Fall Vacation Reflection

What is it about vacations that make being home feel so good? We have been on the road more than usual this fall. A September wedding in Big Sur wrapped up the final 12 days of summer with an epic surf road trip. Less than two week later we were flying across the country for a French Canadian dose of fall color in Quebec. Both trips were amazing, and totally different.

Road trip to Big Sur took us along Hwy 101 and 1: the classic West Coast adventure. Our mini cooper was crammed full of camping gear, food, wetsuits, wedding clothes and our two boards strapped to the roof. It was quite a sight and so much fun to pull off. 2600+ miles took us to some amazing views, great surf, with friends and family along the way. Nik and Nora’s wedding was quite the event as well and we felt like honored guests for the intimate, luxury event.

The week we were home felt the total opposite. Rushed and frantic and too much to do. We harvested tomatoes, made and froze sauce, rebuilt the chicken coop roof and added a new outdoor run. The rain was coming so we battened down the hatches and prepared our little farm for another spell away. I did my best to catch up at work while simultaneously preparing projects for more “out of office” responses in my absence. The house projects received zero attention.

But then the magic of travel happened again and all those unfinished project and work worries were 3000 miles away. On free tickets from last year’s bumped flight, we flew into Montreal and made our home in a little bohemian apartment for the next 4 days. We ate bread and cheese and pate for dinner almost every night, and found pastries for breakfast and lunch. We explored the city through all modes of transit: on foot, by bike share, metro and bus. One night we went out for a fancy dinner. We asked for a recommendation at the trendy butcher shop where we had found excellent terrine. Their sister restaurant was just around the corner and exactly what we wanted for a nice night out.

On Sunday we took a bus to Quebec City on the peak day of fall color. It was incredible, and quite a different experience from fall in the Pacific Northwest. The trees were on fire! How did we like Quebec City? That first afternoon of exploring literally brought me to tears. Multiple times. It was that beautiful and special feeling. The clouds and sky and light were perfect to see the city for the first time.

The rest of our 6 day Canadian adventure took us all around and through Quebec City. We rented a car 2 days to seek out fall colors (and more pastries and coffee). We ate and explored and ate and explored, calling another little Airbnb apartment home. We rarely find places we may want to live (we really do love Vashon) but were totally smitten with Ile d’Orleans. If we ever need to move that is on the list.

Now we are home. It took us a few weeks to really settle back in. We came home to a house swimming in tomatoes salvaged from the late season storms. Picking corn and cuddling our kitties that missed us tons. We dug out the rest of the garden and planted cover crops. We are settling back into the routine. Matt is finding his tools and picking up projects. I am figuring out my daily commute to the city. Life is returning to normal just as the days really settle into fall.

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Break for the Sun

Three weeks ago I woke up to an email: RT to Tucson $127!

20 minutes later I was on the phone with my grandparents confirming they were in town. 20 minutes after that we had flights booked. 16 days later we were in sunny Arizona for some much needed sunshine and R&R!

After a record breaking wet winter (ugh!) in Washington, the desert was a welcome treat. We spent the week hiking and lounging, eating good food, more hiking, more pool time, and of course seeing family. We visited with great aunts and uncles, second cousins and grandparents. We ate fresh grapefruit and oranges for breakfast, made a tres leches cake from scratch, went to the symphony, Gaga treated me to a massage, and went out for Mexican food. Spent time in the sunshine. But the hiking. Did I mention we hiked? Some of the best hikes of my life!

Our first hike was a day trip to Chiricahua National Monument. We arrived to the park mostly being closed for construction, but we were still able to do the Heart of Rocks trail after a picnic with Grammy and Gaga. 7.4 miles was a good warm up for the rest of the trip! Scenery was stunning and the trail was almost empty.

Our second hike was in Sabino Canyon, only 10 minutes from Grammy and Gaga’s house. We got curbside dropoff (thanks grandparents!) and met up with some cousins to walk the road before peeling off for a longer trek. We walked and talked and then around noon (note: not the ideal time to start a hard hike in 90 degree heat!) we took off on a trail to do Blackett’s Ridge. This was a stunning hike, also very empty trail, and HARD! It was steep and uphill the whole way up. It felt longer than the 8ish miles it was, but totally worth it for the panoramic canyon views at the top.

After a day of rest we tackled our final (and favorite) hike: Seven Falls in Bear Canyon. Thanks to spring break the trail was pretty crowded (though not compared to I-90 trails in WA!) but we climbed up past the end of the trail to find some solitude. Highlight? Our own personal infinity pool at the top of one of the falls. Epic views and the cold water was a welcome relief from the heat. 11 out of 10 for this hike. We already want to do it again!

It was a wonderful trip. The perfect mix of relaxing and going. It had been 5 years since our last trip to Arizona and we are planning to make our next trip much, much sooner than that.

Sunscreen in November

Who would have guessed it was this hard to track down sunscreen this time of year? I guess since the skies are grey and rainy most people would not be buying any so it makes sense. However, today it threw me for a loop in last minute vacation prep…no sunscreen to be found! (ok, not NONE at all, but none of the brands I prefer)

Finally after lots of investigating (3 stores in person, 3 called) I looked into Amazon Prime (too bad Hawaii is too slow to ship in time) and calling stores on the island. After 3 strikes, I hit gold: Costco has one brand of sunscreen and it is Alba Botanica…my brand of choice! Woohoo!

No packing sunscreen for these beach rats…we are picking it up when we get there.

Mahalo

Return to Port Townsend

For our third anniversary (how has it been so long already?!) we wanted to go back to Port Townsend for a weekend getaway. An Airbnb was selected, but no availability till October…so we booked a late anniversary weekend for the fall. It turned out to be exactly what we needed. August was busy enough with house painting and other weekend commitments, and the fall colors were great this time of year.

Last Friday we headed out. I still am in awe of how much closer to everything we feel living on Vashon Island. Well, close to everything except maybe the cascades. Surfing is 2.5 hours away, Port Townsend 1.5 hours. We are near to Seattle, and Tacoma, AND the Kitsap Peninsula (and therefore the lake property). It is pretty awesome. After the short ferry ride to Southworth we were on our way, and before we knew it, arrived in Port Townsend.

First order of business was dumping our stuff at the Airbnb. It was a cute little 1 room tiny house, 10×12 with a small bathroom, kitchenette bed and outdoor shower. Perfect!

Then we went out for long walk around Fort Worden. I was in a bit of a funk because my main camera was cardless (argh!) and my phone memory was full. No pictures was hard for me. We walked around and discovered a new part of the fort and reminisced at our wedding site.

We walked until sunset and then headed to town for dinner at Waterfront Pizza (they catered our rehearsal dinner). Service was slow, and then made slower by some issues with our order so our pizza was on the house. Turns out the slow dinner was a good thing so we spent less time at our Airbnb.

When we got back “home” for the night we were pooped and headed to bed. That is when the trouble began. We were both really bothered by an odor in the room. We are still not sure if it was mold or an air freshner or what, but it kept us up for hours. In the morning, we decided we could not handle another night there and reluctantly shortened our trip. The day was supposed to be rainy and we knew we did not want to spend time in that room.

So we loaded the car, and headed to town for breakfast. Pastries and coffee at Sweet Laurette’s, cruising the farmer’s market were a great way to start the day. We wandered all the standard shops along the waterfront and found a vintage 1940s or 50s art deco framed print for our house at an antique shop.

By 1:00 we were ready for another Port Townsend tradition: ice cream sundae at Don’s Pharmacy soda fountain!

We took a second lap around the fort (this time with a camera!) to work off the ice cream and then hit the road home.

All in all it was a great trip, and being home Sunday was really quite nice. The cats and chickens were happy to have us home and it make the weekend stretch just a bit longer. Most importantly, it reminded us how much we just love spending time together wherever we are.

October Surf

After months of prep and painting we finally gave ourselves permission to pause on the house and go for a much anticipated surf vacation. A mini trip to the Washington coast was exactly what we needed. We had roughly scouted out where to go, and decided on Grayland Beach state park…just south of where we would surf in Westport.

Friday afternoon Matt picked me up from work in a SUPER full car and we headed to the coast with no visibility out out windows. Camping in a mini cooper is quite a feat. But hey, when you only have one vehicle you work with what you have!

A mere 2.5 hours later and we were in Westport! First stop: a surf shop to get the lay of the land. We inquired about boards and surf breaks and then went to check out the jetty.

What a great spot! It was cloudy and foggy that afternoon but the weekend forecast was for warm, sunny weather. And SO MANY sand dollars! You could not go more than a few steps without reaching for another one!

Our campsite was great and had easy access to the beach. Next time we may try out one of the yurts.

Day one of surfing was fun, but hard. The current was pushing pretty hard south and the surf was really mushy and fast. It was exhausting to get yourself out far enough to catch a cleaner wave. We both had a great time though and were totally wiped and sporting sunburned faces out when we headed to dinner.

Sunset from our campground. We drank tea and watched it go down…and saw A GREEN FLASH! This elusive phenomenon has been on my family’s hit list for YEARS and we finally saw one!!! So cool!

Sunday was a down day and thank goodness…we were exhausted! We decided to explore the area and took a drive up to Moclips and the other seaside towns to the North. We stopped for clam chowder and ice cream in Ocean Shores before heading back to Grayland for a long beach walk.

Monday was the highlight though. After an ok breakfast at the Blue Bouy we stopped by the surf shop for boards. We grabbed two long boards and hit the road.

We got to the beach and saw exactly what we were hoping for: clean, easy, long breaks with no current. Beautiful!

I spent the morning catching wave after wave while Matt struggled with the other board. At lunch we swapped and then he was having all the success! Eventually even getting out to the “real” lineup at the back and catching big green waves like a pro! It was incredible to see how far we have come! Unfortunately I did not have better luck with the second board either. For some reason neither of us could catch a wave on it even though it was a bigger, longer board. The balance we could just not get down. Goes to show that we need to try out boards before we buy as they are NOT equal!

We surfed until nearly 5, showered and headed back to camp for the sunset and dinner. What a sunset it was! Probably one of the top 5 of my life. Seriously, how spectacular is this?!:

What a wonderful getaway. No cell service, awesome waves and only a few hours from home. We are already itching to go back!

Back from Baja

Ten days away was lovely. Sun, sand, sleeping in. Really good food. Seeing old friends, and making some new ones.

This was our third trip to southern Baja, staying at the same little place in Todos Santos. It is so relaxing, inexpensive, quiet and exactly what we crave in travel. Being back means we quickly settled into our routine (tortillas from the lady down the street, fish tacos, flan from Miguel’s, hanging out with the dogs and playing games) but added some new things too. We dug out the old hand press juicer and went through 44 lbs of oranges making juice in a week. We took a whole day to drive around the ENTIRE southern cape region and explored some beautiful new areas. A new restaurant was a dinner favorite and we had 4 great surf days on more advanced boards!

It was a lovely trip, and just what we needed as a last hurrah before coming home to garden and paint the house all summer.

A few photographic highlights:

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Travel Essentials

We love to travel, particularly to places with beaches, good food, fun activities and sunshine. Since Matt and I met, we have crammed in a massive amount of travel and gotten good at streamlining our essentials. Yes, I still overpack EVERY time…but am getting better I swear!

This past weekend I finally finished unpacking from our winter trip to Belize. The dirty laundry had been done, so this was truly a good look at the unused (ie: overpacked!) list of items we hauled with us. I have been meaning to do this post for awhile since a few people ask me what my favorite travel items are. We leave for Todos Santos (our favorite secret getaway in Baja!) for surf trip in a few weeks so packing is on my mind! I also just got two new things that I had to share. So here goes:

1. A good swimsuit (or two!) I used to pack 8+ suits for a beach vacation. I loved the fun prints and mixing and matching and all the variety. However, this all changed when we started surfing. Function, or ability to stay on quickly became top priority so I have been on the search for the perfect suit. Goodbye cute VS suits. My favorite surf suit top was this cross back bikini top from Rip Curl but it came in limited colors and I wanted more than just black. Then recently I stumbled upon a women owned (!) made in the USA (!) competition brand (ie: stays put!) swim suit company called Jolyn…and am in LOVE with their cross back tops! Designed for beach volleyball you know these things stay put, and are made very well with high quality materials. Two will be coming to Todos Santos with me, and the rest of my swimsuits are getting donated. There is no going back.

PRINTED TRIANGLE TOPS

2. Sunscreen: We love the mineral sunscreens by Alba Botanical. They stay put, work well and are not overly scented. SPF 45+ please!

Kids  Mineral  Broad Spectrum SPF 30

3. Nalgene bottles are always in tow.

4. Small coin purse. I always end up with a TON of loose coins so this guy is a lifesaver.

5. Camera(s). Right now we are borrowing my parent’s Panasonic Lumix underwater camera. They have the TS4 model and it has been awesome. Great underwater pictures, and the ability to WASH it after a day getting salty/sunscreeny/dirty etc…so valuable. I love my DSLR but at the beach the salt spray is too much. I usually bring it on the trip too, but it is taken out less regularly than the Lumix. Finally, the trusty iPhone5. This little camera is great for quick shots, particularly in low light or those cool panoramic shots.

6. Coconut Oil. Now this may sounds weird but hear me out on this one. Packing/traveling light is all about multipurpose essentials and coconut oil is the ultimate multitasker. We usually pick up a jar at the grocery store when we land and use up the whole thing in a week. (or bring one with us if we are checking a bag…but that is rare these days). What do we use it for? After sun lotion, hair conditioner, shaving cream, cooking (great for fish, plantains, pork, chicken etc!), baking (instead of vegetable oil)…the list goes on. Seriously a great staple.

7. iPad and card reader. As much as I love taking photos when I travel I am always aware of how quickly they could disappear. Theft (of a camera or memory cards), loss, water damage, husband accidentally deleting photos on the camera…not worth the risk. We back up ALL our photos daily by downloading them onto our iPad with a card reader. Then we have duplicates on cards.

8. Bandanna. Another multitasker. Head sun protection (really critical now that I have bangs), washcloth, ice pack, napkin…

9. Rainbow flip flops. 4 years in and still going strong. Matt and I wear them all summer long and LIVE in them on vacation.

Single Layer Premier Leather with Arch Support

10. Smart bags: daypack, beach bag, cooler bag. The beach bag must be easy to pack, fold, wash etc. An insulated cooler bag is great for getting groceries home in hot weather. And good for keeping beers cold at the beach. We use one from Trader Joe’s.