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Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

Mabon and the autumnal equinox is approaching, which means: fall is upon us.  As we bid summer goodbye until next year, I’m looking back at a season full of sandy shoes, sunscreen smeared on faces, waves jumped, pool moves perfected, sunshine soaked up, popsicles slurped and so. much. joy.  I am always a little conflicted at this turn of the seasons, because while I love all things fall, I’m never quite ready to see the end of summer, either.  But it helps when I’ve had a long, bright, full season and built up a trove of memories to see me through the dark days of winter ahead – and I definitely did that this year.

  • The BIG one: spend five days on a kayaking eco-tour around the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.  I can’t wait!  Done!  Steve and I had an incredible trip to Washington – the experience of a lifetime.  We spent five days paddling blissfully alongside new friends, saw tons of wildlife (orcas, porpoises, seals, bald eagles and more!) and got to really unplug and disconnect from the hectic everyday life.  It was wonderful.

  • The other BIG one: take a family vacation to a new-to-us spot on the Outer Banks.  Done!  We usually visit Frisco, down on Hatteras Island, but since it was just our immediate family this time, we decided that returning to our usual haunts would cause us to spend the whole time missing the extended family.  So we checked out Duck, one of the northern OBX towns, instead, and had a wonderful week of family bonding.  The kids still think they were in Antigua, but what they don’t know won’t kill them.

  • Build up my running base, and sign up for a fall 5K.  Done…ish.  I didn’t get as much running in as I’d hoped, but I got more than nothing, and that’s better than I had been doing.  I haven’t signed up for a local race, but I am planning to do the Wonder Woman virtual 5K again, just as soon as back to school excitement calms down.

  • Take the family to a Washington Nationals game.  #natitude  Done!  I gave Steve the tickets for Father’s Day and we went to see the Nats play the Braves in late June.  We made it five innings and ate way too much ballpark food, so it was a success (even if the Nats lost, like pretty much the only game they’ve lost all summer).
  • Make mini pizzas on the grill.  Didn’t happen… maybe this fall?  I really want to do this!

  • Read from my own shelves.  I feel like that Daniel Radcliffe meme (I think it’s from How to Succeed in Business Without Trying, maybe?) – “I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me!”  Okay, I really tried.  And I did read a few, including knocking off a couple of Classics Club reads.  But the library addiction continues strong.

  • Celebrate Litha by candlelight in the garden.  Done!  It was peaceful and lovely, except for when a woman started screaming at her boyfriend because of his terrible parking job.  Ah, city life.
  • Go back to Shenandoah National Park and hike a new trail.  Didn’t happen – hopefully this fall.  It would be lovely to make it there when the leaves are turning.
  • Make homemade popsicles.  (This is basically mandatory if you’ve seen Nugget’s popsicle dance.)  Didn’t happen – booooo!  The kids did eat a lot of popsicles, though.  Does that count?

  • Help Peanut host her girlfriends for a “reading party” in a neighborhood park.  Done!  She’d been asking for this for months and I was so glad we made it happen.  We tossed down a woven blanket, ate cookies and cake and drank lemonade, and read our books.  Now I’m thinking that making a kids’ book club with the girls in Peanut’s class would be a fun thing to do.  We’ve been talking about finally getting a Girl Scout troop off the ground, which I still would like to do, but a book club strikes me as an easier endeavor.  We’ll see…

Not too shabby!  I’m always ridiculously ambitious with my summer and fall lists (much more than winter and spring) but I feel like we had a good season.  We got a lot done from this list, and we have hours of sunshine, splashing, and family fun to look back on when the cold settles in.  As a bonus – I spent the summer recording short videos to mash into a “One Second Everyday” video documenting the season – and now that it’s done, I can’t stop watching it.  What a happy, peaceful three months we had!

How was your summer?

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Gone to Carolina In My Mind

When Steve and I sat down to discuss summer vacation plans, we knew that in addition to our planned parents trip to the San Juan Islands, we wanted to do something with the kids.  We kicked around a few ideas and ultimately decided that a trip back to our beloved Outer Banks was in order – after all, we hadn’t been down that way since Nugget was a baby.  But knowing that it was just going to be our family – no grandparents, aunt and uncle, or family friends along for the ride this time – we decided to mix it up and go somewhere different; we figured if we went back to our regular stomping grounds, we’d spend the whole week missing the rest of the family.  I’d heard good things about Duck – one of the northern OBX towns – and we decided to give it a try.

Our first stop upon rolling into town was the iconic Duck Donuts.  I know it’s not that big of a deal anymore – there’s a Duck Donuts in the shopping plaza where my kids get their haircuts, for goodness sake – but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Duck Donuts in Duck.  Peanut got cinnamon sugar with frosting and sprinkles, Steve had a glazed with salted caramel drizzle, and I got chocolate with graham cracker crumbs.  Nugget insisted that he didn’t want a donut, then proceeded to eat three quarters of mine.  Oof.

After fortifying ourselves with donuts (or a quarter of a donut, in my case) we headed to our beach house – home for the week.  I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect house – tried Airbnb, VRBO, and the traditional realtors.  The main requirements were: not too exorbitantly priced, soundfront, and with a deck.  I finally found a house that fit the bill, right on Currituck Sound and about a half mile’s walk from the ocean beach.

Little people loved the screen porch, and spent quite a few hours playing out here (while Mom relaxed with a book and a La Croix – the life).

Down the stairs from the deck, we had a beautiful boardwalk right down to a little private beach on Currituck Sound.

The kids spent a decent amount of time splashing in the warm, shallow sound waters, while Mom took in the views (and picked up trash from the beach, because I have to be me).

Of course, while we loved our sound mornings, the real highlight came in the afternoon each day – the ocean beach!

Duck Beach was a long, beautiful strip of pristine white sand, dotted with colorful umbrellas.  The one downside to vacationing in Duck, we found, was that there was no public access to the beach – if you couldn’t walk to an access point for your neighborhood, you were pretty much out of luck.  Unlike in Frisco, where we stay with my parents, there is no public parking or beach access.  But we had a beach access point for our neighborhood about a half mile’s walk from the house, which was very easy – and the upside to the beach not being as accessible as some others was that it was a lot cleaner.  I barely saw a speck of trash on the ocean beach all week, and the water was clean and fresh.  I’ll take that bargain!

Wave jumping was the activity of choice.

And dancing, too.

We did have some weird weather roll in during the week, so I filled up the non-beach hours with a few mandatory OBX activities.  Nugget and I stopped by Kitty Hawk Kites (just the Duck outpost, not the huge flagship in Kitty Hawk) and picked out kites for both of the kids.  And whenever you’re in the Outer Banks, you have to visit a lighthouse, right?

We had one dreary morning that wasn’t sound material, and I needed to get the kids out of Steve’s hair so he could work, so I loaded them in the car and drove them about half an hour to Corolla, to check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.  Although I’ve been to the Hatteras and Ocracoke Lights many times, I’d never seen Currituck’s version – this lighthouse connoisseur was suitably impressed.  Nugget wanted to climb, so I bought a ticket, and we made it about halfway up – a success, I think.

Saturday dawned drizzly and dreary, too, so we pulled out our other rainy-day plan – a drive to Roanoke Island, to visit the North Carolina Aquarium.  (Making it a two-aquarium trip… we stopped at the Virginia Aquarium, in Virginia Beach, on the way down to Duck, to break up the trip.)

Peanut almost touched one of the stingrays in the touch tank.  Almost!  She put her hand in the water – nowhere near a stingray, but in the water.  Which, I have to tell you, is a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever gotten to touching any of the animals in any touch tank, anywhere, ever.  I prefer to stay at least twenty-four inches from the edge.  So I was fist-pumping her bravery.

Sharks were a major highlight – there was a huge shark tank, which was super cool.  The whole aquarium had a shipwreck theme, and the animals swam in tanks that were decorated with sunken wrecks – very on point for the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

The highlight of this aquarium, though, was seeing the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center.  I had no idea this was a thing the North Carolina Aquarium operates, so it was a total surprise and delight to walk through the doors and watch the wildlife rehabilitators at work.

Each turtle was floating in its own little tank, with enrichment toys and a carefully controlled environment.  Nugget raised his hand and asked the volunteer interpreter what the turtles’ names were and what parts of their bodies were sick.  (Good question for a four-year-old, right?)  The interpreter explained that the turtles have a variety of health issues that they are working through, and showed us one that had a chunk of its shell missing from a boat strike.  (SOB.)  She also explained that the rehabilitators work through themed names and that the current group all had names from Harry Potter.  Not having read the books or seen the movies, she had a hard time remembering the names, but she pointed out Longbottom, in tank number 7, and Bertie Bott, in tank 2.  (The rehabilitators haven’t named any turtle after Harry himself, yet.  As it was explained to us, they have to be really sure that they will be successful with that turtle.  After all, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived.)

We just loved seeing the turtles, hearing about the rehabilitators’ work to heal them and return them to the wild, and reading about the aquarium’s efforts at sea turtle conservation.  Second only to cetaceans, sea turtles are my favorite ocean creatures.  What a delightful surprise to find this work going on at the North Carolina Aquarium.

It was a lovely week.  Not restful, exactly, but the change of scenery was much needed – and it was good to get some time away as a foursome.  I had no idea how much we’d been missing that until we made it happen.

The perk of staying soundside, of course – evenings on the deck watching the sun set over the water, a rare sight on the East Coast.  The sunsets weren’t especially spectacular while we were there, thanks to some weather systems that always seemed to roll in at dinnertime.  But we caught a few light shows.  The best, by far, was the first night of our trip:

Such a gorgeous spot!  I wish I was back there right now.  Thanks for the memories, Duck!  I’m sure we will be back – maybe not for a full week, but at least en route to and from Hatteras.  We have such a long history with the Outer Banks, I always know we’re going to return.

 

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In lieu of the usual Monday reading post, I thought that today I’d pay tribute to my favorite holiday – Independence Day – instead.  Hope y’all don’t mind!  I’ve been torturing the kiddos with forced Fourth of July pictures every year since 2015.  They hate it, but I just tell them it’s their Independence Day gift to me.  It’s just so much fun to look back on the pictures months or years later.

2015.  We went to Canalside in Buffalo and the kids sat together in a mini Adirondack chair while I died of the cuteness.  Peanut was delighted that she was actually getting to hold Nugget.  Nugget was hilariously skeptical.

2016.  We were back at Canalside, but Nugget got his own chair this time.  What a difference a year makes!  He was a lot more enthusiastic this time around.  Why are mini Adirondack chairs so darn cute?

2017.  We spent my favorite holiday in my favorite place – my parents’ Adirondack camp.  Nana blew up the baby pool and we took turns hauling buckets of freezing cold water from the lake.  I wouldn’t have wanted to sit in there, but these two chuckleheads have basically no sense of temperature.  Also, Nugget refused to take his life jacket off all weekend.

2018.  Nothing major on the Fourth, just a low-key wetlands hike at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria.  I think this was about when Peanut started striking poses.  Pictures have been really interesting for the past year.  We headed up to the ‘dacks the next day.

So much growing!  I just love this holiday, and I love looking back at the fun we’ve had over the years, not to mention babies in Old Glory colors.  Wonder what crazy poses I’ll get this year…

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Who’s got #natitude?  We do!  As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a mission to make my family into Washington Nationals fans.  Steve is ride-or-die for the New York Yankees, but he’s open to a solid second-favorite team (and the Nats almost never play the Yanks).  Peanut couldn’t be less fussed about sportsball if she tried, but I’ve faced down challenges before.  And Nugget is a blank slate when it comes to baseball (he’s already committed to the Buffalo football and hockey teams, poor fella).  So I feel like there’s room to play here.

For Phase One of my mission, I dragged the family down to the Ballpark Boathouse for a morning of exploring the Anacostia River by way of our paddles, and checking out the view of Nationals Park from the water.

Super cool.  Let’s go, Nats!

Yes, Mom, that is a very nice ballpark.  Can we go home and watch cartoons now?

It was crazy windy on the river – you can’t tell from this picture, but paddling into the wind we were almost stationary.  Definitely a good workout for the crazy kayaking adventure Steve and I have planned.  (About which: more soon.)

Definitely a home run on the water.

A few weeks later, we got a different view of Nationals Park – the inside view!  For Phase Two… that is, for Father’s Day, I bought Steve four tickets to an afternoon game against the Atlanta Braves.  He was surprised and delighted.  The tickets were for last Sunday, so we packed up the dugout and headed to the game.

First things first: food!  I was looking forward to trying out Field of Greens, but it was so far away from our seats that other options seemed better.  Nugget and I grabbed veggie dogs from Nats Dogs, and Peanut and Steve picked up chicken tenders and fries next door.  Eaten while wearing a hooded towel version of Screech, the Nats’ mascot, because obviously.  (It was a free kids’ promotion, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of my decision to buy tickets for this particular game.)

Dessert was cotton candy, obviously.

Nugget had a blue goatee and blue hands.

Also a blue tongue.  And got blue goop all over the Buffalo Bills jersey he insisted on wearing.  Luckily I’d stopped in the fan shop and bought him his own little Nats jersey, so he had something clean to change into.  Were Peanut and Nugget the cutest little fans at the game?  Yes, yes they were.

Nugget brought his red baseball glove in case of fly balls, but none of them made it up to the nosebleed seats.  Maybe next time!

In any Nats game, the Presidents’ Race is a highlight.  Giant-headed George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt teeter around the field and sometimes fall down, which is everyone’s favorite.  This time, it was a relay race – Washington and Jefferson against Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Teddy anchored his team to victory, and George was MAD.  Look at him waving his arms angrily at Thomas.  Run faster next time, Tom.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!  Go Nats!

What’s your favorite baseball team?  If you don’t have one, would you consider rooting for the Nats?

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Summerrrrrrrrrr!  I wait all year for this season.  Bring on the heat, bring on the humidity, bring on summer thunderstorms and campfires and late sunsets and lemonade and (vegan) s’mores and tie-dye day at summer camp and lightening bugs (fireflies, lampyridae…) and sand-between-the-toes and splashing in the pool and paddling the Potomac and Belmont Bay and… I could go on.  I love basically everything about summer, and last year’s weather was such a bust that I’m determined this year will make up for it.  It has to.  I want to do everything, of course, but I’m holding myself to ten things and here they are:

  • The BIG one: spend five days on a kayaking eco-tour around the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.  I can’t wait!
  • The other BIG one: take a family vacation to a new-to-us spot on the Outer Banks.
  • Build up my running base, and sign up for a fall 5K.
  • Take the family to a Washington Nationals game.  #natitude
  • Make mini pizzas on the grill.
  • Read from my own shelves.
  • Celebrate Litha by candlelight in the garden.
  • Go back to Shenandoah National Park and hike a new trail.
  • Make homemade popsicles.  (This is basically mandatory if you’ve seen Nugget’s popsicle dance.)
  • Help Peanut host her girlfriends for a “reading party” in a neighborhood park.

I could think of so many more, but the above should make a good start toward a pretty epic summer, don’t you think?  Now, pass me a vegan s’more.

What’s on your summer to-do list?

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I’m on record as not loving spring.  Mud, allergies, sheets of rain – meh.  Give me the hazy hot days of summer, thank you very much.  But for better or for worse, spring is one fourth of the seasons of the year, so I do try to make the best of it with all the spring activities (at least, when I can breathe).  I think we did spring right this year – daffodil picking, hiking the bluebell trail, enjoying the blossoms in the neighborhood.  I didn’t check every item off my list (read on) but I did enough that I can say this was not a lost season.  In spring, that’s really all I’m looking for.

  • A MUST: hike the Bluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run during peak week.  Done!  This is indeed a must, and we’ve made a point of getting to Bull Run to hike the bluebell trail every spring for the past three years.  I had a brief moment of panic when the park reported on Facebook that a freak storm had destroyed all the bluebells, but then I realized that it was April 1st, and I could breathe again.
  • Help Peanut and Nugget hunt for eggs in the churchyard after a joyous Easter service.  Hmmm – I’m calling this one-third done.  We did go to church on Easter, and Nugget did hunt for eggs in the courtyard, but I didn’t get to enjoy watching him because I was dragging his sister home as she finished off a massive temper tantrum that started toward the end of the service.  Keeping it real, folks.

  • Host my mother-in-law, my parents and our dear family friends on successive weekends in April.  Done!  Grandma visited Easter weekend (she missed the above excitement, because she was already on her flight back to Florida, lucky duck) and the following weekend my parents and our family friends stopped by for an overnight on their way back north after spending a month on Hilton Head Island (must be nice, amirite).  It was such a treat to see all those beloved faces two weekends in a row.

  • Stock up on the gear that Steve and I will need for our kayaking trip to the San Juan Islands this summer.  My REI dividends just arrived and will be put to good use!  Done!  We set up a date night and booked a gear fitting appointment, and came home laden with shopping bags.  The dividends were indeed put to good use, and I’m hoping that we also get lots of good use out of our purchases over the years.  (Steve came home with the Nemo sleeping bag he’s testing out in the picture above – can’t you tell how happy and contented he is?  It’s stuffed with real down, so wasn’t for me, but I ended up with a cozy Marmot sleeping bag stuffed with recycled synthetic down and am snug as a bug.)

  • Related: get into eco-touring shape with regular gym-going during the week and weekend paddling as soon as the boathouse opens.  Done!  I’ve been hitting the gym a few days a week, running on other days, and we’ve made it out for two mornings of paddling, including a windy day on the Anacostia last weekend – that was a workout indeed.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel really in eco-touring shape, but I’m doing my best.
  • Read Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Didn’t.  Darn library deadlines.

  • Clear the winter detritus off the back patio, stock up on herbs, veggies and fruit (!!!) and get my container garden started for the season.  Done!  The garden is planted and is producing already – wahoo!  Check in with me throughout the summer for gardening updates.
  • Get my dad’s old camera fixed and cleaned, and start shooting film.  Another one I’m calling one-third done.  I took the camera in for an estimate and it took the store three weeks to get back to me – frustrating – and then the estimate was so expensive I’m now not sure I want to go forward.  I really want to get the camera fixed, and I really want to shoot film, so I might see if they will do a payment plan.  Otherwise, this item may appear again on the fall list.  After all the gear we needed for our upcoming trip, I’m just not in the mood to make another big purchase right now.
  • Listen to the new Decemberists limited edition EP, Traveling On, on my record player by an open window.  Haven’t done this as of press time, but I still might.  My windows are open most nights right now.  So… maybe Saturday night?

  • Take a photography walk with my dSLR through my neighborhood once the blossoms are out.  Three-quarters done?  I didn’t bust out the dSLR, but I did take a photography walk and captured the redbud blossoms – my favorite! – blooming all over Old Town.  Get a load of that purple!  I probably could have gotten better snaps with my actual camera, but the iPhone worked fine.

Not too shabby!  Like I said, not being a major spring lover, I had to motivate myself a little bit to do these things, and obviously not all of them got done.  But I did feel like I had a nice season.  Even at its best, for me, spring is just the opening act – I’m a summer girl at heart.  The mercury is rising every day, and so is my mood, and Litha is still ahead of us – check in with me on Friday for my summer list!

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Happy summer!  My favorite-season-tied-with-fall is finally upon us, and I’m on a mission to make the most of it – as always!  This year, we decided that the beach was the best way to ring in the season, and on the Friday before Memorial Day we rolled up to the kids’ school with a loaded-down car, ready to drive to Virginia Beach for the holiday weekend.  I hope you’re ready for a photobomb of a recap post…

We arrived too late in the evening for any beach time on Friday, but the kids were up bright and early and ready for sand and saltwater on Saturday!  We were staying with our dear friends Rebecca and Eric, who live walking distance from this lovely, calm, clean and uncrowded beach on Chesapeake Bay (the Atlantic side of VB is much more the party side; this is a residential beach, frequented mostly by neighborhood folks, and we love it).  The kids made right for the water.

Rebecca joined us, along with Brandy the dog – who was eating up every second of all the extra attention the kids gave her.

There was ball-throwing.

And hugs-n-love.

We made a trip back for lunch, and then returned for the afternoon, then went back to the house for dinner, and made a third trip down to the beach to watch the sunset in a big crowd with the neighbors.  Beach sunsets might be my favorite thing ever.

The sun was starting to dip when we got to the beach, but we still had a good hour of light for splashing.

Soon the sun started dipping lower and lower.

Eventually, the sun dipped all the way down below some low-hanging clouds, and our light show was over.  It was gorgeous while it lasted.  And some people were worn. out.

Sunday morning dawned just as early as Saturday (and every other day, for that matter).  We’re always diligent about sunscreen, but after Mom got a little crispy on Saturday, we were extra-vigilant.  Peanut made sure my face was protected.

Loaded up the golf cart for another fabulous morning at the beach!  The paddleboards came this time…

(Who let Peanut drive?)

We got right down to the business of having fun.  Look, I caught a mermaid!

Mommy and Aunt Rebecca took the paddleboards out for a jaunt in the bay.  It was too choppy to stay out long – just staying upright was a major effort.  Rebecca and I each fell in once and I lost my hat, but the water felt good – at least, until we were back on shore and Rebecca remarked “I’m glad I didn’t think about the great white shark that’s been hanging around in the bay before we took the paddleboards out.”  Great… white… what’s that now?

After another morning of cooking in the sun and fortunately not meeting any sharks – we did spot a pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swimming near shore, which was super cool – we headed back to the house for some downtime before sunset.

This is Peanut’s houseboat, where bubbles are blown.

They played horsey and drank virgin daquiris, because why not.

And then it was time to clean up and head out to dinner before the sunset!  Nugget fell asleep in the car and snoozed through most of the dinner (keeping it real, folks) but Peanut had fun soaking up all the aunt and uncle attention while her brother slept the meal away.

And then it was time to load up the golf cart and trundle on back down to beach for one more sunset.

Please don’t make us leave!

It was a wonderful weekend.  Warm, salty, full of laughter and fellowship with good friends.  I’d love it if we could make it back here before Rebecca and Eric move to Florida, but if this was the last hurrah, it was a good one.  And I do hope it’s a sign of things to come, because we are so ready for a magical, light-filled summer.

How did you welcome summer this Memorial Day weekend?

 

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