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Another month, another plane ride to another wedding!  We’ve been looking forward to my BFF Rebecca’s wedding for a LONG time.  Rebecca and her husband (!!!) Eric first met and fell in love in Afghanistan in 2011 and have been living in Virginia Beach since they returned stateside.  Rebecca planned a simple and sweet beach wedding, encompassing everything that they love – their family and friends, the water, and great food.  Peanut and I were both in the wedding party, and we were so excited to help “Aunt Rebecca” celebrate her special day.  Nugget was excited to ride on the Metro again.

And he had fun running around the gate.  We saw the airport fire truck pulling out of the fire station, so obviously that was the highlight of the weekend.  Ha!

We arrived in Florida a day late and a hundred dollars short.  No, seriously, we did.  Poor little Peanut started showing signs of being sick at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday night.  Our flight to Tampa was scheduled to leave at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, but there was no question – she really needed to go to the doctor (which opens at 8:30 a.m.).  Southwest allowed us to change our flight to Friday morning instead (for the low, low price of $100).  And sure enough – double ear infection.  Ouch.  Poor kid!  She left the doctor’s office with a prescription for antibiotics and permission to fly the next day.  So, off we went to Florida on Friday instead of Thursday.  Once we got there, we didn’t waste a second – off to the beach!  Peanut was thrilled to see Aunt Rebecca.

So were Nugget and I!  We found Rebecca swimming with her sister and some friends.  Eric was walking the beach with his metal detector and announced, “I’m trying to find Rebecca a ring!”  Gosh, I love those two hilarious lovebirds.

 

Nugget enjoyed a swim with Aunt Rebecca and some of her friends, while I stayed on the beach with Peanut.

Peanut can be kind of unpredictable in her water comfort level.  The Gulf of Mexico was really warm and calm, but she didn’t want to swim.  She got drilled in California in August and has been avoiding the water ever since – oof.  But it was probably better for her ears that she didn’t get her head wet, anyway.

She did have fun playing in the surf.  As long as she was having a good time – that’s what matters!

Eventually her little brother joined her and they had a great time stomping and splashing in the small waves.

We headed back to our little beach cottage to clean up, and then Peanut and I joined the wedding party for a rehearsal.  We managed to get through the ceremony before the skies opened up and we moved inside Rebecca and Eric’s rented beach house for dinner – a fabulous Mediterranean spread.  No pictures from the rehearsal, but it was hilariously slapstick.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny.  The wedding wasn’t until 5:30, and Peanut and I weren’t expected until fairly close to zero hour, so we decided to devote the morning to squeezing in a little adventure.  (You know me…)  Rebecca had recommended a local Pinellas County park, Fort de Soto, for hiking, kayaking, shelling and general beach fun.  Naturally, we gravitated to the kayak outpost.

The kids were READY to get out on the water.  We loaded up and immediately shoved off for a morning on the Fort de Soto Water Trail.

Most exciting development of this excursion: Peanut got her own paddle!  As I mentioned in this post, Steve had been “duffing” Peanut in a single kayak, but she was putting his legs to sleep, and she seemed like she would be trustworthy enough to not jump over the side of the boat if she had her own seat, so we decided to try her out in a double kayak.  The kayak rental employee agreed that should work and suggested that she take along a particularly small and light paddle that he had lying around.  (More so that she could feel involved than anything else.)

Verdict?  She loved it!  I don’t think she was any help at all in either the steering or forward propulsion departments, but she had a good time and stayed in the boat, so – a win!  Now I’m looking at kids’ kayak paddles for her to tote along when we kayak the Potomac next summer.

As for me, I still had my little duffer in a single kayak.  Per usual, we were both swimming in our life jackets.  <–see what I did there?

It was a gorgeous day out on the water.  We were constantly scanning the area, looking for the manatees that we’d heard were having a party in the park only the day before, but didn’t see any.  A bit of a disappointment, but I reminded myself (and everyone else) that wild animals don’t adhere to a schedule.  We had great luck out whale watching in California, but there are no guarantees on the water.

And let’s be honest – any day out paddling with my family under bright blue skies and in such a beautiful place is a GREAT day.

The water trail was well-marked with signage and we followed the trail from point to point, watching the fish jump and pointing out beautiful birds.

I could have stayed out there all day!  I’d have loved to have more time to explore in the mangrove forest, too – but we stuck to the trail.

We were rewarded when we caught a glimpse of this guy:

A beautiful snowy egret!  Nugget and I paddled closer to take a good look.

Such a stunning sight!

Eventually, sadly, we had to turn back.  We needed to get a move on, and Nugget was starting to lose his patience.  He has about a one-hour shelf life in the kayak – anything more than that is pushing it.  I’m just grateful that, at two-and-a-half, he is so adventurous and game for anything.  If we have to keep our kayak excursions to an hour for now, I’ll take it.

After the kayaking, we made a quick trip to the beach at Fort de Soto, but it wasn’t quite the shelling destination we’d hoped for, and it was getting close to lunchtime – so we headed back to civilization for a bite to eat and naps for everyone.  (Well, naps for the kids and for me.  I think Steve worked while the rest of us slept.)  And then it was time for the wedding!

Peanut and I headed over early to get ready with the west of the wedding party, and before we knew it, we were walking down the sandy “aisle.”  Peanut was radiant!  At five years old, she has long been crazy for weddings – Rebecca’s was actually the fourth one she’s attended – but this was the first time she actually got to participate.  She took her flower throwing extremely seriously.

Little sweetheart!  My heart was singing to see her so happy.  She was so obviously proud of her role and thrilled to be included in her godmother’s special day.  She also made the most of her moment in the spotlight, stopping frequently to strike poses and blow kisses – haha!  The groomsmen were having a particularly hard time holding it together and not laughing as she did her prance down the aisle.  Eventually, by a combination of wild gesturing and yanking, I got her “offstage” in time to give Rebecca her moment – and she was a glowing, wildly happy bride.

It was.  The best.  Wedding.  Ever.

Peanut and Nugget got to join in the fun for a little while, then we rushed them back to the beach cottage, where we had lined up a babysitter for them, before heading back to the wedding (a five minute walk away – so convenient) to dance the night away.  It was a wonderful, happy, sparkly night that I know Rebecca and Eric will remember forever.  We were so happy to have had a small part in their joy.

And with that – summer is really and truly over.  But what better way to send off the season than with a beautiful barefoot wedding in the sand?

Have you ever been to a beach wedding?

 

 

 

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Apply Dapply, a little brown mouse,
Goes to the cupboard in somebody’s house.
In somebody’s cupboard, there’s everything nice:
Cakes, cheese, jam, biscuits – all charming for mice!

~Beatrix Potter

On the fall agenda, there are a few perennial must-do items, and apple picking is one of them!  We’ve picked at a few different places in the past few years, and when we discussed where we’d get our apples this year, we were torn between three options – going back to Crooked Run, the Loudoun County orchard we visited last year; checking out the scene at Butler’s Orchard, where we picked blueberries; and trying out a new location.  Since we want to pick pumpkins at Butler’s, we decided to look for a new spot for apples, and Steve hit on Waters Orchard, which is right next door to Butler’s.  As always happens in the fall, I’m behind on posting our family fun, so this was a few weeks ago – but a few turns of the way-back machine and here we are!

The first thing we saw upon arriving at the farm was a big tractor with a large hayride wagon attached to it.  The boys had to check it out.

And since the Jonagold apples were on the far side of the orchard (still walkable, but you know) we hopped on for a ride.

Rollin’ with the homies…

We all had fun, but a certain someone had the most fun.

So excited he had to make “kindergarten face.”  Oh, brother!

The hayride was over way too soon, but it was fine, because we found ourselves at the Jonagold apples!  This was the first apple orchard I’ve ever visited that had the apple trees trained.  I really liked it – made it much easier to get to the fruit.

The hardest thing about picking at Waters Orchard was refraining from picking every single apple – they were all gorgeous.  I don’t know if it was the trained trees, the fact that we came right in the middle of picking season instead of at the very end, or just a good orchard – but their fruit was really nice.

Peanut has been a pretty reliable picker for awhile now (both of apples and other fruit and flowers when we’ve checked out various pick your own farms throughout the year) but this was the first time that Nugget was legitimately helpful.

When did he get so big?  Hold me.

Peanut was all business.  She was a picking machine and kept up a constant stream of chatter about her baking plans.  It seems we will be making applesauce and pie and apple cake.  We might need to pick more apples.

I really wanted them to stand together for a picture.

This was the closest I could get them to stand to each other.

When is Mom going to be done with the pictures?  (Never, kids.  I will never be done.)

After we’d half-filled our bags with Jonagolds, we walked back to the front of the orchard to pick Hudson’s Golden Crisps.  I’d never heard of them, but I was sold immediately when I read the orchard’s description of them as having “a pear-like flavor.”  Asian pears are my absolute favorite fruit, so anything that even approaches mimicking them is clearly on my must-try list.

Also, they were gorgeous.  I started asking one of the orchard employees where they were, then cut myself off and said, “Never mind – I see them.”  She laughed and replied, “Yeah, they stand out.”

Verdict?

Absolutely delicious.

Thanks for a fun family morning on the farm, Waters, and thanks for the half bushel of deliciousness!  Fall baking, here we come…

Did you go apple picking this fall?  What are your must-do fall activities?

Oof.  Is it really Monday?  Say it ain’t so.  We had another one of our hectic weekends, running around from sunup on Saturday to sundown on Sunday.  I am wiped.  Friday was my birthday, so this weekend was “Mommy weekend” – woohoo!  Of course, weeks ago, I had unthinkingly agreed to a playdate on Saturday, so I only ended up choosing the agenda on Sunday.  Saturday was fun, though – we went to a bounce house gym with one of Peanut’s friends from school.  I am lucky in that Peanut seems to gravitate toward the kids with the most down-to-earth moms, so playdates for the kids are turning into friend time for me, too – no complaints here!  The friend we met up with on Saturday just recently returned from being flower girl in a wedding, too, so her mom and I debriefed on all things wedding while the kids ran around and bounced.  The rest of Saturday, we palled around closer to home – visiting Nugget’s favorite playground and stopping by the fire station open house to play cornhole, honk the horn in the truck, and collect some coloring books.  On Sunday, I got to choose the activity and I was craving one thing – a hike.  Since the kids aren’t great at napping at home on the weekends anymore (it’s fine that Peanut is dropping naps, but Nugget shouldn’t be) we decided to venture further afield.  It doesn’t make sense to cut off the fun and rush home for lunch and naps, only to listen to Nugget bouncing in his crib for two hours – we might as well be out and about enjoying our beautiful area.  So we drove an hour to Sky Meadows State Park, a beautiful spot Steve and I remembered from the long-ago days before children.  It happened to be “fall farm festival” day, so we got our hike in (recap coming next week) and then let the kids explore and enjoy a little bit, had a picnic lunch, and drove home to the blessed silence of car naps.  All in all – a perfect birthday activity.

  

Reading.  Interesting week.  After finishing See America (which was good, but there were a few editing mistakes that bugged me), I picked up Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng.  I had been avoiding it, because people seemed to love it so much that I figured it would be a huge disappointment.  Totally wrong.  I blew through it in a day, cried through the ending, and generally loved every second of the book.  After that, I needed something a bit sillier, so I finally got around to Nimona, the stand-alone graphic novel from Lumberjanes creator Noelle Stevenson.  As expected, I adored it.  Finally, for the past several days I’ve been reading Beartown, by Frederik Backman.  I’ve been wanting to read something by Backman, and Beartown seemed to be right up my alley – it’s about a hockey-obsessed town, after all – but I’m finding it a bit of a slog.  I know what is going to happen and am just not as captivated as I’d expected to be.  But it’ll qualify for a Book Riot Challenge task (book about sports) and I’ve passed my point of no return, where I have read far enough into a book that I refuse to abandon it, so I’m plugging away.

Watching.  Steve and I have been re-watching Parks and Recreation, one of our favorite dear departed sitcoms.  (I like it better than The Office, and that is saying something.)  We also enjoyed the first episode of Rock the Park season four, and are now mulling over a visit to the New River Gorge (which is in West Virginia, so not too far from us).

Listening.  Still on a podcast kick.  The best episode I listened to this week was the Annotated episode “The Seventeen-Year-Old Who Invented Science Fiction.”  I’d been saving the episode – all about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, if you hadn’t guessed – for Halloween season and it was perfect October listening material, complete with howling winds and creaking gate sound effects.

Moving.  This was an up and down week on the fitness front.  I made it to power yoga on Tuesday morning, and my very first barre3 class on Wednesday.  (Loved, and will certainly be back for more.)  But then on Friday – my birthday – I was two minutes late to power yoga and the instructor had already locked the door, so I missed class, which was a total bummer.  And I didn’t feel like doing anything on Saturday after chasing the kids around a play gym for an hour, so my only weekend fitness was Sunday’s hike.  (Which was an “easy” trail but still felt strenuous.  I swear Nugget gains a few ounces every time I hike with him.)

Blogging.  Still playing catch-up on all the family fun.  I’m talking about our apple picking excursion on Wednesday, and sharing some pictures and stories from our flying trip to Florida on Friday.  Check back with me!

Loving.  As fall is settling in around here – the weather is still pretty warm, and we’re having the occasional HOT day, but leaves are dropping and so are the temperatures, little by little – I am loving my L.L. Bean flannel shirts.  They’re pretty much my weekend uniform all through the cold months, whether with jeans or with hiking pants.  I wore my favorite orange, green and blue one this past weekend and spent some time marveling over the fact that it is still so soft, and doesn’t seem at all pilled despite multiple trips through the washing machine.  (I do air-dry them.)  I am eyeing another pattern to add to the arsenal, and might have to jump on it.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

With only one day left to enjoy California before we had to fly back to the East Coast (sniff) we were determined to make it an epic day.  Fortunately, we had big plans – whale watching!  I have been on several whale watches, but all as a kid – usually with my dad, but my mom and brother joined us from time to time.  Taking Peanut and Nugget on a whale watch has been high on my list of things to do, and I wanted to do something extra special to mark Peanut’s fifth birthday – so I convinced Nana and Grandad that they wanted to spend several hours on a boat with us (ha!) and we were in business.

We talked the whale watching trip up for weeks beforehand, and the shorties were EXCITED.  So was Nana!

The trip began with a  very interesting presentation by some naturalists who volunteered through the national park.  Seriously, how do I get that job?  They passed around some baleen and some krill for everyone to check out.  Nugget was extremely suspicious.  As for me, I was bouncing in my seat and raring to go.

We finally started chugging out of Ventura Harbor and wasted no time in spotting wildlife – even before we’d completely left the dock area!

Hey fellas!

(I had my camera all tricked out with my zoom lens.  I think I was halfway across the boat when I snapped this, and was zoomed all the way out.  I was READY.)

Heading out to sea, we saw passed the same buoy that we had passed on our way out to the Channel Islands the day before.  Once again, it was covered with sea lions.  They could very possibly have been the same sea lions, and none of them had moved in twenty-four hours.  They really did look exceptionally lazy.

Interesting fact we learned: the darker the sea lion looks, the more recently he or she has come out of the water.  The ones that are light in color look that way because they have been snoozing on a rock (or buoy) for quite some time.

But who’s judging?

Nugget.  Nugget is judging you for your laziness, sea lions.  Just kidding.  Nugget loves you!

Before we’d gone too far out in the channel, the captain came over the public address system to announce the very thing we had been holding our breath and hoping hard for – they’d spotted a whale!

Hello out there, big fella!  (Or big mama?)

We pulled up a big closer, killed the engine, and a hush came over the crowd as we stared at this majestic creature.  It was a blue whale – one of the rarest species in the world.

(Note: these are not black and white pictures!  It just happened to be a really cloudy day, which we learned was great for spotting whales.  I was worried that the cloud cover would hurt the visibility out on the water, but it turned out just the opposite.  With grey skies and calm waters, we had perfect whale watching weather according to the crew.)

We watched the first whale as long as we could, and we weren’t the only ones.  A curious sea lion, way out in the channel, popped over to say hello to his big friend.

And waved us goodbye as they both headed off on their separate ways.

Before long – another whale!

Another big blue.

This one, like the last, took a couple of “sounding dives” – deeper dives, during which the whale stays below the surface and out of sight for about six to eight minutes – while we sat, quietly and patiently, waiting for our friend to come up to the surface again.  We were hoping for some tail fluke action, but that would have to wait.

After a bit more peek-a-boo with our blue whale friend, we were joined by a pod of cheerful dolphins.  Seriously, this day kept getting better and better.

Some of them swam up very close to check out the action on board the Islander.

Well, hello down there!

They were such a delight.  Incredibly playful, they jumped and splashed in our wake as we chugged along toward Channel Islands National Park and in search of more whales.

It wasn’t long before we happened upon another whale!

Check it out – a little spout action!

I was in awe of the way they rose out of the water and their backs just kept going and going.  I can see why ancient mariners thought they were sea monsters.

Another sounding dive!  Before I knew it, we were approaching the Channel Islands – again!  I was excited to see them – after the previous day’s adventures hiking and kayaking the sea caves, the islands felt like old friends.

Ass we steamed closer to Anacapa Island, more playful friends came along for the ride!

We were joined by a small pod of dolphins.  These guys were having fun.

Before I knew it, we were in island waters!

The Anacapa Island lighthouse and rock arches are iconic.

More wildlife!  Another bunch of lazy sea lions, napping on a rock.  These guys!

So gorgeous it didn’t look real – but I promise you, it was.

As we steamed away from Anacapa, our own pod was getting a little sleepy.

But everyone perked up when we met up with yet another bunch of playful dolphins!

This was a nursery pod – several of the adults were swimming alongside babies, which was an absolutely incredible sight.  I love marine mammals in general, and cetaceans in particular, and seeing healthy baby dolphins is a joy.

At some point, the captain came back on the loudspeaker and announced, with a sigh, “Well, folks, looks like it’s just one of those days.  Another whale.”  Ha!  The whole boat was pinching themselves, because it seemed like we were seeing blue whales everywhere we looked.  In total, we spotted eight blue whales and a fin whale.  Peanut was the first to get eyes on the fin whale, and actually called it out for the captain – you go, girl!

Of the eight – eight! – blue whales we spotted, we saw everything from fully grown bull whales to a mother and her calf.  The latter was the most incredible sight all day – we actually had the great privilege of watching the mother whale nurse the baby.

Check out that spout action!  We couldn’t see much, but the captain and naturalists aboard the Islander explained what was happening.  We spotted the mother and calf swimming together.  Then at one point they stopped, and the mother hovered near the surface for an extended time, while the calf could only be spotted swimming around underneath her.  Witnessing the miracle of a mother blue whale nursing her baby was something I won’t soon forget.

It wasn’t a big day for tail flukes – blue whales aren’t big on acrobatics – but we saw a couple.

This one:

And this beauty:

WOW.  Nature is so powerful.

As I mentioned up above, I went on several whale watches as a kid.  The first one, when I was about Peanut’s age – maybe a bit older.  We were in Cape Cod on vacation, and my dad took me whale watching, primarily to get me out of my mother’s hair while she was busy with my newborn baby brother (you know, the seal).  On that trip, we saw a right whale calf, who put on a show for the boat – breaching, spyhopping, tail- and pec-slapping, and being generally amazing and adorable.  The captain explained that right whales had been hunted nearly to extinction, so seeing such a playful baby was a special privilege.  I never forgot that day, and it was the start of my lifelong love of cetaceans.  I’ve been on other whale watches since – including one awesome day when we saw ten of my beloved humpbacks – and I hope that this trip was the start of a similar love affair that my kids will have with nature generally, and with cetaceans (my favorites!) in particular.  Of all of the things I hope to pass on to them, my love of whales – and my desire to protect them – is one of the biggest.  (Pardon the pun.)

As we steamed back to the harbor, we were joined by a massive pod of over a thousand common dolphins – what a way to end the trip!  Photos did them no justice.  They were truly spectacular.

A happy day, indeed.

Sadly, this ends our trip.  It was one for the ages.  I think the whole family had an amazing time – I know I did!  We flew home the next day, feeling exhausted and sorry that it was over, but also very full of love and family and adventure – and I think that’s exactly the way to end a trip.

Goodbye for now, California!  Thanks for showing us such a marvelous time.  We’ll be back soon!

Somehow, I have let almost six weeks go by without telling you about our September hike – whoops!  Truth is, I thought we might be able to squeeze a few hikes into September, and I’d have a selection to choose from, but it ended up being a busy month and we didn’t get out on the trails as much as I’d have liked to.  Ah, well – that’s life, and I’m certainly glad that we made time for a hike in the beginning of the month.  Looking to mix things up, Steve suggested Piscataway Park, an NPS-managed park on the Maryland side of the Potomac, with awesome views of Mount Vernon.  I’m in!

Coming off a successful hike in Joshua Tree National Park, we had high hopes that Peanut would walk the entirety of the comparatively short and easy trail.  As it turned out, it was not her day.  Well – it happens.

Annnnnnnd she ended up here.  Much happier, I might add.  So, it was fine.  We hike for fun, and it’s much easier to have said fun when everyone is happy and no one is whining.  Still would like her on the trails consistently, but she’s only five.  We’ll get there.

As usual, I was rocking Nugget in the hiking backpack.  I’m pretty sure he weighs more than Peanut.  Just saying.

The trail was a pretty pathway through overhanging trees, but what made it particularly engaging was – do you see those signposts?  Each one was a page of a story about a pig who wanted to lay an egg, and all the shade his barnyard friends threw at him.

We took turns reading the story aloud to the kids.  I found the whole thing utterly delightful – the fact of the story being on the trail at all, the barnyard shenanigans – until the end of the story, in which the pig finally hatches his “egg” and it turns out to be a cocoon and the “baby” is a butterfly, and I just, NO.  NO to all of that.  Sorry for spoiling the story, but NO.

Anyway, after a short and easy hike, we reached the payoff – this view of Mount Vernon.  I swear it’s really there.  Sorry for the crummy picture – I snapped it on my phone, as I was hiking without my dSLR.

Our hike finished with time to spare, we decided to stay and poke around the National Colonial Farm, a little historic outpost I had no idea was hiding right across the river from Mount Vernon.

Nugget desperately wanted to play in this garden.  The boy loves plants.

We found a little dock with an even better view of Mount Vernon.

And we made some animal friends.

(Protecting his ladies.)

Why did the chicken cross the road?  Ahem.  Ahem.  Tap, tap.  Is this thing on?

We also met some other residents of the farm.

I derived great enjoyment from trying to make them break character.  (I kept thinking of the Bracebridge Dinner episode of Gilmore Girls, where Lorelai throws a period dinner during a snowstorm at the Independence Inn and Kirk waits at the table – remember that one?  Lorelai makes it her mission to get Kirk to slip up and her refuses, until she finally breaks him with an I Love Lucy reference.)

I never got them to break character, but they did admire my “time travel device” (cell phone) and I had way too much fun wishing them luck with the rebellion.  Their token male was a little unsure about which side to take, but I convinced him that he should join the Patriots and help oust George III.  I think I really bucked him up.

And a good time was had by all.

Have you ever hiked at a historic site?  Do you also like messing with period actors?

Happy Monday, and happy long weekend to those who are lucky enough to get Columbus Day off work!  (That is a group which does not include me, or Steve – c’est la vie.)  We had a nice regular-length weekend, though!  Saturday was full of a lot of errands and running around.  Steve had to work on Saturday morning, so I took both kids to the market with me, which is a circus – let me tell you.  I usually take just Nugget and everything really is twice as hard with two of them in the cart.  It’s not just that the double carts are always surprisingly wide (they are) but grocery shopping takes more than twice as long.  I have to factor in time to break up fights (Nugget is a hair-puller, and Peanut is an eye-poker – please kill me), intervene in exuberant roughhousing before it becomes a fight, put back the stuff they grab off the shelves, and who knows what else.  By the end of that grocery run I was so stressed out that the only cure was a run, so I loaded Nugget back into the car (much to his chagrin) and we drove to the Mount Vernon Trail for a few miles.  On Saturday evening my parents and their friends arrived after a week in the Outer Banks.  They seemed way too relaxed and happy, so we set about stressing them out with loud children.  We’re the worst hosts ever!  Sunday found us driving west – first out to the Udvar-Hazy Center (the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum outpost in Dulles) and then onward to the Loudoun County wineries.  Steve and I had been wanting to take our parents’ friends out to the wine country for years; we knew they would love it, and they did.  We packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the wineries, and had a lovely afternoon sipping and swirling our way around Loudoun County – made even better by the fact that my lovely friend Zan joined us as well!  Such a fun day with some of my favorite people in the world.

Reading.  Bit of a slower reading week around here.  I finished Something True on Monday, which was good, but I’m just not a romance reader.  (Nothing against it; it’s just not my genre.)  Most of the remainder of the week was devoted to The Golden House, Salman Rushdie’s newest novel (and a reflection on the 2016 election).  It was good, but for some reason I seem to struggle with Rushdie.  I know he is an outstanding writer, so clearly the problem is with me, but I get bogged down in his books and they take me a long time to read, and then I get frustrated and don’t have fun.  I am glad I read it, though.  I finished it up on Saturday evening after the crew left for their hotel, and then picked up See America, a collection of new graphic illustrations of the national parks, monuments and other places within the NPS, inspired by the original WPA posters.  It was an impulse grab off an endcap at the library, and I am really enjoying it.  I don’t love all of the posters – but I love most of them.

Watching.  Instead of a movie night this week, we watched the first Sabres game of the season.  It was a good game, and I was determined to stay up for the whole thing.  I told Steve that I had the idea in my head that if I fell asleep, that would be it for the season.  Of course they managed to lose in a shootout while I was brushing my teeth.  So that was not the best.

Listening.  I decided to take an audiobook break this week and listen to a few podcasts – especially some back podcasts I had languishing in my feed.  All were fun, but I particularly enjoyed a back episode of Sorta Awesome – Meg and Kelly discussing their favorite meals.  They had me inspired to cook up some different dinners this fall (even if their meals are very meat-heavy).

Moving.  So, a pretty good week!  I squeezed in two power yoga classes and two runs over the course of the week.  I’d have liked to get to vinyasa on Saturday too, but I only had time for one workout and I decided to run.  (A necessary decision.  I won’t be well-trained for the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in a couple of weeks, but at least I won’t be running on completely dead legs.)

Blogging.  I have a good week coming up!  A recap of our September hike alllllllll the way back at the beginning on the month on Wednesday, and the last day of our California vacation recaps (which is also the most epic) on Friday.  Check back!

Loving.  While shopping for our picnic this Saturday, I got the idea to make a pesto goat cheese spread.  It took form in my head as I was standing at the cold case looking at the options, and it came out – if I do say so myself – amazing.  Recipe (loosely) as follows: take one log of goat cheese, one tub of crème fraiche, one squeeze pouch of pesto (I used sun-dried tomato, but you could do any flavor you liked, or olive tapenade) and about a teaspoon of chopped herbs (I did equal parts rosemary and thyme from my mom’s friend’s garden).  Stir it all together until it is smooth and combined.  And that’s it!  It was super-easy and everyone loved it.  It made a ton of spread, and I had none left after the picnic – the sign of a popular recipe.  I’ll definitely be making this again as soon as I have an excuse.  (Who wants to come over for a party?)

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

When we left off last week, Steve and I were coming down off the bluffs after our morning hike on Santa Cruz Island, getting pumped for our afternoon adventure.  And that adventure was – kayaking the sea caves!

The Channel Islands are home to dozens of sea caves across the park.  You can see two of them above (along with a very faraway armada of kayakers) in this shot from our morning boat ride in.  I was wildly excited to get out on the water.  I’ve done lots of calm flatwater kayaking, a tiny bit of eco-touring, and some surf kayaking (as a teenager) but kayaking the sea caves promised to be a new adventure.

 

My adventure buddy and I made our way to the kayak camp and got suited up in our gear – waterproof jackets (the adventure company provided them but we actually had our own), life jackets and helmets in case of sea cave wall crashing incidents.  (Spoiler alert: there were no crashing incidents.  But it’s good to be prepared.  Safety first!)  I was mad at myself for forgetting my paddling gloves – blister city.

We looked so cool in our helmets.

Once we were all suited up, our group made our way to the beach.  Adam, our guide, gave a short safety briefing and asked our small group to introduce ourselves and share where we were from, what kayaking experience we had, and what we were hoping to see on the trip.

And then it was time to hit the caves!

Steve and I launched our double kayak last, after an unsuccessful attempt to mount our GoPro to the bow.  (Apparently the GoPro surf and kayak mount doesn’t work on sea kayaks’ rough surfaces?  That would have been relevant information…  Anyway, I tucked it into my life jacket pocket for snapping old-school style.)

And then we were off!  We quickly caught up to the rest of the group and listened to Adam discuss the plan of attack for our first sea cave.

And then it was time to run the cave!

IT.  WAS.  SO.  COOL.

We floated around for a few minutes while Adam added more information – more safety chat and cave-running tips, plus some geology facts for more context about the caves we were checking out.

It was dark and spooky!  Okay, not really spooky.  But definitely dark – and insanely cool.  We ended up running about seven caves, and taking multiple passes at a few of them, for a very full and adventurous ninety minutes.  Not enough time!  We made every second count, and it was an afternoon that I think Steve and I will both remember forever.  I’ll let the pictures and videos speak for themselves.

Each of the caves had cool (and slightly intimidating) names.  This one, if I recall correctly, was Boatwrecker:

You don’t say…

Once Steve and I had a chance to get comfortable with the kayak – neither one of us had used a double kayak before; we’d always taken singles – I pulled out the GoPro and snapped a few pictures:

We worked our way up the craggy coastline of the island as Adam guided us to – and through – each cave.

After a wonderful and humbling adventure on the water, we reluctantly paddled back to shore and boarded the Island Explorer for our trip back to the mainland.  I think we were both sad to leave Santa Cruz Island – I know that I personally felt we’d barely scratched the surface of all the adventure the island had to offer, and it’s not even the only island in the park!  But fortunately, the Santa Barbara Channel had a few more treats in store for us to sweeten the trip back.

First of all, the sun finally came out!  We didn’t mind the grey skies and seas, but it was a treat to see all that beautiful blue.

Then – as if they knew we needed a little more adventure – we got some visitors.

Dolphins!  These guys were so fun and playful as they rode the wake and swam alongside our boat.

Hello down there!

Exhausted and happy, we chugged into Ventura Harbor and past the Channel Islands National Park Visitors’ Center.

I can’t say enough good things about the Channel Islands Adventure Company, who ran the tour, or Adam, our guide.  The entire day was well planned and perfectly executed – speaking to the Adventure Company’s expertise at handling these kinds of excursions.  As for Adam, he really knew the island and was glad to point out the wildlife we encountered and to answer questions about tides, geography, and anything else we threw at him.  Most importantly, he knew the caves like the back of his hand, and he kept the whole group safe throughout the trip.  I’d absolutely book another adventure with Channel Islands Adventure Company, and I would recommend them to anyone.  (And no, they’re not paying me to say that – they have no idea who I am!)

It was an amazing adventure.  I’ll leave you with a couple of the GoPro videos I shot (and please don’t mind my shaky footage; I was using the GoPro, as mentioned above, as a handheld camera since my surf and kayak mount failed me).  Really, really epic day…