July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

relaxation The act of relaxing or the state of being relaxed. Refreshment of body or mind; recreation.

chillaxin’ Way-far laid back. Chillin’ & relaxin’ at the same time. An extreme state of contentedness. Good vibes.

We are back from our week’s vacation in Hawaii and, even though we had a few adventures, just being together was definitely the highlight. Somehow, away from the rest of the world and in the security of our own family space, we relaxed into ourselves. Already amazing everyday, on vacation my girls seemed somehow sillier, spunkier and happier – making me love them even more, which I didn’t think possible. Together as a family, we perfected the fine art of chillaxin’. It’s a busy world, and time seems to get away from us; a little bit of relaxation is so important and so much fun!

a day at the arboretum

June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Father’s Day is coming up this weekend and, since I know it will be impossible to top our Mother’s Day, we’ll just have to enjoy more of the same. For my special day this year, I wanted to do one of my favorite things: spend a day having an adventure and feeling lost in the world with my family. One of the best warm weather day trips right here in our own backyard is a trip to the Washington Park Arboretum. We love to rent canoes from the University of Washington and, once you make it through the cut and past all the big boats cruising Lake Washington (which if you are not careful can result in a spill – just ask my Bella about the time Daddy almost tipped the boat), you find yourself meandering under the 520 bridge and through the canals of the arboretum. Even more than the canoeing, my girls love to park the canoe on one of the banks and play catch, eat lunch and just relax by the lake. So that’s just what we did, and this happy Mommy got to do another of my other favorite things: sit around and take pictures of this family that I love so much! I can’t wait to see where we find ourselves this weekend.

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.

getting out there

May 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ll admit that I am not much of a camper. Actually I have some great memories of camping as a child with my dad and uncles and, before having kids of my own, I did get out there every so often for a short trip with my hubby and friends. Ever since I had the girls though, I’ve preferred hotel rooms to tents and fireplaces to camp fires. But with my dad’s visit this weekend and my brother now living out here, a camping experience for my girls was in order. My brother is a regular mountain man – he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail straight from Georgia to Maine about six years ago, and now he lives on the Olympic Peninsula. The girls love their “Uncle D” and having him and Gramps to go camping with got them really excited. We ended up at the beautiful Lake Wenatchee State Park, and seeing our outdoor adventure through my daughters’ eyes changed my perspective on roughing it.

The girls loved all the things I remember loving when I was little: setting up the beds in the tent, hiking around and exploring the campground, tending the fire, laying in the hammock and making the food. We roasted hot dogs for dinner and made s’mores for dessert. In typical fashion, Bella got extremely scientific in creating the perfect s’more, expertly toasting the marshmallows and graham crackers and melting the chocolate. The little sister preferred to quickly toast the marshmallows, throw the combo together and then relax in the hammock, enjoying the tasty results. Sitting around the campfire was fun; the girls brought their own instruments (a recorder and a ukulele) and had a little jam session. And at dusk, we walked down to the lake’s gorgeous beach where I was happy to find some rocks and driftwood for my collection. I get it now, camping isn’t about roughing it – it’s about being together and having an adventure and making memories. I guess I can get out there every once in a while for that!

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!

memory jars

March 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

I love collecting seashells, driftwood and sand from the beautiful places I’ve been to and keeping them displayed in glass jars throughout the house as reminders. There’s something so simple, yet perfect, about a glass jar and the way it makes the treasures within stand out. Recently, I’ve been creating “memory jars” by putting some my collections into labeled Mason jars; I’m loving the idea of a row of these jars lining my mantle – such a personal way to decorate!

vacation scrapbooking

March 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

While I am by no means an expert at parenting, I do believe that I am quite skilled in the tricky art of entertaining my children in public. I’ve never been caught out at a restaurant without my little bag of tricks: games, toys, books and other activities to keep my little ones happy. Now that they’re older it’s the same story, although the books and games have gotten far more advanced and take up a lot less room. We started traveling with our girls when they were very young, both out of necessity – having moved here from the East Coast and desperately needing sun and a little family time – and out of pleasure. Drew and I love to travel and wanted to share that love with the girls.

I have figured out a perfect way to make our travels fun, keeping the children busy while creating a perfect souvenir. Before our trips, I assemble everything we need for vacation scrapbooks. My usual go-to items include a 6×6 scrapbook for each girl (Making Memories, SEI and American Crafts all sell great ones) and a pad of coordinating 6×6 papers. I bring stickers, markers and colored pencils, glue sticks and cute-patterned tapes. Head’s up: do not pack any scissors in your carry-on, even those cute little shaped ones, unless you want major drama and crying at airport security when they are confiscated. Along the way, we collect business cards, postcards, menus, brochures – anything we can find – and the girls go to work. They love putting everything in their books, and it definitely keeps them busy. Once we return, I print out photos we’ve taken, and we spend a few days adding them in. The results are incredible. Even scrapbooks from years ago are constantly revisited; we all love seeing the old pictures, drawings and scribble scrabble. And it’s so cute to see the memories the girls chose to include from a trip – moments I might not have even remembered. I know that we will always treasure these precious little books, reminders of the amazing times we spent lost in the world together.

a bit of sun

February 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

The longer we live in Seattle, the more we feel we’re becoming true Seattleites. But by far the hardest thing to get used to has been the weather. Having both spent most of our lives in Florida, Drew and I at first found the lack of sunshine a novelty, but the feeling soon wore off. We don’t miss the constant sun (and heat and sunscreen), but the gray skies do bring some wintertime blues. Wondering how people seem to thrive here – in this albeit absolutely gorgeous but sunless area – we began to listen to and watch our friends and saw that to truly appreciate Seattle, you have to leave it every once in awhile.

We’ve taken up skiing in the winter. It’s amazing that in about an hour you can be on snow-covered mountains enjoying the sun while getting fresh air and exercise. Last summer we went to Hawaii – a place us Floridians never considered going to before. But after a relatively short direct flight, we found ourselves in paradise: the beautiful and relaxing island of Kauai, with plenty of sunshine to enjoy.

This past week was our Mid-Winter Break, and with a few days off school our family was again looking for a quick bit of sun. We headed to Palm Springs, another place that so many of our Seattle friends escape to. Just the idea of packing swimsuits and shorts in the middle of the Northwest winter – with Sophie excitedly discovering that her favorite Saltwater Sandals from last summer still fit – made me happy. Palm Springs was an interesting place to visit and pretty much what we expected. It had such an old Hollywood vibe – I kept expecting to see the Rat Pack strolling by. We spent most of time sitting by the pool and soaking up the sun. We also loved The Living Desert, Palm Springs’ local zoo and botanical park, and had our first In-N-Out burgers. I’ve never seen terrain like that before – the strange and beautiful combination of palm trees and cacti and the sandy mountains.

Our getaway was relaxing and recharging – short and sweet – and coming home to Seattle after a little sun felt good. There’s something nice about how much more you appreciate things when they’re a little harder to come by. A sunny day in Seattle when it finally comes is the most beautiful thing you can imagine. So for now, yes, it’s back to the gray skies but also back to the lush green trees, the unbelievable mountains and water, the interesting people and work, and the city that we love so much. The sun will eventually come, and now I think we can make it to summer … well at least to Spring Break.

playing tourist

September 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

For the very last day of summer vacation, I wanted to do something special – something to mark the occasion. Now that my girlies are older, I treasure the summer months when I get to have them home all day with me and we can just let the day flow, taking us where it wants to, without caring where we end up. I love wearing our pjs until 11:00 and staying up reading at night ’til our eyes hurt. I love it when we spend the entire day dressing up the American Girls for a major fashion show, or playing Harry Potter wizard school in the playhouse. I love that when the ice cream truck drives by my girls shriek and are already running to the door, because in the summer we never say no to ice cream, or cookies, or cupcakes…

To really remember the last day of summer, I had decided that I wanted us to take a little family trip. Since our actual summer vacation had been at the beginning of July, I thought that one last little getaway would be a fun memory to hold onto as the summer was fading away. Since we only had the day, we took a vacation playing tourist right here in our own city: Seattle. We’ve lived her for 7 years and have definitely made the rounds taking everyone who visits us to see the important local landmarks. But it’s been awhile since that’s happened, and it was really nice to fall in love with our city again. We made our way downtown to Pike’s Place Market with a stop for coffee and pastries at Le Panier, a “Very French Bakery” that we adore. We drank our hot chocolates and Cafe au Laits. We ate our pain au chocolats, croissants, macaroons and palmier cookies. We soaked up the fabulous French atmosphere and loved every minute of it.

Then we headed into the market to buy fruit and check out all the beautiful flowers. We made a stop in Beecher’s Cheese shop – their Flagship is the BEST cheese – and then wandered over to the famous gum wall and groaned over how gross it looked – always fun!

Later we drove to Madison Park, another part of the city we love. The girls think the playground there is the best (their zipline is pretty fantastic!). We found Bing’s, a fun new spot for lunch, and sat in the sun for awhile. Ahhh….

Then it was home to pack up the backpacks and choose our first day of school outfits. Teeth brushed, quick bedtime story read and lights out. The day had flown by, but we’d made the most of it and accomplished my mission, created one last amazing summer memory before our everyday back to school life takes over. When you only have one day, it’s important to make it count.

collecting memories

April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

Over Spring Break with my girlies, we spent a day at the beach with some of our dear friends. It was fun, as always, playing and talking about old times. And when I left, I had the perfect souvenir: a bucket of beautiful miniature shells we’d collected.

Since moving to the beach, my friend has discovered a new passion: “shelling”. Her new passion fits in perfectly with one of my obsessions: “collecting”. One of something is never enough for me! I love to display my little collections around the house; they make me smile and are a constant reminder of the places I’ve been and the life I’m leading. The small round pebbles and clay from Cinque Terre remind me of my amazing honeymoon. My collection of Washington driftwood makes me think of when my husband and I decided to roll the dice and move our family to the West Coast.

So now that this trip is over, and I’ve bought the perfect glass jar (another obsession all together) to display my pretties in  – I can sit home, pour over my newest treasure and enjoy the memories. Another little thing to love …

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