where the day takes you

February 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

This past Monday was the only day my girls’ mid-winter breaks aligned, so I decided to make the most of it by heading out on a little road trip with my brother. I feel so lucky that he moved out west and now lives only 15 minutes away from us, much to his nieces’ delight. We had no plan for the day but decided on a whim to try to find a fantastic little hole-in-the-wall restaurant we’d been to once before on a road trip when I first moved out here and he’d come to visit. We couldn’t even remember how long ago it was, except that my now eight year old was in a baby car seat.

Jason thought the restaurant had the word “anchor” in the name or there was some sort of nautical theme – that and the fact that we remembered it being in one of the small waterfront towns near a ferry port north of Seattle was pretty much all we had to go on. It was fun taking off for the day and retracing the steps of our past adventures. And as soon as we hit the little town of Anacortes, with its quaint historic downtown, it all came back. We’d obviously been there several times since along with Adrift (the restaurant we’d remembered with the most amazing burgers and shelves filled with old books), we also came across a pizza place and a country-style restaurant that we remembered going to.

After our lunch, we continued road tripping to the amazing – but terrifying – Deception Pass bridge. Heights like that freak me out, especially since having children, and I wouldn’t even let my girls go all the way out to the middle. Yikes!! But we parked and had a cool little hike down to the beach below. The girls had fun being outdoors and hanging with my bro, and I gathered a few more of the beautiful colored rocks that you can only find out here on the beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Not a bad way to spend the day!

finding the happy

July 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

On vacation, I spent some time with my latest find in the self-help department, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, reminding me why these types of books are so valuable. I’ve always been the kind of person who can’t turn my brain off (I even cheat at yoga: when you’re supposed to be clearing your mind and renewing your spirit, I’m making mental to-do lists). As a lifelong over-thinker, over-analyzer and worrier it’s important that I work to find my happiness along the way. I first took notice of these happy books and thoughts in my twenties; fresh out of college and overwhelmed by the demands of life, I stumbled upon Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. It literally changed me overnight – things seemed easier when I focused on the important things and counted my blessings. Amazed by the fact that such a small book – that I picked up on a whim – would have such a lasting effect on my outlook, I began to focus on the joys in my life and try to keep the negative to a minimum.

Over the years, I’ve looked to similar books for a fresh perspective and to remind myself of what truly matters. I spent a year with the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, reading the once-a-day essays with great results; I still pull it out from time to time to read the day’s entry and can always find something to apply to my life. Although I’ve honestly only read a couple of pages, just researching, talking with friends about and buying Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret was helpful to me; I think believing that there could be a secret to happiness and fulfillment in life made me feel happier and more fulfilled – strange, huh?

My most recent addition, The Happiness Project, tells the story of one woman’s journey to find the joy in her life and live in a more appreciative way. Her struggle resonated with me, and I realize I’ve been on a similar quest for most of my adult life. It’s the path that has led me to this blog and to taking note of the little things that make my life worthwhile. It’s my love of writing and crafting and decorating and clothes and cooking and parties and family and friends and traveling – it’s all the pieces and parts of my life that I love, that make me happy and that make me: me. Life is a long and winding road, but finding the joy – anyway you can – makes the journey so much sweeter.

summer notebooks

June 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Like I’m not crazy busy with a million little things already: school finally wrapping up, my Sophie’s birthday luau on Sunday, dance recitals, teachers’ gifts, etc – but for some reason, once I got this latest craft idea into my head, I couldn’t let it go. So for the last couple of nights, I’ve stayed up late putting together Summer 2012 notebooks for all the kiddos in my life. I found the blank books at Ben Franklin and “Modge Podged” on some great summer-colored papers. I used the Cubicle 12×12 Take Note paper from Studio Calico, stamped with my title, for the covers. They were so simple and, once I got going, I was able to put them together quickly assembly line-style. Now they look perfect, wrapped up in baker’s twine and ready to be given away.

I always loved blank books and journals when I was a little girl and, even today, a new notebook gets me giddy – I always keep a couple in my purse for when inspiration strikes. I am happy knowing that the little ones in our life (my girls and all their friends) will have their own special books to document this summer. Life moves fast, and I don’t want them to forget a moment.

the world of harry potter

June 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

This year, when we went to Florida for Spring Break, we were so excited to spend a day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For the last year, both of my girls have been obsessed (OBSESSED) with the Harry Potter books and all things magical. Our 10-year-old Bella has finished all the books, and at seven years old, even Sophie has read through the fifth book. Both girls were the same thing for Halloween, Hermione Granger, a first for this family. They also watch the movies, love the books on CD, and endlessly play wizard school: dressing in their Hogwarts robes, making up spells with their special-ordered wands and writing with their genuine quill and ink sets. As parents Drew and I try not to miss perfect opportunities when they present themselves to us and wanted to be sure to fully capture this moment and the girls’ Harry Potter excitement.

The Wizarding World is located inside Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure park. We stayed at one of Universal’s hotels the night before and, with our night’s reservation, got early entrance to the park – we were lined up and ready to go at 7:00 a.m. The accuracy of this place was literally amazing! As you near the entrance, you round the corner and the first thing you see is the Hogwarts Express – then the Harry Potter theme music starts and never stops. I think the most fascinating part was just wandering down the main street of Hogsmeade – we couldn’t stop staring in all the realistic shop windows. It felt like we’d stepped into the books and movies.

We waited in line for our turn in Olivanders wand shop where the girls got to let a wand choose them. The candy shop Honeydukes was awesome – there were chocolate frogs, and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans – Gramma found the perfect chocolate wand and let us know, “This wand chose me!” We had lunch at Three Broomsticks and tried pumpkin juice (not so good) and butterbeer (delicious) – we ate our way through the park. The rides were so much fun. While the dragon roller coaster was too scary for Sophie, she was very brave on the little Hippogriff mini coaster and even loved the incredibly intense Forbidden Journey ride, which had you flying through an incredible Hogwarts castle, unlike any ride I’d ever been on. I think she didn’t have time to be scared because she was too busy being mesmerized by the scenes.

I love the role that great literature and movies have played in our family and how much my girls have been enthralled with these characters during their childhood; our family has been able to share the passion in unique ways: a Wizard of Oz birthday party play for Sophie, a trip through Salzburg acting out “The Sound of Music”, and Little House on the Prairie reenactments in our backyard playhouse. These events have brought our family so much joy, and our trip to the Wizarding World was no different; I know that we’ll never forget this time in our lives we spent together in the magical world of Harry Potter.

seizing the moment

April 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

So at 8:30 this past Monday morning, my phone rang. My friend Stacy told me she’d been excitedly waiting since 7:00 to call me with the news that Julie Andrews was coming to Seattle this weekend to promote her newest book in The Very Fairy Princess series she writes with her daughter. Ms. Andrews would be doing a few signings, but only for those lucky enough to get a coveted spot. My friend knows me so well – I mean, it’s JULIE ANDREWS!

This family is a little (OK, a lot) obsessed with “The Sound of Music.” We come by it naturally: my mom, and her mom, both loved the movie way before I was born. For months after it was released, my mom spent every Saturday in Speedway, Indiana, riding the bus downtown to watch the von Trapps sing and dance through the gorgeous Salzburg countryside! Of course with two generations before me already hooked, I came to love it too. And from the time they were little, I’ve shared the movie with my girls. They love the singing, they love the dancing, they love it all – and it makes me so happy.

My husband Drew and I are all about seizing the moment. We realize not only how lucky we are, but that life is short and our precious girlies will only be young once. We don’t want to leave anything on the table as far as they are concerned. A couple of years ago, we were planning a family trip to Italy around the same time Drew needed to do some work in Graz, Austria. It only took a bit of discussion for us to realize what an opportunity we had stumbled into. Austria means Salzburg and, to us, Salzburg means “The Sound of Music.” We got to work. Unbelievably, the actual von Trapp family home is now a hotel, and we were able to stay there for two nights. We booked a day-long tour with an amazing guide, a woman who knew every detail of both the making of the movie and the actual von Trapp family history.

Salzburg was beautiful – the hills really did feel alive with the sound of music! The girls loved the marionette museum we visited where they got to work with their own puppets. We toured the large and impressive church where the wedding scene was filmed and saw the lovely little church where the real Maria and Georg actually were married. At the famous gazebo where Liesl sang “16 Going on 17,” I forced my boy to dance with me to the girls’ delight. The best part was our visit to the Mirabell Gardens, where some of the most recognizable sequences from the movie were filmed. Drew waited patiently as us girls consulted our iTouch to find the exact scenes from the movie and then acted them out singing and dancing our way through the afternoon. We will never forget it!

And today we found ourselves waiting at the book signing for the chance to meet Julie Andrews face to face. We were close to the front of the line, and it was cute to see the girls peering between the bookshelves to get a first glimpse as she entered the store. She looked so regal, addressed Bella and Sophie by name (her voice is exactly the same as in the movies) and had a lovely conversation with our family. It was thrilling – a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet such an icon. We love her as Mary Poppins and Queen Clarisse from “The Princess Diaries.” Most of all, we love her as Maria and for all the joy she and “The Sound of Music” has brought to four generations of our family. Just to see her in person, if only for a few minutes, was another perfect moment to seize!

sharing books

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

We are a family of bookworms. When the girls were little, we loved going to bed and waking up by reading a fun stack of our favorite picture books – books that now I will never be able to part with. But as the girls have grown, we’ve moved into new and even more exciting territory: the chapter book read-alouds. It’s probably not a coincidence that this is something that has become part of our family life given that my dad reading aloud is definitely a favorite memory from my childhood. The first chapter book I read to our family was Charlotte’s Web, and by the time we got to the part when the lovely Charlotte comforts Wilbur as she is meeting her tragic end, Bella was fully engaged, weeping along with Wilbur. She was so affected, loved the story and wanted to hear it again immediately. And I’ll never forget reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to both the girls, crying so hard myself by the end that I could barely get the last words out.

This Spring Break, it was fun to have my dad read a bit of The Hobbit, our current read-aloud. He’d read it when I was little, and once convinced, he dove in again – it was like stepping back in time. He used the voices I remember, and I was thrilled the girls got to hear a little of his version. We just laid back and took it in – it was a good night.

We also love listening to books on CD. The Harry Potter series, read by Jim Dale, is a particular favorite with my girls. In fact, anything read by Jim Dale can transport you to another world. We have recently discovered a new series: Peter and the Starcatchers, a new twist on the classic Peter Pan story. We started reading the first book ourselves but, once we discovered that Mr. Dale was reading the audio books, we made the switch. On our ski weekends this year, we were consumed with listening to the series in the car, sometimes coming home after our long drive to sit at the kitchen bar, huddling around the iPod, unable to break ourselves away from the story. I love that we are book nerds.

It’s definitely fun to read alone, and each of us loves the down-time provided by checking out and escaping into our own little book world. But, there’s something different and amazing about reading a book together as a family. Having our own little book club and sharing that imaginary world together is a wonderful way to spend our time.

Our Favorite Family Read-Alouds:
any Oz book
Charlotte’s Web
Little Women
Little House on the Prairie
The Penderwicks
Peter and the Starcatchers
Harry Potter

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