As you may recall, when we left Paris in July, we were headed to Seattle for a much anticipated visit with our Grandma Alli. Along the way, we flew through the Calgary airport, where many of the senior citizen employees were dressed in cowboy attire and welcomed us with a lively musical performance, complete with a lassoing of Marie at the end, and some gifts of temporary Canada leaf tattoos with a cowboy hat in the middle. They kept us all smiling for quite a while, which is certainly helpful during a long day of air travel!
What a welcome relief it was to arrive at Grandma’s house, as she greeted us with some much needed healthy green juice, creamy vanilla yogurt, and fresh, juicy blackberries, which are so amazing and abundant in the Northwest during that time of year. She gifted each of the girls with their own sweet stuffed animal puppy, and we all visited for a while before cozying into our pillows and blankets, arranged around the living room, for a serene slumber.
The following morning was truly phenomenal as we had a very special surprise visitor, Aunt Ashley, who seemingly by magic, emerged from Grandma Alli’s bedroom as we began waking up. She had flown into town on the sly, in the middle of the night, and Grandma Alli had smuggled Ashley into her bedroom while we were all enjoying our long awaited deep sleep. We were, of course, so ecstatically happy to have her with us!! We went to see the movie “Inside Out” together and had the tasty experience of MOD Pizza for dinner. Making the most of our time together, we all went bowling the next day and had a pleasant lunch at Panera, a new favorite, before Ashley bid us farewell and headed to the airport and back home. Thank you for coming Ashley! We love you!!
As if we hadn’t already had our fair share of fun and excitement, our wedding anniversary arrived the following day. Brandon and I started it out the night before at the Seattle Hilton, in preparation to attend an Abraham-Hicks event there in the morning. It was our first night alone as a couple in over four years! A special thanks goes to our friend Keith King for taking such great care of our girls during the workshop, which helped make it possible for Grandma Alli to be in attendance with us! Afterwards, we continued with our anniversary celebrations, while the girls spent ample amounts of quality time with their amazing Grandma, which even included a shopping trip for some beautiful new clothes. I don’t even think they missed us – like, at all!
Brandon and I made the most of our time together this year, doing such things as a special couples massage at the Little Red Day Spa, where we spent an hour in their art suite afterwards, a beautiful, spacious room, with comfortable couches, dining table, hot tub, shower, body paint, etc. They also gifted us a bottle of white wine to share as an anniversary gift. It was such a nice activity to honor our 13th year! We took in a performance at Teatro ZinZanni that evening, which was an exciting cabaret dinner show, including incredibly talented circus performers from around the world.
The next morning found us meandering through downtown Seattle in search of exceptional chocolate, a fairly common activity for us no matter where we happen to be. En route to Fran’s Chocolates, we spotted a sign for “Grease”, playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Spontaneous as we were feeling that day, and since Brandon had never seen the musical, we opted to just buy tickets right there on the spot. Then we continued on our gleefully frolicsome way, to get our mouthwatering salted caramel dark chocolate and take a quick stroll along the waterfront and through Pike’s Place Market, before heading back to the theatre in time for the show. We were delighted by the upbeat, high-energy of the performance and the very talented cast!
Later that afternoon, we attended a potluck gathering at Blythe Park, hosted by Grandma Alli. In attendance were many former and/or transitioning members of the LDS faith, including Brandon’s Aunt Kristin and Uncle Craig. We enjoyed meeting and visiting with everyone there, and we’re happy to have made some new and very inspirational friends in the process!
We drove to the Kingston ferry the following morning, so we could visit some of my family members in the Poulsbo area, which is a really cute little Norwegian-style town. We had dinner and stayed the night at my Uncle Jim and Aunt Anne’s house, surrounded by their beautiful nature and gardens. It was such a pleasure to talk with everyone who came, and get to know each other a bit better.
Arriving back at Grandma Alli’s house that night, we all went out to eat together at Tablas, a Spanish tapas restaurant. During our meal we were serenaded on the guitar by the very talented Enrique Henao. He chatted with us for a while afterwards, and we found out he has performed in 80 countries around the world as a concert acoustical guitarist. Originally from Colombia, he began studying the guitar at the age of 7, under the direction of his father. One of his greatest passions in life is to benefit children through the sharing of his musical gifts. He even invited us to bring Emily to his house for a complimentary guitar lesson a few days later, which we gratefully accepted, and very much enjoyed!
Another highlight of our time with Grandma Alli was when we spent a lovely few hours at a bookstore, something we always appreciate whenever we get the chance. I spent most of that time looking through “Curly Girl: The Handbook,” which details everything I’d ever need to know about caring for my curly hair. Surprisingly, much of the information was new to me! Grandma also bought us each a cupcake of our choice from PinkaBella at Alderwood Mall; they were definitely gourmet, and incredibly scrumptious. A highlight for Brandon was when he found a sleek new backpack/camera bag on sale (similar to this one), which spins around into a fanny pack for easy access to camera equipment; he’s been very pleased with it ever since!
A nostalgic event for me was when we picked up some picnic food from Whole Foods around lunch time and went to meet some friends of mine, the Westfalls, from what feels like another lifetime ago, when I lived in Washington with my family growing up. We met at a picnic spot at Silver Lake in Everett with many beautiful trees, a large grassy area, playground, and of course, the beautiful lake. Aysia had fun playing with our friend’s daughter, Katherine, who is about her same age, and had a chance to try out her balance bike, which Katherine recently graduated from to a two-wheeled peddle bike. The girls also flew kites together and enjoyed the playground equipment nearby, while the adults had a nice chat around the picnic table as we kept moving it to follow the sun, since Brandon and I are a bit cold phobic.
The next day we drove to Portland, simply because we enjoyed our time there last year and thought we’d enjoy another visit. It was quite a bit drier this time around, due to the intense drought, and we found convenient and affordable accommodations surprisingly difficult to come by as well. So, we didn’t end up spending much time there after all, except to visit with a new friend, Jana, and her children at their home one afternoon, and we also visited a food truck court for a meal one day, a Portland cultural experience, to be sure.
However, we were also interested in checking out Bend, Oregon this trip, so we took a drive through Mt. Hood National Forest along the way. We stopped at Trillium Lake for a short snack break and took a lovely little walk in the woods. The temperature was amazing, and the trees and lake so revitalizing. It felt wonderful to be there, and the view of Mt. Hood in the distance made for a stunning backdrop.
From our accommodation in Bend, we walked along a beautiful river through a park, towards the center of town, which had a variety of fun shops and restaurants to explore. We chose to eat at a Japanese restaurant called Soba, that evening. We enjoyed another restaurant the next morning called, The Victorian Cafe, which was located a bit further outside the center of town. Listed on the menu were many varieties of eggs benedict, among other appetizing eatables. Brandon and I shared the turkey, bacon, avocado, and spinach eggs benedict with a side of the most delicious applesauce my tastebuds have ever been mingled with.
On our way out of town, back towards Mt. Hood, we stopped into Trader Joe’s to pick up a few snacks, including a birthday cake for Marie! We drove to our vacation rental in the woods at Mt. Hood Village, where we went out for a birthday dinner at a pizza restaurant and shared an 18-incher; they even let us choose a different flavor on each fourth of the pizza. Back at home, Marie decorated her chocolate cake with an abundance of fresh red raspberries arranged artfully across the top; it looked and tasted delicious! At Marie’s request, we also played lots of games together that night. We always enjoy a vacation rental stocked with plenty of games and movies, as this one was. Another night we watched a movie called “RV”, starring Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, and Kristin Chenoweth. Really fun show!
Following the trails surrounding the house, we took a walk to the riverside and saw some pretty impressive balanced rock towers; we even added to the display by making some of our own.
Back in Seattle again, we stopped in Fremont to meet some new friends, Evan and Rebecca, at their home, for a really nice dinner of chips, salsa, soup, salad, and oatmeal chocolate bars. We really enjoyed being together and getting to know them. We took a walk around their neighborhood and saw the troll under the bridge, the rocket, the Lenin statue, and Gaslight Park, with a tall grassy hill overlooking the water and downtown Seattle. Gorgeous! Our new friend Rebecca is now working with Brandon’s business as the UX designer!
As a continuation of Marie’s birthday celebration, we paid a visit to Lynden Skateway on our way to Bellingham. Marie and Emily were dancing and skating to the music and having a really great time. Brandon and I held hands with Aysia for a while at the beginning, and then she used a roller bar to skate on her own. A word of warning for affectionate couples: kissing, hugging, snuggling, and other such appropriately loving conduct may earn you a slight reprimand from the owner, just sayin’. Such a strange experience, as we’d just recently come from the very open, warm, connecting, and passionate, yet well-mannered and respectful, cultures of Spain and France, which I have to say I much prefer; it seems to me a much more healthy and natural way to view and express loving behavior.
In Bellingham, we went to dinner at La Fiamma for some wood fire pizza with Aunt Kristin, Uncle Craig, and cousin J’Neil. The waitstaff gave Marie and Aysia little balls of pizza dough to play with while we patiently anticipated our food. Naturally, Marie decided to use it to make a beard and mustache for her face, among other things, and Aysia quickly followed suit.
We visited a fabulous shop called Chocolate Necessities after dinner and partook of their deliciously rich sipping chocolate, certainly a must when visiting Bellingham. Back at the house, the girls played the Wii and we enjoyed some guitar, ukulele, and singing entertainment from J’Neil, Craig, Emily, and Brandon. The next morning Craig made us all a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, fruit, chocolate milk, orange juice, and muffins, before we made our way to the Tsawwassen ferry, bound for Victoria, Canada on Vancouver Island. Stay tuned for the highlights of our beautiful two month stay, coming right up!