Archive for the ‘pacific nw’ Category

It’s hard living so far from Shane’s family, particularly since we had Juliette, so we were all pretty pumped Grandma and Grandpa rolled into town a couple of weeks ago.  Welcome, Schnells!

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Beloved Uncle Doug and Aunt Val are in the process of moving to Washington and were also in town for the week, so we all convened at Frelard Pizza to celebrate Biz’s birthday.

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Last Thursday we high-tailed it out of busy Seattle and set out for a couple of low-key days on Whidbey Island.  Nothing puts me in vacation-mode faster than a ferry ride.

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My little seagull…

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We docked mid-morning and drove over to Useless Bay in Langley for lunch.  The sun was trying awfully hard to break through those clouds!

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We got settled at the house and then Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa in hopes that the sun would make a full appearance for our walk at Ebey’s Landing.  TA-DA!

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Green and blue for dayyyyyyyys…

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We made good time on our 3-mile “hike” and then headed back to the house to soak up the day’s last rays on the deck.  We saw an eagle bobbing in the water below and then watched it awkwardly paddle on-shore, wondering if it was injured.  Turns out it had a full-sized duck gripped in its talons!

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It was like an episode of National Geographic, watching that ferocious eagle tear into its prey.  And mid-meal, another one swooped down to finish the job!

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To quote Denny, “God Bless America…”

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A third eagle spent much of the afternoon perched in a tree just over the deck.  After seeing what that first eagle did to that duck, I understand Juliette’s slightly concerned expression.

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We put our binoculars away and Jules and I took a happy hour dip in the hot tub, which has become our new favorite vay-cay pastime.

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We cracked open a bottle of bubbly and then feasted on takeout from Toby’s for dinner – the Penn Cove mussels we ordered were freshly plucked from the very water we overlooked!

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Bellies full, we hopped in the car and made the short drive back over to Ebey’s Landing to catch the sunset.

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That lovely blue foam lapping over those shiny smooth stones is just so…Whidbey.

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We closed out the day with marshmallows roasted in the outdoor fireplace at the house, watching the sky fade from pink to gray.

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What a DAY.

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Friday was gray and cool, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the outdoors and drove up to Deception Pass to walk in the woods and romp on the beach.

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Juliette rock-hunted with intense focus, enamored with each purple stone she found.

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Skip it, stud.

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Such joy, this kid.

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The wind eventually drove us back into our cars, but you can’t leave Deception Pass without a quick stroll across on the bridge.

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Val and Elizabeth joined us for lunch at the house and then we all walked down to the beach to enjoy the day’s last few rain-free minutes.  The seafood scene was serious down there – check out the size of that oyster!

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And this cluster of mussels!

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We drove into “downtown” Coupeville for ice cream and spent the rest of the rainy day cozied up inside, playing Mancala and Bingo.  And Mancala.  And Bingo.

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And then Shane busted out the 200-piece puzzle sitting on the shelf.  Bold move, Schnell!  But we put that baby together in record time (minus one heartbreaking missing piece…).

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Despite the evening drizzle, Denny got a rip-roaring fire going and we closed out the day with roasted mallows once again.  Props to Grandma for packing graham crackers!

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Saturday was also wet, so we flipped on the fireplace when we woke up and got down to business with colored pencils and hot tea.

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I jetted out for a jog during a short break in the rain and was reminded how much I love these wide open spaces.

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Juliette and I took a final dip in the hot tub, spent a few minutes gazing out at our beloved cove, and then…that always-dreaded check-out time.

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We eased our check-out woes with coffee and cinnamon rolls at Knead and Feed before heading to the ferry.

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We’ve always walked right past the 1000-piece puzzles spread out on the ferry tables, but Juliette was feeling extra-confident after the previous day’s bonanza.  Girl’s got skills now!

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Whidbey for the win, always.  That island never ever disappoints.

After a round of teary-eyed hugs on Sunday morning, Denny and Pat hit the long road back to Minnesota.  Juliette spent the rest of the day asking when Grandma and Grandpa are coming back.  Not soon enough, kiddo!  Not soon enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This icicle just about blew her mind!

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

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

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Our morning stroll to the breakfast buffet…

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

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

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Magic, I tell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adios, Leavenworth.  Muchas gracias.

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

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This is a porch view I could get used to.

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

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

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

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LaV has a knack for the action shots:

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

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

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“Daddy’s back!  Daddy’s back!”

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

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

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Magic, I tell ya’.

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

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

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

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

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

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We were tired.

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

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

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Biggest pumpkin ever!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I LOVE THIS GUY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We grabbed breakfast and beverages at North Town Coffee…

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

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

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These rows between the vines were the perfect racetrack.

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Seriously, SO GOOD!

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

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

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And soccer!

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This might be one of my all-time favorites:

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

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And all the grapes a girl could eat.

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I could have happily done another few rounds, but…

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

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A snack with a view…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not a bad back-up plan!

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

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

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

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Cheers to a very promising start to year 35!

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

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

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

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

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I spy Shane and Jules…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hey, buddy!

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

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I want one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And one more Sisters latte!

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

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

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

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Morgan and Jules enjoyed a little downtime before dinner…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Found it.

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

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

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

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So we caved.  Ice cream for the win!

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

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

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But she lays it on so dang thick!

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

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

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

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

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

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She could have fed those fish for hours.

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When we ran out of quarters, Shane got thrifty!

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

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

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Juliette looks a little concerned, doesn’t she?

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That’s better.

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

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Digging his new aviators…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These girls may have had one too many beers…

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

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

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See you on the flip side, hon!

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

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

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She dug it.

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So did I.

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

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That wink!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She’s a great first mate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I really can’t get enough of this camping thing – it’s like a whole new world of week-ending has opened up to us.  The fresh air!  The campfires!  The…nostalgia!  (Yes, that’s me!)

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We set out Friday morning for Tinkham, a small campground on the Snoqualmie River just 45 minutes from home.  We staked our claim on the last two open sites and Shane got to work setting up the tent.  Meanwhile, Jules got to work harvesting huckleberries.

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We drove into North Bend around lunchtime to drop off Shane for a bike ride with the guys.  I couldn’t resist the lure of Scott’s Dairy Freeze.  But giving a soft-serve cone to a toddler on an 85-degree day?  Not my wisest choice.  This girl was stick-y!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon down by the river near camp, cooling our feet and throwing rocks.

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Shane and Jason made it back from their ride and forded the river with the kids, sunning themselves on the rocks like a troop of turtles.

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We cooked burgers over the campfire for dinner and capped of the evening with s’mores.  I’ve become pretty accomplished at preparing a meal with a roll of tin foil and an open flame!

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While dining in the great outdoors, pants are optional.

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Since this was our first completely rain-free camping trip, we decided to forego the rain fly and enjoy the view of the trees above.  It was such a treat to wake up to a canopy of green!

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I love Saturday mornings at camp, sipping coffee in the slight morning chill and lingering over a leisurely breakfast.

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We eventually changed out of our pajamas and drove over to Lost Lake to spread out our blankets and munch on our snacks.

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Our friends Lloyd and Viv brought their dog, Harper, and Juliette was smitten.  All weekend long, it was, “Harrrrrperrrrr, where arrrrrrre you?   Harper, come please!  HARPER!  COME!”

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Juliette volunteered to keep her baby warm when the wind picked up.

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Cheeeeeeese!

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Shane and Juliette dozed in the afternoon while I drank coffee with Nance and then took a stroll through the woods near our site.

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It was right around this point that I decided:  we’re never moving.  “Peace on earth” can feel so unattainable when you’re in the vortex of news feeds and social media and daily to-do’s, but gosh, this was certainly the quiet oasis I’d been craving.

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Jules and Shane had awakened from their 2-hour slumber when I got back to camp, so we walked back over to the river to soak in the warm, early evening light.

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Rocks.  They never get old!

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Meanwhile, the boys stood sentry at our site.  Who goes there?!

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We ate another campfire meal and then…s’mores.  Of course.  Juliette doesn’t know yet that a true s’more contains chocolate, as she’s thrilled with just the mallow and graham cracker.  Before this summer is over, kiddo, I’ll let you in on the secret.  Prepare to have your mind blown.

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We stayed up late on Saturday, playing a version of truth or dare that involved a jump-kick contest, some serious soul-baring, a little bit of awkwardness, and a lot of laughter.

Sunday morning was gorgeous and warm, so we put off breaking down camp and lingered by the river.

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The Rusts shared a zen family moment…

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Jules played with rocks (seriously, who needs Legos and blocks and Magna-tiles?!)…

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And then the guys set off on a ride to North Bend.  Catch you soon, fellas!

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Since I had some time to kill before meeting Shane at the end of his route, Jules and I headed to Bybee Nims with Nance and the boys to do some blueberry picking.

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Juliette was an exceptionally focused harvester, diligently picking only the bluest, plumpest berries.

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Ok, can we talk for a minute about how sweet these two are together?  You are killing me, kids!

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Photo cred for this one goes to Gryff!

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Five pounds of berries later, we were ready to head out and meet up with Shane and Jason.

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It was like our very own miniature version of the Tour de France, watching these two roll up while the kids cheered excitedly.

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Josh and Lloyd were right behind them.  I’m so thankful that Shane has buddies he can bike for hours with (Lord knows I can’t hang!).

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One last pic by the river, and then we jetted home, eager to unpack and shower and have someone else prepare dinner for us (thanks, Tutta Bella!).  Civilization has its perks.

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Shane and I aren’t the spontaneous type.  Never have been, really, and since we had Juliette, we’re even less likely to leave Seattle without at least ten days of careful planning.  But when Jason and Nancy asked us on Friday night if we wanted to head to the coast with them the next day for an overnight trip, we threw caution to the wind and said YES!  Somehow, in the 11 years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen Washington’s view of the Pacific Ocean.  We rolled into Westport shortly after noon and spread out our blanket on the sand at Half Moon Bay.

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Jason recently took up kite boarding and was eager to capitalize on the wind (I was thrilled just to feel the warm, soft sand between my toes).

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As we watched Jason zig-zag across the bay, Shane asked Nance, “Did you see that thing splash in the water out there?”.

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Indeed, there was some sort of water-borne creature circling the bay.  Something with a big flat fin and a long gray body.   After conferring with Google and some nearby beach-combers, we were pretty sure we were seeing a gray whale!  Wild.

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See that splash?  See Jason obliviously galavanting about the water?  This was the moment when Nance started yelling and waving her arms, motioning him to please come back to the safety of dry land!

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He came in for a bit, but was back at it once the waters had quieted…

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Isaiah scampered around the driftwood fort…

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And these two settled in for a snuggle.  Juliette has fallen into the role of Gryff’s sometimes-sweet, sometimes-completely-annoying kid sister.  She hardly let this guy out of her site throughout the entire weekend.  Whenever Gryff would try to break away for a moment of peace, Juliette would beg, “Gryff!  Hold my hand!”, at which point he would just sigh and say, “Oh, Ju-Ju…” and let her tag along.  He’s a softie, that kid.

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Ahhhh, ocean!  We’ve missed you!

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I see you, Bups!

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We checked into our condo late in the afternoon and scoped out the view from the living room and deck.

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There was a beautiful ocean-front paved path just steps from our condo, so I took Jules out for a walk in the stroller, hoping she’d grab a much-needed cat nap.

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She did!

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We spent the evening at the condo’s pool, swimming and jumping and hot-tubbing.

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We ate burgers on the deck and promptly sent the kiddos to bed – they were tuckered out.

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While Shane patted Jules to sleep, I snuck away for a sunset walk.

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That PNW beach wind makes for some awfully lovely terrain.

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I mean, seriously!

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Goodnight, sun.

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Jules was up a little earlier than usual, which meant I woke up earlier than usual and needed coffee, stat.  Juliette and I walked over to Tinderbox for a tall latte and a short milk.

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And then it was off to the pool to soak up that warm morning sun.

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Juliette became bolder and bolder with each passing minute, eventually jumping off the edge for a full “dunker”, gasping but smiling when her head popped up out of the water.

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We eventually hung up our wet swimsuits and took one last stroll on the beach.

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And then we headed back inside, packed it up, grabbed a fish n’ chips lunch, and hit the road.  It was a pretty grand 24 hours – we really should fly by the seat of our pants more often!

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We woke to the sound of raindrops on Saturday morning, which meant we stayed snuggled into our tent as long as Jules would allow.  I sighed at the thought of the mud and the chill and the weak, smoky campfire.  Once we emerged from our cocoon, though, I was consoled by the beauty of the misty, serene lake – this was worth getting damp for!

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And the rain was short-lived – a few minutes after I snapped those misty photos, the skies cleared and everything was bright and fresh and ultra-green again.  Camping has its challenges, but gosh – a view like this for $16 a night?  What a steal!

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Shane’s shoulders were begging for a break after Thursday’s and Friday’s hikes, so we decided to lay low on Saturday and take advantage of all the offerings right outside out tent’s front door.  Like Brian and Nicole’s hammock!

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Jason’s slack-line…

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Some miscellaneous sporting goods:

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The mud (Jules whipped up a lovely batch of mud meatballs):

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And, of course, more paddle boarding!

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Jules proved to be an excellent first mate.

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Jason’s paddle board gymnastics had the girls squealing with laughter.  “Fall again, Jason!  Fall again!”

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It was pretty idyllic, all of us just kind of wafting in and out of the water, maybe with a kid or two in tow, while the rest of the gang set up their camp chairs on shore.

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The Hickory’s needed to get back to Seattle on Saturday afternoon, so we snapped a group pic and then bid them farewell.  So glad their crazy clan could join us for a couple of days!

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The Rusts headed out for a hike after lunch and Jules and I joined them for about a quarter-mile.  Which took about 30 minutes.

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Back at camp, Shane and Juliette took a solid nap while I read by the lake.  Nance returned and brewed us a pot of coffee, sipped while we enjoyed a kid-free (chaos-free) conversation.  Those moments don’t happen too often anymore.

The rest of the evening was spent back out on the paddle boards (surprise!), but Shane and Nance upped the SUP game by doing some pretty impressive gymnastics.  It took all the balance I had just to get from kneeling to standing on the thing, so I bowed out of this little competition.  These two are studs!

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Saturday night’s sleep was fitful at best – we had some rowdy neighbors that partied until about 1 am, and at 3 am we awoke to a horrible screeching sound that sounded on and off for over an hour.  We’re pretty sure it was some kind of bird, but unlike anything I’d ever heard before – poor Juliette just laid there silent and wide-eyed and tightly clutching Shane’s and my hands until the dang thing flew away.  We awoke on Sunday morning definitively ready to head back to the comforts of home.  I had loved snuggling up with these two for the past few days, but I missed my bed.  My shower.  My walls!

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One last campfire meal…

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Once last gaze at the lake…

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One last ride on the paddle-board…

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One last dip in the freezing cold lake (these two must have been polar bears in another life!)…

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And then we packed it up and hit the road, making a brief stop at Ladder Creek Falls before putting the pedal to the metal (we were beat!).

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Sayonara, North Cascades!  You can bet we’ll be seeing you again next summer.