Tag Archives: Vacation

Fifth Annual Leavenworth Trip

One of Alex and my favorite weekends all year is our annual trip to Leavenworth with some of our friends. Each year our trip looks a little different – typically we perfect something we learned the year before. This year’s trip wins for the most changes from last year — babies and a new house to stay in. Before I start, holy cow, it took me 5 hours to pack up the car by myself. It is a whole new life trying to leave town with an infant. Especially one who was adamant that he be carried around all day {and yes, I did put him in the carrier, but that only made it slightly easier to load the car…}.

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This year’s house was the best one yet! The property was fabulous – it had two acres of fenced in yard — perfect for the dogs to run around in. There was a hot tub, several sitting areas and a great fire pit, which we enjoyed making s’mores in.

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Our group of adults was a little smaller this year, but we nearly doubled our group with the addition of four babies – Mary and Ryan and their 10-month old twin boys, August and Oliver, along with Carrie and Patrick and their 5-month old girl, Roslyn, joined us for our trip. Sadly we didn’t get any group photos with all of us!

{The Buffs!}

{The Buffs!}

{The Millers!}

{The Millers!}

This year we also added another day onto the trip – we opted to head back to Seattle on Monday. It has always felt a little rushed to get up there Friday afternoon or evening and then pack up and leave early Sunday morning. It was so much more relaxing to have an extra day.

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The babies all did really well. Oliver and August are on the move now and Roslyn and Ben hung out on the mat together a little bit. It was so fun to see the boys eating real food and be able to entertain themselves. It’s not too long before Ben starts doing that!

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{Me with Roslyn}

{Me with Roslyn}

{Could I pass for a twin mom!? Definitely not one with as much grace as these boys' mama!}

{Could I pass for a twin mom!? Definitely not one with as much grace as these boys’ mama!}

{Ryan is a pro!}

{Ryan is a pro!}

{Ben and Roslyn hanging out on the mat together.}

{Ben and Roslyn hanging out on the mat together.}

Our weekend was really low-key. We hung out at the house on Friday night and then attempted to head to town on Saturday. Once we entered downtown Leavenworth we realized there was a parade and it turned out to be even busier than the Octoberfest weekends. We planned our trip for September to try and avoid the Octoberfest crowds throughout the month of October. Oops!

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No worries, though – Patrick came up with a backup plan to go to the Sleeping Lady, which is a little resort that Alex and I have stayed at a couple times. We had a wonderful lunch there and took a little tour of the grounds.

{A bottle for mama and a bottle for Ben!}

{A bottle for mama and a bottle for Ben!}

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Mary made Sauerbraten, our staple Octoberfest meal, for dinner on Saturday night. We were able to enjoy our evenings relatively kid-free, which was great. All of the babies cooperated pretty well and allowed us to have some adult time.

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Because of Carrie’s new job {she’s a nurse now!!}, the Buff’s couldn’t stay on Sunday night and had to head back home that morning. Her new schedule is actually really great and allows for her to have weekends free, she just needs to be back on Sunday night. Later that day, the Millers headed into Leavenworth with us, as we figured the crowds would have gone home after the big parade the day before. We had some sausages, pretzels and did a little shopping and wine tasting before retreating back to our little mountain home.

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Our plan for Sunday night was a pizza, PJs and movie party night but only the pizza and PJs ended up happening. We opted for a fire and s’mores plus a dip in the hot tub instead!

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The last day of our weekends is always a sad and chaotic one. It was SO nice to have had the extra day added onto our trip. It made that 5 hour packing session on Friday that much more worthwhile. We are already counting down until our next Leavenworth trip!

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Lake Chelan Trip

For the last big hurrah of the summer and our time with Alex’s parents we headed east over the mountains to Lake Chelan for a few days. Alex and I went to Lake Chelan for the first time last summer and absolutely loved it. It wasn’t hard to convince his parents to join us there to round out their trip.

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The lake itself is massive and is surrounded by desert mountains and vineyards. The water is crystal clear and so inviting! We stayed at Kelly’s Resort in a cute little cabin again this year.

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We really didn’t have much of an agenda for our trip to Chelan. We spent a lot of time hanging out and drinking wine, taking the dogs down to the lake to swim or for a hike through the trails on the property. One day we went across the lake for lunch at Blueberry Hill Farms and to do a wine tasting at Wapato Point Cellars, then another night we went out for dinner at Sorrento’s and did another wine tasting at their adjacent winery, Tsillan Cellars.

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One of the highlights of the trip for me was taking Ben swimming for the first time! It seemed like the perfect opportunity. Ben loves bathtime at home and we figured he would enjoy swimming and it sure seems like he did. Hopefully we’ll make it to the beach by our house one day still this summer.

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It was such a nice end to Alex’s parents trip to spend a few days relaxing in Lake Chelan with them! We loved our time together.

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Whistler Ski Trip

While Alex is off in eastern British Columbia on a ski trip with our friend Patrick, my dad flew out for a long weekend with me in Whistler, on the west side of BC. Alex and I had been to Whistler several times before, but it was my dad’s first trip to the magnificent mountain. He says he’ll be back for sure!

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Whistler is just north of Vancouver, British Columbia and is about a 4.5 hour drive from Seattle. It is also the largest ski resort in North America, offering more than 8,000 acres of skiable terrain {Vail “only” boasts 5,000 and until this year, was the largest resort in the US} across the two mountains {Whistler and Blackcomb}. It is so expansive and I am certain a person could spend an entire season skiing there and not ski the same run twice.

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It’s a toss up between here and Jackson Hole which one is my favorite destination, but Whistler is a very special place for Alex and me {and now my dad understands it!}.

{Best mountain hot chocolate is at Whistler!}

{Best mountain hot chocolate is at Whistler!}

Our trip was great, albeit a bit short {and sadly the snow kept flying as we left and we missed a couple consecutive powder days}, but we had a really nice time skiing together. The conditions were much better than I had expected, given the recent warming trend in the west. We were blessed with fresh snow on our first day, as well as untouched snow on the upper mountain the second day.

We spent our first day skiing exclusively on Blackcomb Mountain. Since my last trip to Whistler there was a new chairlift that had been added and it opened up a completely new section of the mountain that I had never skied before. The wind was howling that day, so we didn’t get to ski the upper mountain at all, but that wasn’t a problem.

{I've got to believe this guy is approaching 50 days on skis this year...}

{I’ve got to believe this guy is approaching 50 days on skis this year…}

Our second and final day was spent on Whistler Mountain. We took the Peak 2 Peak gondola from Blackcomb to Whistler that morning and spent most of the day either in the Symphony Amphitheatre area or on the Peak chair. The snow conditions were great for the most part, albeit low visibility in some places, and we had an excellent time exploring the mountain.

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In addition to skiing, we spent some time in the village and relaxed back at the condo we rented. We also brought Jackson with us and he and I took some nice walks on the snowy trails where he was able to run around and play ball in the snow. It took him a while to settle into the new space, but once he got tuckered out enough he seemed pretty comfortable there. I think he was just as sad as we were when it came time to head home and leave the snow behind.

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My dad’s trip came to an end with a really nice dinner in my neighborhood, joined by my two cousins, Chris and Jon. And then he was off… I have a feeling our next ski trip together will include a little one, so things will certainly be a bit different in the future, and until then, we’ve got the memory of our Whistler trip.

Deer Valley Ski Trip

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Last week Alex and I took off and met his parents in Utah for a long ski weekend at Deer Valley.

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We stayed at the Red Stag Lodge which is right at the base of Deer Valley. One of the best parts of a ski vacation where you stay right at the mountain is waking up in the morning, having a leisurely breakfast and then getting ready to go inside {instead of the car!} and slowly meandering to the mountain. We loved taking advantage of that!

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Donna and Stan took a ski lesson on the first ski day. It is always nice to take advantage of the great lesson programs to get their confidence and basics boosted. We saw tremendous improvements with Stan’s skiing this trip, which was really fun to witness.

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It was at Stan’s request that we returned to Deer Valley after our first ski trip together back in 2009. Deer Valley is known for its groomers and we enjoyed skiing them all! In addition to its groomers, Deer Valley is known as a luxury ski resort and caters to a fairly fancy clientele. One of the benefits of that is the on-mountain food selection is superb {and superbly expensive!} and the area is spectacularly gorgeous. One of the downsides, though, is dealing with entitled people who lack self awareness.

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While we were at Deer Valley, the resort was hosting the World Cup moguls and aerials competitions. We didn’t realize the events were taking place through the weekend, otherwise we would have made an effort to go out and watch them. It was exciting and eye opening to see aerials jumps {they launch you literally straight up in the air – terrifying!} and so fun to see the moguls course – all we wanted to do was ski one run down it!

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Donna and Stan conquered Pearl, a ski run that we had discovered back in 2009.

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We skied a lot of runs with Donna and Stan but broke off each day to explore different parts of the mountain together. It sure is different skiing at 9,000 feet elevation while being pregnant! I got really tired skiing the bump runs and on our last day I wasn’t feeling the icy conditions so I played it safe and parked it outside in the sun and ate a cheeseburger.

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One of my favorite parts of Utah and Deer Valley is the Aspen trees mixed in with the evergreens. We were lucky enough to see the evergreens covered in snow. The sun was out each day and the views from the mountain were unbelievably expansive. It felt like you could see forever!

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In addition to the skiing, we had a lot of great food!

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Our first meal was at the St. Regis Bar. After dinner we walked around the hotel and stumbled upon a s’mores bar! We helped ourselves and made some dessert 🙂

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One of our most enjoyable dinners was at Fireside Dining. It’s a ski lodge turned restaurant that features four fireplaces that serve different courses – raclette, stew, leg of lamb and dessert! The food and service were spot on, making this a really memorable meal.

20160207_041235206_iOSWe also went into Park City one night for dinner at High West, which is a bourbon distillery and saloon. Our meal was fantastic there, as well. The food was wonderful!

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We returned to the St. Regis Bar for apres ski on sunny Saturday afternoon and sadly did not have the five star experience we had expected. The weather and the view was about the only nice part of our time there.

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Before our dinner at Fireside Dining we took a little sleigh ride around the property.

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It’s nearly impossible for me to take a good photo of the town of Park City. It’s one of the cutest, quaintest ski towns I’ve been to and I’ve never managed to capture a photo to do it any sort of justice. In any case, we spent a couple hours on our last day touring the town before heading back to the airport. We had a great lunch at the Park City Delicatessen and I bought a new mid-warmth jacket from Marmot that will carry me nicely through the rest of the winter, I think, as my belly grows…

20160207_142356580_iOSAll in all, it was a wonderful time in Utah with Alex’s parents. We are very fortunate that they are willing to travel and meet us somewhere in the middle of the country and partake in a winter sport they know we love. Until next time, Utah…

Relaxing Weekend in Leavenworth

For a lot of occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases Alex and I opt to get each other “experiences” rather than something tangible. For us, the time together is more meaningful. This year my Christmas gift to Alex was a weekend away in Leavenworth, Washington at the Sleeping Lady Resort.

{This is the rock pool at the resort! Really neat concept. It was really foggy and overcast for our stay, so I didn't get any good pictures, due to the lighting.}

{This is the rock pool at the resort! Really neat concept. It was really foggy and overcast for our stay, so I didn’t get any good pictures, due to the lighting.}

We cashed in on Alex’s gift as soon as we could after Christmas and headed out there this past weekend. Both of us had been to the Sleeping Lady Resort before, which is why it was so appealing to go back. The resort is really unique – the owner turned it from a camp into a high-class resort in the mountains.

Each “room” is essentially its own cabin and there are different clusters of cabins strewn across the property. They all have very modern amenities and are very, very comfortable with nice linens and robes and the like. We were once again very pleased with the accommodations. One of the special perks is that the resort has a huge dining lodge where they offer a gourmet breakfast and dinner buffet that is included with your stay. We felt like we were eating like kings all weekend!

{This is the style of the buildings/cabins on the property.}

{This is the style of the buildings/cabins on the property.}

So – about the trip now… we arrived around dinner time on Friday night, got checked into our room and then headed straight for the dining lodge. Because it’s a buffet, we were able to pace ourselves how we wanted and ended up having a wonderfully slow and leisurely dinner.

When we awoke the next morning it was snowing! After our relaxing breakfast we took a nice stroll around the resort property. Neither one of us had been to the Sleeping Lady when it was particularly light out, so we hadn’t gotten the chance to do much exploring.

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The rest of our morning and early afternoon was spent in downtown Leavenworth where we popped into some shops and had a delicious sausage at our favorite place, Munchen Haus. We needed to fuel up for our afternoon of cross country skiing!

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Alex had never been cross country skiing and I had only been once, but not since I was in 5th grade – so about 20 years ago! We rented our gear from the Mercantile shop at our resort and walked across the street to the public cross country ski trail {couldn’t have been more convenient!} and after watching a quick YouTube video titled “How to Cross Country Ski” we set out for our excursion.

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Our afternoon of cross country skiing turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We had been talking for a couple years about getting into nordic skiing but just never bit the bullet. Now with our little babe on the way we figure that once s/he arrives, it will be much easier for us to strap the kid into a backpack and go cross country skiing, rather than having to trade off who stays in the lodge with the baby while the other one of us downhill skis by him/herself. Plus, it is absolutely fantastic exercise! Both of us are sore in places we’ve never been sore before. We’re hoping to convince one of my cousins to come out with us and give us a few pointers so we can master the skating part of nordic skiing, rather than just the scooting part 😉

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The rest of our Saturday was spent sitting in front of a great outdoor fire at O’Grady’s Pantry {a little restaurant on the Sleeping Lady property}, napping and enjoying another slow-paced dinner at the resort. Both of us were ready to tuck into bed early that night!

{The hot tub was built into the rocks!}

{The hot tub was built into the rocks!}

Our stay at the Sleeping Lady included ski passes at Stevens Pass, so on our way back home to Seattle on Sunday we stopped at the ski resort to get some downhill turns in. With the Seahawks/Vikings playoff game on Sunday both of us expected the resort to be completely empty – we were grossly mistaken! It was an absolute zoo! This was the starting weekend of the ski lesson program, so we’re guessing that was the culprit. In addition to the crowds, it was really foggy and there was almost no visibility and the conditions were less than ideal. Needless to say, we took a few runs and continued home… It was a little disappointing, but it wasn’t the best day to be skiing.

All in all, we had a fabulous weekend away! Alex and I have been so enjoying the quality time we’ve been spending together lately. I hope we’re able to take a few more little trips before our little one arrives soon!

Winter Break!

For the first year ever, Alex took off the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years and we stayed home with no plans or agenda. It was wonderful and so perfect.

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One of the biggest highlights was sleeping in, popping some cinnamon rolls in the oven, lighting a fire and hanging out in the living room all day for most of the first week off. Our living room is an underused room in our house, but it’s probably our favorite because of our fireplace, and now our leather chairs. It was so nice to spend so much time in front of the fire these last two weeks.

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Another major highlight was skiing. The whole west coast got a really big Christmas present in the form of a gigantic snowstorm. It snowed so much here that one of the ski resorts couldn’t keep up with it and couldn’t open {they got 96 inches of snow in 3 days!!}. We skied four days during the two-week break.

{After the snow storm the temps dropped and the sun came out! It made for a couple of chilly days with sensational views.}

{After the snow storm the temps dropped and the sun came out! It made for a couple of chilly days with sensational views.}

 

{Jackson had the best day ever when he got to come with us to the mountains and play in the snow.}

{Jackson had the best day ever when he got to come with us to the mountains and play in the snow.}

{Yesterday we braved the chilly weather {12 degrees with -2 windchill}  and embarked on our first backcountry ski tour together. The avalanche danger was very low and our trek was super mild. It was really fun to get out and explore and get some exercise together.}

{Yesterday we braved the chilly weather {12 degrees with -2 windchill, which is about as cold as it gets here} and embarked on our first backcountry ski tour together. The avalanche danger was very low and our trek was super mild. It was really fun to get out and explore and get some exercise together.}

{Skinning up through the trees on a very well-traveled trail...}

{Skinning up through the trees on a very well-traveled trail…}

{Didn't do too much skiing down, but we made a few turns.}

{Didn’t do too much skiing down, but we managed to find a spot to make a few turns.}

We spent some quality time with lots of our friends, too. Alex’s friend Brian was here visiting for a few days, so Alex got to catch up with him. We also spent a day skiing with Nigel, and another day skiing with Patrick. We spent a rainy morning at the dog park with Ali, Tyler and their two kiddos {and then warmed up with some hot chocolate and grilled cheese for lunch!}. Ryan and Mary brought their babies over to our house one day, and we met them up at Carrie and Patrick’s new house another day. It has been so nice to be able to spend this much time with friends, too!

{Oliver and August at 4 weeks old!}

{Oliver and August at 4 weeks old!}

Henry seemed to love having both of us home during the days – probably because he got to bug us both to let him outside all the time!

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Jackson on the other hand was completely thrown off his kilter with Alex being home and our change of schedule. Towards the end of our break he seemed to be adjusting a little bit to the temporary normal, but I’m sure once we go back to work tomorrow he’ll be happy to have some consistency.

{Hopefully giving Jackson a cheeseburger as a treat on our way home from skiing made up for him being off his schedule. And no, this is not a normal occurrence for Jackson!}

{Hopefully giving Jackson a cheeseburger as a treat on our way home from skiing made up for him being off his schedule. And no, this is not a normal occurrence for Jackson!}

Our vacation was so relaxing and on the one hand I feel like we did absolutely nothing, but then when I look back at what we did do and realize that’s not quite the case. I am so thankful for this break and for the time we spent together. Who knows when the next time we’ll have two weeks off at home by ourselves will be!

Our Mexican Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving we did something a little different… We went to Mexico! Thanksgiving is a holiday we typically spend with Alex’s family because his sister and her husband are usually in Italy for Christmas {her husband is from Italy}. This year we picked Mexico because Alex’s parents wanted to take a trip with us to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, which was in October. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico turned out to be the perfect spot!

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Alex and I headed south a few days before everyone else so we could get a mini vacation just the two of us down there since last time we were in PV we didn’t have any time to ourselves. It turned out that the flying gods were not on our sides, though, because we ended up getting stuck in San Diego, where we had a layover.

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There are far worse places to be than San Diego, so we made the most of it and did a little exploring around the city. We had a fantastic dinner at Queenstown Public House. It was SO good. We loved walking through the Little Italy neighborhood and seeing all of the holiday decorations.

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24 hours after we were supposed to land in Puerto Vallarta, we finally made it! The weather was gorgeous that day and we made it through the immigration line in literally 1 minute, which was a stark contrast to the last time I went through immigration there!

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Both of us enjoyed our evening together, though we were exhausted from our second travel day, and then we patiently awaited the arrival of Alex’s parents the next day.

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It was so nice to be back in Puerto Vallarta again – it had only been about 9 months since we were there, but Alex didn’t spend more than 24 hours in PV so he had fun exploring and checking things out.

{One of the first nights we took a cab into Old Town and walked along the beach and had a fantastic dinner right on the sand at La Palapa. It was a top favorite for us all!}

{One of the first nights we took a cab into Old Town and walked along the beach and had a fantastic dinner right on the sand at La Palapa. It was a top favorite for us all!}

{Gorgeous view out to sea.}

{Gorgeous view out to sea.}

{View up the coast from Old Town.}

{View up the coast from Old Town.}

{Most of our days were spent by the pool or walking the beach. We all had great rooms at the Casa Magna Marriott, which I would HIGHLY recommend, and I loved watching the sun rise from my bed!}

{Most of our days were spent by the pool or walking the beach. We all had great rooms at the Casa Magna Marriott, which I would HIGHLY recommend, and I loved watching the sunrise from my bed!}

{The weather was great for most of the trip, though we did have two very rainy days and a couple other overcast days. It surely didn't ruin the fun, though! We made the best of the weather and found other things to entertain us.}

{The weather was great for most of the trip, though we did have two very rainy days and a couple other overcast days. It surely didn’t ruin the fun, though! We made the best of the weather and found other things to entertain us.}

{Alina and I planned a special celebration on Wednesday night for Donna and Stan to commemorate their anniversary. We started out with a photo shoot!}

{Alina and I planned a special celebration on Wednesday night for Donna and Stan to commemorate their anniversary. We started out with a photo shoot!}

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{The photos led us down to the beach...}

{The photos led us down to the beach…}

{I didn't get a good photo, but we had a special table on the beach and had a delicious 3-course dinner. It was so intimate and personal and I had fun listening to Donna and Stan telling stories of memories of their 35 years of marriage.}

{I didn’t get a good photo, but we had a special table on the beach and had a delicious 3-course dinner. It was so intimate and personal and I had fun listening to Donna and Stan telling stories of memories of their 35 years of marriage.}

{The weather turned on us on Thanksgiving day, but we were grateful that the hotel was preparing special Thanksgiving dinners for the Americans! Donna and Stan's balcony was enormous and had a table big enough for all of us, so we pulled the table under the overhang and had our turkey dinner outside in the rain.}

{The weather turned on us on Thanksgiving day, but we were grateful that the hotel was preparing special Thanksgiving dinners for the Americans! Donna and Stan’s balcony was enormous and had a table big enough for all of us, so we pulled the table under the overhang and had our turkey dinner outside in the rain.}

{The hotel prepared a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, veggies, cranberry and rolls for us. We were quite surprised how great it tasted!}

{The hotel prepared a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, veggies, cranberry and rolls for us. We were quite surprised how great it tasted!}

{The turkey was so tender and juicy we were able to carve it with a butter knife!}

{The turkey was so tender and juicy we were able to carve it with a butter knife!}

{We had one more rainy day on our trip, which we spent in Old Town and the Romantic Zone.}

{We had one more rainy day on our trip, which we spent in Old Town and the Romantic Zone.}

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{My personal favorite restaurant of the whole trip was Casa Tradicional. I absolutely LOVED the carnitas - the presentation was incredible but the flavor was out of this world!}

{My personal favorite restaurant of the whole trip was Casa Tradicional. I absolutely LOVED the carnitas – the presentation was incredible but the flavor was out of this world!}

{The margarita glasses were so pretty!}

{The margarita glasses were so pretty!}

{Holidays in PV!}

{Holidays in PV!}

{On our last night in PV we had a final celebratory dinner at Cafe de Artistes. The ambiance of the restaurant was so neat - we were outside in a jungle-like setting. The menu was a Mexican-French fusion. We had a really great last night!}

{On our last night in PV we had a final celebratory dinner at Cafe de Artistes. The ambiance of the restaurant was so neat – we were outside in a jungle-like setting. The menu was a Mexican-French fusion. We had a really great last night!}

{The guys enjoyed smoking cigars out on the little point in front of the hotel.}

{The guys enjoyed smoking cigars out on the little point in front of the hotel.}

{Eventually the weather cleared and the sun came back out!}

{Eventually the weather cleared and the sun came back out!}

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{Alex and I had such a wonderful trip! It was so nice to get to spend so many days with Alex's family. We are so very fortunate that we're able to take trips and meet somewhere so we can have that uninterrupted time together!}

{Alex and I had such a wonderful trip! It was so nice to get to spend so many days with Alex’s family. We are so very fortunate that we’re able to take trips and meet somewhere so we can have that uninterrupted time together!}

Illinois Trip + Julie & Ryan’s Wedding

Alex and I flew back to Illinois one last time this past weekend to celebrate the nuptials of my wonderful college friend and roommate, Julie, and her now husband, Ryan. Conveniently, Julie grew up in Geneva, Illinois, which is the town right next to Batavia, where Alex’s parents currently live. It works out quite well when I can squeeze in a visit with Julie when I am staying in Batavia with Alex’s parents, and for this trip, it was extra nice since the wedding was so close!

{me with Julie on her wedding day!}

{me with Julie on her wedding day!}

We arrived really, really late on Thursday night/Friday morning. To kick off the wedding events I met Julie, the other bridesmaids and the MOB {mother of the bride!} for coffee in St. Charles, one block away from where the wedding was to be held. I was exhausted to say the least. I’m sure I didn’t make the best company, but it was really nice to see the bride and her entourage while enjoying a delicious cup of coffee.

{the lovely bridesmaids with the bride}

{the lovely bridesmaids with the bride}

The weather while we were in Illinois was so nice! It was crisp and cool and I don’t think I saw a cloud the whole time. I was fortunate enough to get two long walks along the Fox River while I was there, one happened to be on Friday afternoon while Alex and Stan were off on their own adventure.

As a member of the bridal party I had rehearsal duty to tend to. The rehearsal and dinner went off without a hitch!

{my handsome date for the rehearsal}

{my handsome date for the rehearsal}

{the bridesmaids coincidentally all dressed alike for the rehearsal}

{the bridesmaids coincidentally all dressed alike for the rehearsal}

{Julie with her brother, Joe}

{Julie with her brother, Joe}

After the rehearsal we made a pit-stop over at the Bailey’s home. The Baileys are family friends of Alex’s parents and recently moved into a new home just seven minutes from Alex’s parents and are almost done with a major renovation. We got to see the house over the summer when it was amidst construction, so it was fun to see all of the progress, particularly Nora’s dream kitchen. Just like my in-laws, I simply adore the Bailey family and always enjoy seeing them when we’re back in Batavia.

{hanging out in the Bailey's kitchen... the island is big enough to fit a couple of beds on it and the entire wall on the right side of the photo is a refrigerator... absolutely amazing!}

{hanging out in the Bailey’s kitchen… the island is big enough to fit a couple of beds on it and the entire wall on the right side of the photo is a refrigerator… absolutely amazing!}

Saturday came bright and early and I ventured off to be a bridesmaid for the day while Alex spent some time with his family. His nana, sister and brother in-law all came over to his parents house, so they got to catch up all afternoon while I was gone doing wedding stuff.

{Julie's stylist nailed her braid and twisty bun!}

{Julie’s stylist nailed her braid and twisty bun!}

{gettin' our hair did...}

{gettin’ our hair did…}

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{all she needs is her white dress now!}

{all she needs is her white dress now!}

{sharing a sweet moment with her dad to help ease the pre-wedding jitters}

{sharing a sweet moment with her dad to help ease the pre-wedding jitters}

{on our way to the church we stopped at a favorite spot of Julie's so she could snap a few pictures}

{on our way to the church we stopped at a favorite spot of Julie’s so she could snap a few pictures}

{the new Mr. & Mrs. Johnson!}

{the new Mr. & Mrs. Johnson!}

{the weather and setting couldn't have been more perfect for Julie and Ryan's photos! the bridal party walked around the grounds of the reception venue for a while, posing in front of barns, on and next to fences and in front of the gorgeous trees lining the property. I can't wait to see how the professional photos turn out!}

{the weather and setting couldn’t have been more perfect for Julie and Ryan’s photos! the bridal party walked around the grounds of the reception venue for a while, posing in front of barns, on and next to fences and in front of the gorgeous trees lining the property. I can’t wait to see how the professional photos turn out!}

{their creative guestbook... canoe paddles!}

{as an ode to their passion for the outdoors, they used canoe paddles as their creative interpretation of a guestbook}

{sadly I don't have any photos of the ceremony since I was standing up with Julie and Ryan}

 

{the reception was at the Dunham Riding Club in St. Charles, Illinois}

{the reception was at the Dunham Riding Club in St. Charles, Illinois}

{cupcakes!}

{cupcakes!}

Julie and Ryan’s wedding was really nice and I so enjoyed being a part of their celebration!

The final full day of our trip was a big and busy one, too! Donna invited her whole family to come watch the Bears game at their house so we could have the opportunity to see people. Thankfully we had a “small” group of only 18 family members who could make it. It was a really nice size group because we were able to spend time with everyone and not feel overwhelmed. Alex has a truly wonderful and loving family and it is such a blessing to be a part of it.

{catching up with Nana while sneaking tastes of the great food that Donna prepared for the big game}

{catching up with Nana while sneaking tastes of the great food that Donna prepared for the big game}

{so great to catch up with these guys!}

{so great to catch up with these guys!}

{go bears!}

{go bears!}

Our last hurrah in Batavia was enjoying Pizza Villa pizza and beer nuggets for dinner while watching Mrs. Doubtfire on Sunday night. Pizza Villa is a restaurant in Alex’s hometown of Dekalb and he has fond memories of eating beer nuggets {basically little pieces of pizza dough that have been fried with Italian spices and you dip them in marinara} and wanted a bit of nostalgia.

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And just like that, our last planned trip to the Midwest of 2015 is behind us! Thanks to our friends and family for being so accommodating and we hope to see you soon 🙂

San Juan Islands & Alex’s Parents’ Visit

Our late summer saga continues with this weekend’s visit of my mom, but let me back up and tell you about the last two weeks where Alex’s parents came to visit… Now that Stan is retired and Donna is semi-retired they have a little more time to dedicate to traveling, so they came out to the Pacific Northwest for a 10-day excursion.

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Our first day was spent walking around Capitol Hill doing an unintentional bar crawl. We hopped from one bar to the next to dodge the rain.

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Donna and Stan hadn’t spent much time in the vibrant neighborhood of Capitol Hill, so we started our mini tour at Melrose Market where we had a glass of wine, then we hopped over to Quinn’s and finished up at Barrio. This was all before we commenced at Bottlehouse for dinner and drinks.

On Sunday we enjoyed an always delicious breakfast at our neighborhood spot called the Hi Spot, then we continued with the theme of drinking wine and headed out to Woodinville to enjoy the tasting rooms. We stopped at Brian Carter, Airfield, and of course, Trust, where we’re club members at. We had a late lunch at The Commons, then headed home for a night in where we watched the awesome movie the Imitation Game.

D_S

As a way to see more of the beautiful Pacific Northwest and to break up the trip a bit, Donna and Stan headed down to Portland from Monday through Wednesday. They planned a big wine tasting excursion in the Willamette Valley, rode the cable car in Portland and enjoyed seeing what makes Portland so weird.

 

 

 

20150904_190501756_iOSAfter Donna and Stan returned from their trip to Portland we set sail on the ferry and headed to San Juan Island for the long weekend.

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The weather was drastically better than we expected! The ferry ride was chilly, as expected, but the skies were blue and it felt like wonderful fall weather while we were there.

Our trip to San Juan Island was really quite uneventful. It was relaxing and we spent a lot of time chatting, playing ball with Jackson, drinking wine {I know you’re shocked}, reading and watching the birds. It’s official. We’re getting old…

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One highlight; however, was renting mopeds and/or “scoot coupes” to toot around the island on! I had never been on a moped before, so it was a fun new experience. Other than the woman at the shop giving me the staggering statistics about the accident rate for women and then sneaking in an “oh by the way, there’s no hospital on the island, so it’s an $18,000 helicopter ride if you get hurt.” Thanks for that.

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Thankfully we all came away accident-free!

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The little house we rented was right on the water {Puget Sound}, which provided endless entertainment for us all. We were shocked at how much the water level changed with the tides! One morning we woke up and half of the bay was dry!

{low tide - all of this is mud}

{low tide – all of this is mud}

{not a great comparison, but you can see the bay filled with water}

{not a great comparison, but you can see the bay filled with water}

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We did take a few outings – Saturday we spent the afternoon in Friday Harbor and visited the farmers market and a few shops before having a very late lunch.

{Friday Harbor and the ferry terminal}

{Friday Harbor and the ferry terminal}

{Friday Harbor}

{Friday Harbor}

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On our last day we spent some time in Roche Harbor, a darling little resort town just north of where we were staying.

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It’s not hard to believe these two are going to be celebrating their 35th anniversary next month! We had such a nice time visiting with Alex’s parents and always love when they come to see us. The ten days flew by and it’s hard to believe they’re back home already!

 

 

Willamette Valley Wine Trip

The Willamette Valley wine region in Oregon has been on our list of places to visit for quite some time now. From Seattle, it’s only a 3 1/2 hour drive down to the famous pinot noir wine region in Oregon, so we finally booked a trip and made it happen.

{Alex and me with Mike and Sarah at one of the wineries we went to on our trip to Oregon!}

{Alex and me with Mike and Sarah at one of the wineries we went to on our trip to Oregon!}

My friend from Minnesota, Sarah, and her husband, Mike, flew out to Portland and we spent the weekend together in McMinnville, Oregon, right in the heart of the Willamette Valley. We rented an adorable house for the weekend – this house is one of my favorite vacation rentals to date. It was really roomy, had a ton of charm and a fantastic backyard for us to lounge in and for Jackson to run around. The location was just a block off the main drag, or shall I say “the gut” of the town. During our stay in McMinnville, the locals had an event called “Cruise the Gut” where they drove their vintage, sporty, loud or just regular cars down the “gut” of the town.

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The town was really cute and had several restaurants, wine tasting rooms and a few little shops. We spent our Friday evening checking out the tasting rooms before settling in at La Rambla, a Spanish restaurant, for dinner.

{Our first tasting of the weekend at Willamette Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville!}

{Our first tasting of the weekend at Willamette Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville!}

As a way to break up the wine drinking, we headed to Cannon Beach on Saturday for a full-day excursion. Cannon Beach is on the Oregon Coast and was about a 2 hour drive away from where we were staying. We weren’t aware of this initially, but similar to the fires in Washington, Oregon was experiencing several wildfires during our stay. The skies were extremely hazy on Saturday and Sunday.

{The famous Haystack Rock that juts out of the beach.}

{The famous Haystack Rock that juts out of the beach.}

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{Jackson was having the time of his life!}

{Jackson was having the time of his life!}

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{I can't even describe how frigid the water was!}

{I can’t even describe how frigid the water was!}

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{Looking back on the beach from the water - cute little Cape Cod-style houses line the shores in a very underwhelming manor - it's not crazy overpopulated, which was really refreshing.}

{Looking back on the beach from the water – cute little Cape Cod-style houses line the shores in a very underwhelming manor – it’s not crazy overpopulated, which was really refreshing.}

{You can rent these little bikes that people were riding all around the beach}

{You can rent these little bikes that people were riding all around the beach}

{Family photo!}

{Family photo!}

Cannon Beach was different than I expected. Haystack Rock, the infamous rock jutting out from the beach, was at least three times as large as I imagined. The beach itself was super sandy and the sand was so soft! Most/all of the beaches on the Washington coast are completely covered in rocks. While I knew the beach was enormous, the town was a bit bigger than I realized it would be. There were tons of shops, restaurants, cafes and beach houses. It was really Cape Cod-esque but with a little Pacific Northwest flare.

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Our next big adventure was Sunday’s excursion to Dundee Hills, one of the AVAs {American Viticulture Area} in the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley looks a lot different than the Washington wine country areas we’ve been to previously {Yakima and Walla Walla areas}. It’s much less deserty-feeling in Oregon, there are more trees, both coniferous and deciduous, and more rolling hills. The haze from the wildfires really prohibited our view – a few of the wineries boast views out to Mount Hood, which we didn’t get to enjoy on our trip.

{First stop... Purple Hands - this was the only winery that was familiar to Alex and me before we took this trip}

{First stop… Purple Hands – this was the only winery that was familiar to Alex and me before we took this trip}

{This guy is secretly a winery dog...}

{This guy is secretly a winery dog…}

{Enjoying our picnic at Stoller!}

{Enjoying our picnic at Stoller!}

{Stoller had a really cool LEED building for their tasting room. They also had an extraordinary property.}

{Stoller had a really cool LEED building for their tasting room. They also had an extraordinary property.}

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Each of the four wineries we stopped at on Sunday offered a different experience. We all shared similar sentiments and seemed to favor Purple Hands for wine and service, Stoller for view, Sokol Blosser for space and ambiance and White Rose for overall wine quality.

{Hazy view from White Rose winery}

{Hazy view from White Rose winery}

{Jackson ended up getting stung by a bee at White Rose, so we relocated to an area with fewer bees and fewer small children...}

{Jackson ended up getting stung by a bee at White Rose, so we relocated to an area with fewer bees and fewer small children…}

Another thing I was surprised about with our Willamette Valley wine tour was just how much pinot noir we would drink. I guess I had it in my mind that our experience would be very similar to our previous experiences in Washington, where there is quite a variety of wine varietals, but honestly, the only red wine we drank was pinot noir! I like pinots, but they’re not a wine I tend to favor when presented a choice. And similarly, the white grape varietal of choice was a chardonnay, which tends to be my least favorite. We did have a couple chardonnays that I enjoyed; however.

{Mike and Sarah have been together for almost five years if my memory serves me well. That being said, Alex and I have spent a lot of time with him, but we all found out just how much in common these two gents have with each other! That was a really fun highlight of the trip was just seeing how similar they are and how many shared interests they have. Both guys are really easy-going and easy to talk to, so it's not surprising.}

{Mike and Sarah have been together for almost five years if my memory serves me well. That being said, Alex and I have spent a lot of time with him, but we all found out just how much in common these two gents have with each other! That was a really fun highlight of the trip was just seeing how similar they are and how many shared interests they have. Both guys are really easy-going and easy to talk to, so it’s not surprising.}

{Cheers! We loved hanging out on the patio at Sokol Blosser}

{Cheers! We loved hanging out on the patio at Sokol Blosser}

{This guy was an all-star winery dog! He got so many compliments and random head scratches from strangers. He loves hanging out with us and going on outings!}

{This guy was an all-star winery dog! He got so many compliments and random head scratches from strangers. He loves hanging out with us and going on outings!}

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We had one more winery on our list for Monday, our last day in Oregon. This was a winery I was particularly excited about because it was a more private, intimate tasting, and I had read reviews on Trip Advisor that people agreed it was the best wine tasting experience they had ever had. We pulled up to Soter Vineyards just before our reservation time and were already blown away by how beautiful the tasting room and the grounds were. That was even before we were greeted by our host with a glass of amazing rose – our group favorite of the trip.

{Walking into Soter Vineyards was gorgeous - it was so open and natural. They host a wine tasting only as well as a wine and food tasting where they serve food straight from the farm they have on their property}

{Walking into Soter Vineyards was gorgeous – it was so open and natural. They host a wine tasting only as well as a wine and food tasting where they serve food straight from the farm they have on their property}

{This quaint cabin, also known as the home of the winemakers, was where we did our private tasting}

{This quaint cabin, also known as the home of the winemakers, was where we did our private tasting}

{The view from the porch of the cabin at Soter Vineyards}

{The view from the porch of the cabin at Soter Vineyards}

{Our tasting set-up}

{Our tasting set-up}

{Here is what we got to drink!}

{Here is what we got to drink!}

{The gang!}

{The gang! After this experience, we all changed our “favorite everything” to Soter. It was a fantastic, personalized experience, the wine was unparalleled and the service and knowledge that our host provided was top notch.}

Being a big wine lover, I really enjoyed our wine tour and getting to explore this new region we had never been to before. That said, though, one of my favorite parts of our trip was the time we spent in the backyard of the home we stayed at. The backyard was fantastic and the temperatures were so mild that we stayed warm late into the evening. We used that time to catch up and just chat about life. It was really nice to have several days to spend with Sarah and Mike. I think those are the best get-togethers – the ones where you take a vacation and get to spend that much quality time together.

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Sarah and I, who have been best friends since high school and served the role of each others’ maid of honor, typically talk several times each day, whether by text, email or phone, and we always know what’s going on with each other even though we only see each other a couple times a year. Technology has been so instrumental in our long-distance friendship. With those visits to Minnesota, I typically only get a few hours with her, so I really enjoyed the duration of time we got to have together. Hopefully we can take another trip soon 🙂

{Miss you Sali!}

{Miss you Sali!}