Thursday, September 11, 2014

July (Part 1)

I'm back.

It wasn't something I planned, but it appears I took an unofficial, extended break from this blog over the entire summer. With two kids needing summertime fun, family visiting from Australia, friends popping up from L.A., road trips when we could squeeze them in (and not to mention work), things became quite hectic - but mostly in a good way. When school finished in June, I näively thought we'd have endless days ahead, with few plans, and the only schedule I'd be ruled by was my work roster. The Faery wanted to sign up to just about every day camp under the sun, but I'm glad she only did a couple.

So many spur-of-the moment outings and visits kept us more than occupied. I'm in no way opposed to days at home with the TV on for kiddo entertainment - it's something I more than rely on at times - but we surprisingly had very few days like that over summer. I suppose the knowledge of how short-lived summer is here put me into a "make hay while the sun shines" mentality. Summer in Seattle is amazing but it doesn't stick around for long, so I forced us to get out of the house every day. Lots of vitamin D hits for us, but it meant that for the first time ever, when school resumed this month I didn't feel ready, that we needed more veggie days at home just doing sweet nothing. I guess that's better than feeling as though we wasted summer, though.

Here in Seattle, people joke that summer doesn't officially begin until July 5th (the joke being that July 4th celebrations are often rainy). This July 4th threatened to prove them right, with grey skies and passing spots of rain. We took a gamble anyway, and hosted a barbecue at our place, with a bit of a pot luck dessert from friends. By sheer coincidence, it was mostly Aussie expat friends, with one Canadian and only one American - poor girl! It was a good excuse to make pavlova, and a friend got into the spirit by making a divine s'mores pie. Lucky for all of us, the walk to the waterfront fireworks that evening were a mile downhill so we managed to walk off some of our gluttony.

The following week, the Faery attended a day camp at one of the Western Washington Girl Scout campsites. It was in a beautiful 400+ acre setting, complete with log cabins and surrounded by cedar trees. Camp River Ranch is a forty-minute drive from home, but instead of me needing to drive the round trip twice a day, we were fortunate enough to have a camp bus that serviced a route with a drop-off point only five minutes away from home.

Once at camp, the Faery spent her time in a small group of other Brownies, and together they worked out their week's itinerary of craft, fairy house building (in the woods), mermaid-spotting from a boat in the lake, swimming, ice-cream making, and a tent sleepover on the Thursday night. Basically, the kind of week I dreamed about when I was that age. Movies like The (original) Parent Trap and 1985's Poison Ivy (Michael J Fox was my first love) fuelled my childhood dreams of an American style camp in the great outdoors, so there may have been a little vicarious living through the Faery. However, every day she emerged from the camp bus, face flushed and glowing. The heat wave that week was probably a factor too, but she had such a wonderful time that she kept asking to go back and do another week or two. I will be more than happy to send her back next summer.

On the last day of her camp, instead of having her take the bus home, we met her at the camp and then headed to a farm for a bed and breakfast farm stay. I'd managed to find a farm that had a platform tent with a queen sized bed inside, plus room for two single camping beds. Glamping!

The farm itself is an organic one, established by an older couple who had left the rat race of Microsoft behind them. There was an assortment of animals, and their farmhands invited the Faery and Miss Pie to accompany them on their rounds to feed the animals and collect eggs. The girls were in heaven because it was their first time on a proper farm.

It was ridiculously hot and humid, so we were stoked to find a bar and grill in the nearby town of Carnation, with a kid-friendly beer garden. Not only that, but the fence was lined with a misty spray sprinkler to cool us off. As the shadows got longer, we realised we'd better head back to the farm before it got too dark.

J was in heaven once he'd got a campfire going near our tent. As luck would have it, there was a full moon rising over the Cascade mountains, which we we had a clear view of from the farm. We roasted marshmallows with the girls and then once they were asleep, we sat by the fire for far too many hours, and drank far too much wine (me) and beer (him). Aside from the dozens of mosquito bites to my thighs after the briefest of nature-calling-grass-squats, it was as good as any date night. Full moon, campfire, marshmallows, booze, dearly beloved, and... did I mention the full moon? It was pretty damn special.

All of that was followed up with a sore head (him), goat-milking/feeding (the girls), and a home-cooked breakfast made from the farm's good food. By the time we left, the heat had kicked in again, so we stopped off for a swim in the Snoqualmie River, soaked up the last of the rural vibe, then headed home. It definitely felt as though summer had arrived, and with a bang.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

One year in the Northwest

A weird thing happened when I looked at my calendar earlier this week - I realised that today marks a whole year since we traded in L.A. for Seattle. I could probably continue at this point with half a dozen clichés about time flying, but I'll spare you. Instead, I'll bore you with a bunch of visuals. My photos tend to be better than my words anyway.

I've had several half-baked posts sitting in my draft box over the last couple of months, so I've decided to hell with it, and rolled them all into this one. Snipped away the few words there were, and am letting the images do the talking. You'll just have to believe me when I say this post is actually two months in the making. There are times when I'd rather bake banana bread than sit down and blog, you know? Or figure out the best way to make banana pudding (which I've become obsessed with). Or simply eat donuts (something I do love about Seattle).

Essentially, I'm making the most of getting outside as the days become a little drier and warmer. The long daylight hours are divine - something I loved about living in the UK too - and given that I'm typically at work four evenings a week, those other three evenings are not guaranteed to be sunny and dry. When they are, I drag everyone down to one of the lakeside picnic spots, so that I can enjoy a sunset. Not a swim though. No. That lake water is still far too cold for a wimp like myself.

We've been discovering new places to wander - both local, and a little further out. Been visiting favourite touristy spots again, and doing our best to shake the pallor of winter off ourselves. School finished up last week, so I'm finding myself now a little more time-poor... but the mini sleep-ins are making up for it. Swimming lessons are the only thing that have us rushing out the door this month, but July - when my parents visit - is going to be packed full.

Anyhow, there it is. A whole year in Seattle, and we've still got a lot of discovering to do. I have a lot of affection for the Pacific Northwest and all its clean air, good coffee and amazing food, but I need to work on making peace with its winters before I start feeling like one of the locals. I have a way to go, I suspect.

In the mean time...