Category Archives: Life

Ali’s Favorite Things 2017

Per the request of one of my friends, I put together an “Ali’s Favorite Things” list. I knew I had done this before but I didn’t realize it was three years ago already. It’s funny looking back on that list because every single one of those items I mentioned would be on my list today still. Definitely check out my original list – some goodies on there, for sure!

Big & Small Set of Kitchen Tongs

Silly, I know, but I absolutely love having a little pair of tongs around. We have four {or is it five?} pairs of tongs in our “gadgets” drawer and there are more days than I expected that all of the tongs are in the dishwasher. I guess you can never have too many tongs!

 

Fancy Measuring Cups & Spoons

Who doesn’t love a set of fancy measuring cups and spoons?

 

100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous

An update to my 2014 list – Lisa’s new cookbook focuses on weeknight meals. I have made so, so, so many of these recipes and they have become staples in my repertoire. Some favorites: chicken chili, veggie and bean burritos, snack bars and so many lunch ideas!

Speaking of food – here are a few of my favorite meals to make these days:

Killers of the Flower Moon

Ok, so, I really haven’t read nearly as many books this calendar year as I had hoped, but even if I had read a book a day, Killers of the Flower Moon would still be at the top of my list. This book is about the murders of the Osage Indians back in the 1920s and is so fascinating, disturbing and unbelievable.

 

Glassybabies

Glassybaby votive holders have become rather special in our home. We live just four blocks from the Glassybaby glass blowing studio and these little votives are a fixture in our neighborhood and now our home. They’re a signature Seattle item – most Seattleites have a vast collection. They are so beautiful, all hand made right here in Madrona and every Glassybaby supports a different cause.

 

Faux Sheepskin Throw

Pottery Barn does not disappoint with this super cozy throw. I got it as a throw but it ended up becoming a layer in our bedding because I love snuggling up with it. Our cat doesn’t seem to mind this either! 😉

 

Zella Keep It Cool Crop Leggings

Apparently these are everyone else’s favorite leggings too because they’re sold out at Nordstrom right now! These are my most favorite leggings I have ever had. Keep checking back!

 

Athleta Beyond Soft Pranayama Wrap

This is one of the coziest little sweater/wraps I’ve ever had. I love wrapping myself up in it in the morning or the evenings and being all cozy. It’s great to pair with leggings to go to the gym/studio or wear around the house or with your favorite athleisure combo out and about.

 

Lalicious Sugar Scrub

I use this incredible scrub on my feet every other day in the shower and it’s divine. I love the smell {brown sugar vanilla is my favorite}, the way it feels and the texture. Plus, it makes my feet so soft!

 

CND Vinylux Nail Polish

Vinylux nail polish has been my go-to for several years now. You have to get the top coat, too. I can get 7-10 days from a manicure with this nail polish and I’ve gotten as many as 7 days doing my own nails.

 

Arbonne Calm Daily Moisturizer

I tried to veer from this and only ended up disappointed. This moisturizer feels so light and calming on my sensitive skin. It’s really nice stuff!

Thanksgiving 2017

We certainly have a lot to be grateful for this year – and what a wonderful year it has been. One of the things I’m most thankful for is our family. I’m also so unbelievably grateful that we have had such an incredible nanny raising Ben alongside us for the last 14+ months who has become a part of our little family. I’m so grateful for the time we got to spend last week as a family. To me, the best part of the holidays is the immense time with family that comes with the season.

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Alex and I had quite a bit of time off of work to enjoy the holiday week together with Ben and Edina, as well as my mom, who came out for part of the week from Minnesota. We got to show my mom Ben’s school and one of the community centers he plays at, we all experienced the Seattle Gingerbread Village for the first time and we spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen preparing food for our Thanksgiving feast.

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Overall, it was a pretty low-key and relaxing holiday. The food turned out really well – my favorite was the sweet potato casserole, something I had never made before, nor was it a staple in my family’s Thanksgiving. I absolutely loved it. We tried some new recipes but stayed true to our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing recipe. My mom and Edina were very helpful in the kitchen.

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On Saturday, Alex, Ben, Edina and I headed east over the mountains to Yakima to pick up some wine from our wine club before they close their doors for the winter. We bumped into our good friend Carrie and her family, including little Roslyn, at the winery, too!

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It felt really early according to the calendar, but after Alex did some major re-organizing, I pulled out my boxes of Christmas decorations and got our house ready for the season! Ben came with me to the garden store near us and helped me pick out a wreath and some pine boughs and I’ll pick up a garland this weekend. I think we’re ready!

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We ended the weekend with a really nice dinner over at my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Michael’s home, joined by my cousins and their families. It was so fun watching Ben and Henry {age 2.5} play together and see baby Claire {8 months} crawl around and join everyone at the table. We also walked down to the water to see the Christmas ships – there’s basically a boat parade with ships decked out in lights. We caught the tail end of it!

I was really sad to see all of our family time come to an end when we put Ben to bed on Sunday. I love our family time so much and it was extra special having so many days to spend together. Happy holidays!

Day Trip to Leavenworth

I have apparently fallen behind in keeping up our blog. Oopsies! In any case, a few weeks ago we took the opportunity to head out to Leavenworth to check on our property and see some snow. It was such a wonderful day – Edina joined us and we got to play in the snow, eat sausage and spend time together.

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We made an impromptu coffee/stretch stop at Stevens Pass. Alex and I were visualizing our future here – we’re so excited to get Ben started with ski lessons in a couple years {we’re thinking age 3 for lessons} and it’s so fun imagining family ski days up at Stevens.

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Our timing ended up coinciding with our land surveyor – we crossed paths with him while he was at our property marking off the lot lines. Alex got to help him out a bit and we learned that our lot lines were a little different than we expected, in a very good way. We were able to pick the spot on the property where our house will be built.

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It was pretty rainy when we were on our lot so the views weren’t anything like what they are on a crisp, clear day, but man, it is so gorgeous over there. I still feel like I need to pinch myself every time we go to our lot.

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We couldn’t go all the way to Leavenworth without going into town for some sausage. Plus, Edina had never been there before so we had to show her around. We strolled the town, enjoyed delicious sausages from our favorite spot, grabbed a coffee for the drive home, then packed up and headed west.

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It was a very quick trip and a lot of time for Ben to be in the car {thankfully he had his buddy in the back seat keeping him company} and we all had a really memorable time!

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**All of these photos are courtesy of Edina’s fancy new iPhone — part of my lack of keeping the blog updated this month is because my phone storage is full and I haven’t been taking many photos. Alex’s and my new iPhones are expected to arrive next week!

Big Changes Ahead

A few weeks ago we found out that our beloved nanny will be leaving us by the end of the calendar year. We had anticipated this was coming since she is graduating in December, but nonetheless it was pretty devastating to hear the final verdict. We all absolutely adore her and Ben will truly be heartbroken when she leaves us.

Edina moved in with us at the beginning of October and everything is going very well. Ben quickly realized that now Edina is just downstairs so he walks all over the house calling her name in the mornings, evenings or on the weekends when we haven’t seen her yet. He is crazy about Edina! It is so sweet but it’s going to be so, so sad when she leaves. Edina is constantly singing or talking to Ben – I swear she’s at least 75% of the reason he is talking so much. She literally is constantly talking to him. It’s incredible. We will be forever grateful to her.

We quickly realized we needed to figure out what we’re going to do to replace her position – we still need childcare after all. After mulling over some options, we’ve decided to hire an au pair. An au pair is someone who comes from another country to live with a host family and provide childcare in exchange for immersing herself in our culture. It is a government regulated program and is considered a cultural exchange.

I’m excited to report that we have been successfully “matched” with an au pair! She is from Panama and she speaks Spanish {as well as very good English}. We are really happy to be welcoming a Spanish-speaker to our family and look forward to Ben learning more Spanish. So, we’ll be ending 2017 by saying “see you later” to Edina and starting 2018 off transitioning to a brand new caregiver and housemate.

Ben is 17 Months Old!

Happy Halloween from our 17-month old monkey!

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Today, Ben is 17 months old! We can’t believe he’s a month away from being a year and a half. Ben has 7 teeth {top 4 + bottom 2 center + top left molar} and I just saw the makings of a new molar about to emerge.

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Ben has had a couple bouts of illness this last month {roseola and the stomach flu} and has lost a bit of weight. He dropped from the 15th percentile back down to the 4th. Ben hasn’t bounced back from his illnesses as quickly as we would have expected. We saw the doctor who encouraged us to try some probiotics and really bump up the calories and fat to boost his weight back up. Ben hasn’t had much of an appetite for dinner {probably partly due to a new molar coming in} so he has been waking up very early and very hungry.

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That reminds me – I’ve been getting asked a lot lately what size Ben is wearing these days. As mentioned above, he’s still a little peanut! Mostly he’s wearing 12-18 months, but still some 9-12 months. In particular, pants are very difficult to buy for Ben because his little legs are so thin. I think he’ll be in 12-18 month clothing for a while still!

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As I keep saying every month, Ben is getting more and more fun by the day. The biggest changes in the last month, I’d say, have been the vocabulary explosion and that Ben has started getting into climbing. He is still super sweet {getting sweeter?!}, very giggly and affectionate.

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Listening to Ben talk and learn to talk/figure out how to say new words has been really neat to see. I’m not sure how many words he can say – probably close to 50 by now. I’d say his actual vocabulary {knowing words in context} is between 25-30 words. Not all of the words sound like how an adult would say them – airplane is “ah pah” but they’re consistent and he knows what he’s saying.

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Some of his regularly used words are: ball, truck, bath time, nana {banana}, down, hat and applesauce. A big majority of his vocabulary is food words, though his most commonly used word right now is Edina, our nanny’s name. He has started to say words that he had previously only signed – like water and all done. He answers yes or no to simple questions, particularly around food. Ben can follow simple instructions, for example, he can pick out a story that he wants to read and then come sit in your lap.

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He’s also learning about animals and really loving animals lately! We went to the zoo recently and Ben was extremely engaged in seeing the animals and making animal sounds. It was adorable. He especially loved the river otters, the giraffe and the baby gorilla! He makes a ferocious lion impersonation too. 🙂

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New this last month – Ben has turned into quite the climber! At the start of October he had not figured out how to go backwards down a set of stairs or safely climb off of something on his own. About two weeks ago somehow he magically figured out how to go down things safely. He can climb off of our bed or down from a chair and he can scoot backwards down the stairs. This opened up a whole new arena for him to start climbing anything he possibly can.

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Ben has also started going to a tumbling class, which is perfect to get the climbing crazies out! He goes to a structured class one day a week and then we’re allowed to come in later in the week for unstructured time on the equipment. The class is for tots just his age and gives the kiddos the opportunity to safely climb up and over things, tumble around, jump into a ball pit, bounce on a trampoline and work on other gross motor skills.

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Preschool is still going well. We’ve gotten into more of a routine this month with taking Ben to his school program two afternoons a month. He’s starting to get into the groove there and knows what to expect and really is starting to learn the songs. Now that we’re into it, I’m seeing a lot of value {not just all the work that’s involved!} and we’re really enjoying it.

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We just got this fancy “tot clock” for Ben’s room. It’s a night light that changes colors when it’s okay for Ben to wake up {i.e. after 6 a.m.!}. This clock is really neat – we have it set to a soft orange hue for sleepy time, along with some light background noise {mostly to drown out the creaky floors!}, then it changes to a blue/green at 6 a.m. to signal that it’s a reasonable time to wake up.

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Because of his recent illnesses, lack of appetite for dinner and waking up starving, Ben has been waking for the day between 4 and 5 a.m. Right now, the tot clock is not going to solve the issue of him not waking up. Once we get him on the right track with eating again, I think it will be helpful to get him to stay in bed ultimately until 6:30, or better yet, 7!

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The weather this month has been absolutely fantastic. I can’t think of an October in the nine years we’ve lived in Seattle that has been anywhere near this nice. Usually it’s just pouring down rain in October. Not this year! We’ve gotten an extra long playground season for little Ben and he’s one happy camper about it.

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Here’s to another great month – I can’t wait to see what Ben is like a month from now!

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More Fall Fun!

In preparation for Halloween this week we decided to get Ben dressed up in his adorable monkey costume as many times as possible. We started the weekend at Alex’s work’s family Halloween festival on Friday and ended it at Remlinger Farms pumpkin patch/autumn festival today.

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Just getting used to his Halloween costume…

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We all seemed to come down with a little stomach bug this week. Thankfully it was fairly short-lived and rather mild. Unfortunately for me, it hit me about 7 minutes after this {above} photo was taken – live, right in the middle of Alex’s work campus. Ugh. We all bounced back quickly and are a-ok now.

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Sunday morning we were feeling better and drove out to Carnation, Washington to Remlinger Farms, with Edina, our nanny, to enjoy some fall fun.

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Ben ate a whole mini doughnut all in one bite…..

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We loved all that Remlinger Farms had to offer, especially this fantastic train! It was a real train that took us for a 15ish minute ride around the farm.

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Ben loved the hay bale maze!

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And got to try his first amusement park ride!

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Ben and Edina! He loves her so so much.

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I knew just how to get the giggles out! This little monkey is ready for Halloween! 🙂

*all of the good photos courtesy of Edina!

Fall Family Fun!

Fall is one of Alex’s and my favorite seasons. I love, love, looooove fall cooking – come August I’m DONE with salads, grilling and light eating and ready to throw on a pot of chili, bake some pumpkin muffins and indulge in rich, hearty dinners. In any case, we’re enjoying the start of fall here in the Pacific Northwest.

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We returned from our Midwest trip, where we had perfect summer weather, to 52 degrees and rain! It was an abrupt end to warm days and we loved it. Since we’ve been back, the weather has been perfectly fallish. We’ve been loving the cooler mornings, cozying up in vests and flannel and hearing Ben run around in the crunchy leaves. Oh fall!

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Last weekend Alex and I left Ben with his nanny and headed to Gig Harbor to attend Ryan and Anne’s wedding. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. It was over-the-top in an absolutely perfect and sensational way. We were so happy to have been there!

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{cinnamon rolls + coffee the next morning!}

{cinnamon rolls + coffee the next morning!}

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Edina, our nanny, is such a great photographer. She took a ton of fabulous fall photos of Ben recently and I’m dying to share them with you!

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This morning was an absolutely perfect kick-start to our first weekend at home in a while – we headed north to Snohomish and took Ben, along with our friends, to The Farm at Swan’s Trail, a local apple orchard and pumpkin patch. It was awesome!! Alex and I were most excited for apple doughnuts, which were terrific, and we had such a great time.

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{August and Oliver, the twins, are behind Ben}

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Happy fall! 🙂

Ben’s First Day of “Preschool”

Ben had his first day of “preschool” this past week. As a way to get him more time with other kids his age and to get him out of the house we signed him up for a cooperative preschool near our house. He’ll go to school twice a week for the whole school year.

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A co-op preschool is one where the parents are very involved, and really in this case, run the operations of the school. There is a head teacher and a parent educator, and otherwise, everything is done by very involved parents. The parental involvement component is turning out to be significantly more than I expected, but I think there’s a great opportunity to build a nice little community.

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We missed the first two weeks of school because of our recent trip, nonetheless, Ben got started without a hitch and fit right in. The school sessions are 90 minutes and include an hour of free play, 20 minutes at the playground and 10 minutes of songs and circle time. Our first day went really well and Ben loved exploring the new space. It was really sweet to see all of the other kids playing and I am looking forward to watching them all grow up together this year!

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Busy, Busy, Busy!

Holy cats! August is shaping up to be NUTS for us. We have SO much going on this month it’s going to be hard to keep up! I even started writing in our calendar who is taking which car on what days so that we can manage everything right down to the nitty gritty details.

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We started off the month by buying a piece of land over in Leavenworth, a quaint mountain town about 2 hours from Seattle that we spend a lot of time visiting. We’ve been looking for a vacation home in the mountains to share with Alex’s parents for more than a year and recently decided to change course and build a house.

{The view from our new property!}

{The view from our new property that overlooks a field with a giant rock wall and mountains in the background.}

{This is where we expect the house to go.}

{This is where we expect the house to go.}

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We’re elated to have found a beautiful, flat 3.1 acre property to call our own! We expect to close at the end of the month and will likely start building next summer. We had hoped to break ground this fall if possible, but it seems like holding off until next year makes more sense. We don’t want to rush into it too much. That means, though, that we might be spending Christmas 2018 in our new mountain house! More on this to come later, I’m sure.

{Holding up his computer after signing the offer we made on the lot! We were so excited!}

{Holding up his computer after signing the offer we made on the lot! We were so excited!}

In other news, lately Alex has been suggesting that we should get Ben some more socialization with other kids during the day. While he gets out to the playground most days and story time at least once a week and a play date most weeks he doesn’t have the same social experiences that he would have if he went to daycare.

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I’ve got no qualms about daycare, it simply works better for our schedules to have the flexibility of a nanny. So, after scouring the Internet and polling some of my mama friends, we have enrolled Ben in a preschool co-op that starts in September. This preschool has “classes” for one year olds where it’s basically unstructured play time together {they have more formal classes for 2, 3 and 4-year olds). The class meets twice a week for 90 minutes each day. Not too big of a commitment. I’m really looking forward to starting – because it’s a co-op, all families have to get involved to help run the school, so I’m excited to meet other parents in the area and get Ben some time with other kids. Buuttttt that also means that each family has a “job” {I’m the designated “worker” in our family} sooooo you’re looking at either the new Halloween party planner, spring picnic party planner or sunshine chair!

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Another child care note worth mentioning is that our nanny has left us for a three week trip. We’ve got backup care scheduled, but you never know how that will turn out. I have a feeling it’ll be a mama + Ben month.

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Nearly a year ago, now, we started going to our parents group, called PEPS {Program for Early Parent Support}, which met once a week for 12 weeks. We built a really nice community with other families close by who have babies the same age as Ben. The PEPS organization asked if I’d be interested in facilitating a new group and because we didn’t have enough going on, I said yes! Despite our crazy schedules I’m really, really looking forward to leading a PEPS group, which starts in a couple weeks. It will be one evening per week where I get to facilitate a meeting between 8 families with newborns. It will be so fun to think back to those crazy days with a newborn!

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Alex has two bachelor parties to attend this month – one in Whistler and one down in Portland. So, it’s really going to be a mama + Ben month!

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The weather has been hot, hot, hot lately. We’ve had this really weird smog clouding the region the last 10 days from wildfires up in British Columbia. I heard that our air quality right now is worse than Beijing! We can’t hardly see across the lake and you can literally see the smoke clinging to sights off in the distance. It’s really strange. That being said, I haven’t gone for any runs in the last week and Alex hasn’t ridden his bike, so we’re ready for the heat wave to break and the smoke to clear! I’m ready for fall!

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Family Vacation to Seabrook, Washington

For our big family summer vacation this year we headed west to Seabrook, Washington, a very small town on the Washington coast. This was our second vacation as a little family of three and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more.

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Seabrook is a really funny little town. It’s very new and was created with a master development plan about 10 years ago. It was modeled after the Truman Show and Pleasantville, so it has that “everything is perfect” look and feel. The houses and the town are so cute – the style is similar to a Cape Cod or Nantucket home. It oozes with east coast charm.

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Perhaps the best part of the town is the location – it’s situated up high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Washington coast. The beach goes on forever!

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Our trip started mid-day Friday with our sloooowwwwww drive to the coast. It’s been a while since we had ventured south on I-5 on a Friday in the summer and boy did we regret waiting until noon to leave the house. Thankfully Ben has turned into a little trooper in the car and he hung in there right along with us.

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We got all of our glitches out of the way for the whole trip upon check-in. Our house wasn’t ready when we arrived – they needed extra time to clean it. Then, once we could finally check in, the code on the lock wouldn’t work. By some miracle we found a slightly open window and Alex was able to enter the house. It was a little bit of a stressful start to the vacation, but thankfully all the kinks were worked out once we got inside.

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Over the years Alex and I have stayed in a ton of vacation rentals. Usually the photos make them look nicer than they are in reality. Much to my relief, the house was even better than the pictures! It was by far the nicest vacation rental we’ve ever stayed in. It was fantastic!!

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We were so enamored with the town that we spent most of the afternoon and evening exploring and getting settled in. I couldn’t get enough of the houses in the town!

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Coincidentally, our friends Kara and Jake and their daughter Maya, were in Seabrook the same weekend. Even more of a coincidence – the house they rented was across the park {about 30 feet} from our house – essentially our front porches overlooked each others! We loved being able to spend some good time with them the first evening by the campfire and then getting Maya and Ben to play together in the grass the next day.

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Our first trip to the beach happened on Saturday morning. I strapped Ben to my back {he’s officially too heavy to wear in the carrier on my front!}, Alex hooked Jackson up to his leash and we headed out to the beach.

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The Washington and Oregon coasts are known for some pretty extreme fog and Saturday was no exception. There is something eerily comforting about the dense fog along the coast – it’s really calming and relaxing. Maybe that’s the Seattleite in me talking? We weren’t turned off by the light drizzle – it was surprisingly pleasant.

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Once we got down to the beach we realized how unbelievably expansive it was. I don’t even know how to describe the scope other than to say from the moment we hit the edge of the beach until we got to the water it was a solid 10 minute walk across the sand. The beach went on and on and on and on – it was by far the biggest beach I’ve ever been to. You could have walked for hours in either direction.

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When we got closer to the water we could see crabs washed up on shore. There were clams and sand dollars, too! It was weirdly beautiful in its own way.

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The water was absolutely frigid – no swimming for us! Jackson didn’t think twice about the chilly temperature, though, and he charged right into the waves after his ball.

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One of our favorite moments happened on Saturday. We hit the town to check out the little Saturday market and happened upon a quaint little wine bar. Naturally we stopped in for a flight and a cheese board. We shared the cheese and sopressata with Ben {and kept the wine to ourselves} and he ate almost the entire thing on his own. Somewhere in the last month or two he has become such a stellar eater! It is an absolute blast watching him explore the world of food.

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Later in the day, the skies cleared and then when we woke up on Sunday morning we were delighted to see the bright blue skies were still there and the sun was out.

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While the sun was out in full force on Sunday, so was the wind. It was slightly bothersome up in town and at our house but when we got down to the beach it felt like the wind was blowing at gale force! We were so looking forward to hanging out on the beach and we weren’t about to let a mini hurricane stop us from setting up shop, even if it was only for about 15 minutes.

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Before our trip, we bought a little beach tent that was supposed to withstand a lot of wind. We were pleasantly surprised at both how easy it was to set up and the fact that it stayed up, given the wind. We hunkered down and let Ben play in the sand for a short while before taking a little walk on the beach.

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We were all absolutely covered in sand – I can still feel it in my pores. Ben had a goth look going on because his face was all drooly and then it got muddy from the sand. It was pretty funny! He couldn’t have cared less about the sand – it had to have been all up in his eyes too. He was having a blast nonetheless.

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Our last full day in Seabrook was very relaxing and largely spent outside.

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I will be forever grateful for this long weekend together in Seabrook. Family vacations are so important to us. It gives us a chance to spend time together, reconnect and be present and removed from the distractions of everyday life. This trip was perfect in every way and I really wouldn’t change a thing.