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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?

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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!

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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?

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The Fall List 2017

Fall is here, and it’s time to start thinking about all things pumpkin.  Who’s with me?  It’s time for fall squash and circle scarves, puffy vests and apple pies, making holiday plans and sipping hot cinnamon spice tea.  Although I’m never ready to say goodbye to summer, I’m always happy to greet my favorite season of all (although, realistically, we probably have a few more weeks of warm weather before the chill settles in here, which is also fine with me).  Anyway, with that, it’s also time to start dreaming up plans for the season ahead.  This fall, I’d like to…

  • The big one: give a heartfelt Maid of Honor toast at Rebecca’s wedding (while wrangling my little flower girl) in Florida and then dance the night away.
  • The other big one: spend a weekend in New York City and see Hamilton on Broadway!
  • Take the kids apple and pumpkin-picking.
  • Read lots of books from diverse voices.
  • Walk to the farmers’ market and do some seasonal baking with Peanut.
  • Run the Dulles Day on the Runway 5K and the Marine Corps Marathon 10K.
  • Spend some time in Fairacre.
  • Help my bestie  MOVE TO D.C.
  • Take the kids to a children’s Halloween party.
  • Finally start cleaning out and organizing the basement.
  • Take a weekend trip to Shenandoah National Park and help the kids earn Junior Ranger badges.
  • Get an early start on my 2017 family yearbook (instead of waiting until January this year!).
  • Play at Badlands on a bad-weather day.

I can never seem to hold it to ten, can I?  Lucky thirteen things to do this season – but I think all are doable, especially since we are planning to stick closer to home most weekends (with the exception of NYC, Florida, and maybe a quick escape to the mountains) and we plan to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas at home this year.  It’s going to be a pretty simple season – lots of baking, reading, and family fun – but of course I’ll find a way to keep us all running around no matter what.

What’s on your fall agenda?

 

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As we sat down to plan our California trip, there were a few must-do items on our list – and one of those was “hike with Dan and Danielle.”  My brother and sis-in-law are avid hikers, just like us!  In fact, they’re generally more adventurous than we are (I give us a pass for now, since we’re toting little hikers with us).  We compared schedules and decided to hike Joshua Tree together as our big sibling activity for the week.  Well – you might have noticed – our family made it to Joshua Tree, but Dan and Danielle didn’t, due to a snafu with their rental car.  Bummer!  We rolled with it and decided to hike in the Santa Barbara area instead – and luckily, there were plenty of highly regarded hikes to choose from there.  After some hemming and hawing, we decided on the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Seal Sanctuary.

We had the parking lot almost to ourselves, so Peanut took advantage of the wide open space and got some spins out of easy mark Aunt Danielle.

As we headed into the park, we saw water views almost immediately.  Yes, please!

Look at that joy!  Aren’t piggyback rides the best?

A word about our child carrying arrangements.  As you’ve seen in previous posts, I had my child carrier with me, which is currently calibrated for Nugget, so he caught a ride.  With limited space in our bags, we made the tough decision to leave Peanut’s carrier at home and to rely on her to walk along with us.  I didn’t know quite how that would go, but it was great.  She hiked more than two miles at Joshua Tree – a long distance for such little legs!  And she walked most of the time at Carpinteria as well, although when she was tired, there were willing shoulders.  I was really proud of how well she did walking throughout the trip, and it’s nice to know that we can start transitioning her away from expecting to ride all the time.

The water views on our left were stunning, but there were some beautiful views on our right, too.

Mountains!  The California mountains are so different from the Adirondacks and Blue Ridge Mountains – my playground in the East – and from the Colorado mountains where Dan and Danielle do most of their adventuring.  I just loved the setting of Santa Barbara, nestled between the mountains and the ocean.  What a place to live, right?

Don’t be fooled by this picture; Peanut is not walking – she’s swinging.  Dan and Danielle, not being parents, thought it was so sweet that she wanted to hold both their hands!  She revealed her ulterior motive very quickly.

Most of the hike went along the railroad tracks, much to Nugget’s delight.  He was even more excited when a train went by!

Look at these people.  I just love them all so much.  Warm fuzzies!

After a short walk, we reached a viewpoint, and it was pretty astonishing.

Way too gorgeous.  There’s nothing quite like the California coastline.  It reminded me of hiking Point Reyes with Steve back in 2009, and of a family trip to Big Sur when I was little.

This was Danielle’s first trip to California.  I think she had a grand adventure.

We wanted to stay and gawk at the view forever, but we had to get on our way.  That’s a thing about hiking with kids – they keep you moving.

Back on the trail!

Fortunately, we had gorgeous views to enjoy while we walked.

Our next stop was the seal sanctuary portion of the nature preserve.  During the seal pup season (December through May) there are hundreds of seals on the beach below the Carpinteria Bluffs.  We were, of course, there in August – so we didn’t expect seal pups.  But we were hoping that if the beach was that popular with the pinniped set, there’d still be a few lounging around.

Strikeout.  Lots of seagulls, though.  The good news?  I’d forgotten my zoom lens back at our aunt and uncle’s house, so I wouldn’t have been able to paparazzi the pinnipeds even if they had been there.  Since they weren’t, I stopped kicking myself for forgetting it.

The seal overlook (that wasn’t) was the end goal of our hike, so we turned around and headed back to the cars.  We were all a little bummed that there were no pinnipeds, but happy to have had time together in a beautiful place – no regrets!

Dan felt sorry that we hadn’t seen any seals, so he did his best imitation.

It’s really a shame that he is always serious and hates fun.

We had some extra time, and we were having fun hanging out together, so we decided to keep the party going (and hopefully see some pinnipeds after all) in Ventura.  Dan and Danielle had been staying on our Uncle Peter’s boat, which is docked in Ventura Harbor, and they said there was a gaggle of sea lions that could be spotted pretty reliably around the Channel Islands National Park visitors’ center.  So we decided that lunch in Ventura Harbor was clearly in order.

Uncle Peter got his boat fairly recently, so I never had a chance to visit Ventura Harbor when we would stay in Santa Barbara on childhood trips.  It was bustling and beautiful.

With just the right amount of kitsch.

It’s too bad that Aunt Danielle is also always serious and hates fun.

Piggyback love was spread around.  Peanut had her turn in Carpinteria, and now Nugget got a chance to ride on Uncle Dan.

It was such a treat to be together in California and get to spend some quality time with Dan and Danielle.  Sorry for the gushing, but I just love this gang so much!

We walked around almost the entire harbor, checking out all of the boats.

And finally, a pinniped sighting!  There were a small group of California sea lions sunning themselves on the docks near the national park visitors’ center, just as Dan and Danielle had promised there would be.

Ahhhhhhh they are so funny and adorable!!!!

After our walk, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at one of the seafood restaurants right on the harbor, and spent some time exploring the Channel Islands National Park visitors’ center.  Peanut and Nugget rode on dolphin and sea lion statues, because why not, and we all soaked up the family time that we don’t get nearly enough.  The hike may not have gone quite to plan, but any day on the trail with Dan and Danielle is a red letter day.

What is your favorite place to spot wildlife?

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Ahhhhhh, summer.  You’re almost over – tomorrow is officially the first day of fall.  And while I’m ready to welcome my favorite season, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my very-close-second favorite the sendoff that it deserves.

I’ve written here before that, while I live in the temperate Mid-Atlantic region now, I still have something of a New York mentality when it comes to summer fun.  I’m used to waiting impatiently all year for what inevitably turns out to be far too short of a warm season, and to squeezing every minute of fun that I can possibly get out of these few months of the year.  Even in Virginia, where the days are long and warm into October, I can’t help myself – I pack every weekend with activity and drag the family out to make memories several times a week.  Someone stop me!

On Memorial Day weekend, we welcomed the high summer season with a visit to a lavender farm, a stroll through Jones Point Park, and lots of pleasant wandering around Old Town.  We made the rounds of the playgrounds and ate delicious Mexican food with Zan and Paul, who were in town visiting.

The next weekend, Steve went out of town for a boys’ getaway to celebrate a friend’s fortieth birthday.  I was on solo parent duty and spent most of the five days of his absence running to and from the nanny, school and work – and then Peanut came down with a vicious case of strep.  No fun at all!  But we did manage to get out for some fun on that Saturday.  I might be insane, but I took both kids to the zoo by myself.  We visited with the great cats, pandas, elephants and more and the kids had way too much fun in the splash pad.

As soon as Steve returned, I left – for two days of practice group meetings at my firm’s Chicago office.  It was mostly workshops and networking, but I did manage to squeeze in a little time for myself.  I set my alarm early on Friday morning and headed out for just shy of four miles of Chicago sightseeing before making my way to the office and then the airport.

With a couple of weeks to spend at home before our travel schedule heated up, we explored the summer fun in northern Virginia.  We put in some quality time at our local community pool and found a new favorite activity – the splash pad!  We were there almost every weekend, unless we were out of town.

And we also spent a lot of time here – on the back patio, tending to our garden.  It was a little slapstick sometimes, but we had fun and learned some stuff.

In late June, summer travel began in earnest!  We spent a weekend on Virginia Beach visiting with my BFF Rebecca, her fiancé Eric, and their family.  We even got to be there to wish a certain Buffalo friend’s little nephew a happy second birthday in person, and to see his mom’s adorable baby bump!  (Congratulations on your upcoming promotion to big brother status, Hudson!)

And just two weeks later, we packed up the car again and headed to New York for the fourth of July weekend, which we spent at my parents’ Adirondack camp.  Nothing better!

We hiked at Grafton State Park with my friend Christine (and Nugget tried to launch one of the rescue kayaks).

Climbed our third Adirondack high peak.

Took the kayak out for a paddle on the Sacandaga… (#paddlethedacks)

Sailed with my cousin Jocelyn and some family friends…

Rambunctiously wished America a happy birthday…

And stared in awe at a golden Adirondack sunset.

The very next weekend, we spent the day at a motor sports park in West Virginia watching Steve race a Porsche supercar around their track – his “big” Christmas present from 2016.  He absolutely loved it – and so did Nugget, who has proudly been telling everyone we meet that his daddy drives race cars.

We kept the paddling fun coming at Fletcher’s Cove – now that we knew the kids could be trusted to duff, there was no keeping us off the water!

And – kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! – we picked blueberries at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland…

Which were later turned into pie.

We swam in the community pool a lot.

And then we flew to California for the wedding of a dear friend, followed by a family reunion!

We had some epic adventures (stories continue every Friday!)…

And flew home over the Grand Canyon.

We visited with our heroes.

And we bid farewell to summer from the sunflower fields.

Bon voyage, summer of ’17!  You’ve been sun-baked and sweet.  And now, fall, you can start anytime.

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