’d love to come back and spend a full day here – we barely brushed the surface, but did spend quite awhile working on our hula hoop game.

He’s a man of so many talents.

We walked into the Botanical Building eight minutes before closing time, but managed to smell a few flowers and snap a few pics.

Energized by all that Vitamin D, I squeezed in a pre-dinner jog – it was an uphill slog through Scripps but I was generously rewarded with this view.

We spent the evening back at La Jolla Shores.  Juliette and I both donned our swimsuits and spent an hour jumping waves, letting the water lap at our legs and waists, then darting toward shore as higher, chest-high waves chased us down.  There was a moment when she looked up at me, breathless and wind-blown, and gasped, “This is SO FUN, Mama!”  I know, sweet girl.  I KNOW.  Juliette’s taught me more than I ever knew I had to learn about living my best life.

To infinity and beyooooond!

It was past bedtime when we returned to our cottage, shivering and sandy, but…hot tub!  Perfect end to a perfect day.

And now, the final installment of our California adventures!  Friday may have been my favorite day – all beach, all sun, ALL DAY.  The restorative power of Vitamin D is real, people!

We tossed our beach towels and sand toys into the car first thing in the morning, stopped at Rose Cafe for coffee and avocado toast, and headed toward Malibu.

This area was new to us and well worth the 30-minute drive – the rugged shores of El Matador State Beach were a fun contrast to the wide-open sand-for-miles beaches of Santa Monica.

I hadn’t even finished spreading out our towels before Juliette had her toes in the water.

Ahhh, the return of the Giants hat!  A welcome change from the knitted purple beanie Juliette’s been donning for months!

Shane, with his eagle eyes, spotted some kind of creature doing circles way off-shore.

Is that a shark fin in the distance?!

Juliette recently checked out We’re Going On A Bear Hunt from the library and was desperately hoping to find a great big bear in this cave, but alas…

Just a papa bear.

She zig-zagged all over that beach, returning to Shane and I every few minutes to pull us out the water’s edge or to look at a sea anemone she’d discovered tucked into a big rock.

“Mama, come!  COME!”

The bestest of buddies…

Her body says she’s tuckered out, but her eyes say otherwise…

I know, I know, STOP with the Juliette pictures!  Gah, though!  The faces on this girl.

Photo cred for this one of Shane goes to Juliette, who’s become alarmingly adept with the iPhone camera.

After our adventurous morning, we were happy to spend the rest of the afternoon just chilling out at the house.  Juliette did some rock art on the patio…

And Shane popped open a bottle of bubbly.

We picked up a hefty watermelon on our first day in town and Juliette gobbled her way through most of it.  Gosh, it’s been too long since I’ve seen this girl’s shoulders, seen fruit juice dribble down her chin.

We started feeling the magnetic pull of the beach around 5:00.  Resistance is futile.

Juliette was very into her version of beach volleyball during our time at the house, so her mind was blown when she saw the real thing in action.

And then, in an instant, she looked over at the water and was off like a dart.

I think I have enough photos for a full-wall series titled, “Dad and Girl at Ocean’s Edge”.

Happy Schnells:

Photo cred (and composition) for this one also goes to Juliette.  The kid’s got an eye, I think:

This last sunset made my heart hurt just a little – I could have used a few more days of this…

Our flight back to Seattle on Saturday wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so we had time in the morning to soak up a few last rays.  Juliette and I took a walk around the neighborhood in search of our dream bungalow.  We found about seventeen of them.

THESE SIDEWALKS!

We popped into the grocery store for a Kombucha and a very expensive (but very delicious) green smoothie.

With T minus four hours to flight time, we packed our bags and said good-bye our sweet little home away from home.  Juliette whined as we climbed into the car, “But I want to stay here forever!”

Thankfully, I had just the thing up my sleeve to cheer her up:

It was particularly warm that day, so I figured we’d check out the splash pad at Alondra Park to cool off and get the pre-flight wiggles out.  Juliette was timid at first, not wanting to expose herself to more than a few drops of water.  To be fair, she’s a little out of practice in the art of spray-parking.

Soon, though, she got the hang of it.

This photo makes me wish for the onset of summer in Seattle with the desperation of a thousand suns…

Eventually, we had to say our all-too-soon farewell to California and board our plane.  Kudos to Shane for pulling Juliette out of her post-vacation melancholy with an exuberant game of thumb wrestling.  This left me free to wail, “But I don’t wannnnna leave!”

Adios, Cali.  You were just what we needed, with your passion fruit donuts and 80-degree days.  We’ll catch you next Spring.

Thursday was another gloriously sunny day and while we were tempted to set up camp at the beach, we decided instead to break out of our idyllic Santa Monica bubble and check out some of LA’s other offerings (after grabbing coffee at tried-and-true Blue Bottle on Abbot Kinney).

We found ourselves at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art mid-morning – we haven’t done the grownup museum thing with Juliette before and decided to give it a go, since we heard LACMA was pretty kid-friendy.  This forest of lampposts was certainly a hit!

And once inside, we breezed right past a beautiful Matisse and landed squarely in the middle of the children’s painting room.  Once again, it’s all about Jules…

Although truth be told, she’s one of my favorite artists!

We wandered back outside once Juliette had finished her masterpieces and let her run circles around this Calder.

She got a kick out of throwing pennies into the fountain, begging for more coins to “make them wash” (the concept of “make a wish” was lost on her).

Finally, we made it over to the contemporary collection, which was incredible.  And incredibly stressful with a three year-old in tow!  It’s hard to trust a kid that age not to put their sticky paws on a multi-million dollar painting – I felt like I spent much of our time there asking Juliette not to stand so close and not to touch anything and not to run and not, not, not…we might NOT be ready for the big-time museums just yet.  That said, Shane did camp out on a bench with her for a bit so that I could spend some time with Dubuffet and Motherwell.

One more lap around the lampposts, and then we sprinted right out of there in search of lunch.

We chowed down on tacos and slurped mondo margaritas at Sonorities…

And then, because it’s a must any time we’re in LA, shaved ice at Blockheads.  Their green tea shaved ice with mochi and a drizzle of condensed milk is the dessert of my dreams.

All three of us dreamed sweetly that afternoon, taking a big ol’ family nap in our big ol’ king-sized bed.  Rested and refreshed, we were back out again in the evening to Tongva Park, which is another Santa Monica staple.  Juliette has bumped down this roller slide for three years running.

I asked Shane if he was up for walking to the pier, which is so not his thing, what with the crowds and the noise and the tourist shops, but he obliged, because he’s the best dad ever.

Juliette pleaded with us to take her on the roller coaster, but it looked a little fast even for me, so we settled on a few whirls around the wheel, which ended up thrilling her to no end.

Each time we hit the bottom and then headed back up Juliette looked over at me with a gleam in her eyes.  “Again, Mommy?!  I’m so exciting!”

Alas, all good things must come to an end…

By the time we’d wrapped up our tour of the pier, we were in prime golden time, so, of course…

Sayonara, sun.  I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

We’ve been talking about our April trip to California with Juliette for a few weeks now and while it was fun to see the anticipation build, we eventually grew weary of hearing her ask, “When will it be vacaaaaaation time?”  So it was awfully fun to walk into her room last Tuesday morning and tell her we were finally heading to the airport; when I said “Let’s go to Santa Monica!”, she literally started applauding (truth be told, she was clapping because she thought I meant we were going to meet Santa, but never mind).

We made it through the Lightrail-Airplane-Rental Shuttle shuffle smoothly, tossed our bags in our minivan, and hightailed it to In-N-Out for our requisite welcome burger.  We checked into our cozy bungalow in Venice mid-afternoon, peeled off our long sleeves, and settled in.  We had arrived!  Juliette found a beachball in the yard and Shane taught her the art of the volleyball spike while I sat on the patio, feeling my shoulders go from white to pink.

Make yourself at home, Jules!

We drove over to the beach in the evening – Juliette was pulling off her shoes and squirming excitedly before we’d even parked.  This is so much better than Santa Claus, isn’t it, kiddo?

Shane and Juliette quickly assumed what would become their typical stance for the week:  hands held, surf lapping at their toes.

Shane and I stretched out while Juliette ran circles around us, flapping her arms like a seagull, jumping and spinning until she collapsed on the sand in a fit of hysterics.  No doubt, the beach has incredible happy-making powers for this girl.

She quickly soaked her first set of clothes and changed into the spare I was so glad I’d packed.  And then, to tempt fate, back to the water’s edge…

We went back to the house to hose the sand off of Juliette and I headed out for a run.  In the evening!  In a tank top!  Springtime in Cali is so so good.

Wednesday was bright and sunny – perfect weather for strolling down Abbot Kinney in search of donuts and coffee.  Mission: accomplished.

This street is almost painfully hip, with its urban art and vegan cafes and handmade wares.  I’m not sure we fit in there.

(Actually, Juliette totally fit in there.)

After dragging a disappointed Juliette out of a children’t boutique that sold $50 rag dolls, we headed over to Will Rogers State Park for a leisurely hike up to Inspiration Point.

Juliette was totally enamored with this horse named Lily, thrilled to pieces when she was invited to get up close and give that lovely mane a few pats.

And lizards!  So many lizards!

Hungry and hot, we drove over to True Food Kitchen for a veggie-packed lunch – it felt good to follow up that morning’s Blue Star donut with a big kale salad.

Juliette was too amped up to settle down for a nap when we got back to the house, so we agreed she could do an hour of “quiet time” in her room with her books and colored pencils.  She lasted indoors for all of…ten minutes.  The pull of warm sun and cool grass was just too much to bear.

We grabbed tacos and margaritas at Casalinda for dinner and then found ourselves back at the beach, just in time for the glory of the golden hour.

Juliette reminds me of one of those little birds that skitters along the tide’s edge, so fast and light on her feet that she hardly makes footprints in the sand.

Oh, Santa Monica.  COME ON.


Cheers to days 1 and 2 in our happy place!

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!