Passport to Oregon

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Andrew and his parents helped me check three major bucket list destinations off my list last week–Astoria, Oregon, Haystack Rock, and Crater Lake! I’ve wanted to see these places for as long as I can remember, so when Andrew’s parents said they were planning a family reunion on the Oregon Coast and asked us to come come, my mind went wild with all of the possibilities. Oregon is a BEAUTIFUL state-even more so than I expected-with smooth beaches, dense forests and raging rivers at every turn. Andrew prefers the mountains and I prefer the beach, but in Oregon you can have both!

We left home on Saturday morning and had four days to spend touring the state before we met up with Andrew’s extended family in Lincoln City on Wednesday. We definitely made the most of our time, squeezing in as much as we could. Ellie was a travel pro. Long flights and drives didn’t diminish her spirit–she was WAY too excited to be in so many new places. She slept about 80% of our flights and spent the rest of the time looking out at the world. She prefers the window seat. ๐Ÿ™‚

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The first destination on our itinerary after landing in Portland was Astoria, Oregon. I’ve always loved the movie, The Goonies.ย Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to visit the city where the movie was filmed, and am fortunate enough to have a husband who wants to make all of my dreams come true. We got to see several locations from the movie, like the jail the Fratellis escaped from, the bowling alley where Chunk sees the police chase, and the museum where Mikey’s dad worked. We even drove to Ecola State Park, where the kids match the rocks to the metal skull piece they found before going into the restaurant. If there is any question about whether I’m aware of how nerdy all of this sounds–trust me, I’m fully conscious. But honestly, I was in Heaven. We even got Ellie a t-shirt that says “Goonies Never Say Die.”

It turns out Astoria is NOT just a movie set. It’s actually a really nice, quaint town. All three of us really enjoyed walking along the paths on the waterfront and pushing Ellie down the sidewalks in the stroller, although, she was not a fan of Seal Pier. About 200 stinky seals barking at her was not her cup of tea.

We made our way to Ecola State Park, which offers beautiful views of the coastline. There were a couple of short trails we walked on before we headed to our next hotel in Cannon Beach. In CB, we stayed at The Ocean Lodge, right on the beach and with a beautiful view of Haystack Rock. I loved seeing Ellie run around on the beach and pick up seashells.

Our next destination was Crater Lake, a six-hour-long drive from Cannon Beach. Needless to say, I was not happy by the time we got there, but seeing the view of the crater the next day definitely improved my mood! These pictures don’t do it’s beauty justice. Andrew’s mom and dad were driving in from Nevada and met us there to spend the day touring the East Rim since the West Rim was closed for the season. The morning started out really cloudy and cold at about 30 degrees, but by afternoon we had warmer temps and sunny skies–it was perfect. We let Ellie do some hiking and took the opportunity with Andrew’s parents to take some family photos.

On our way to meet up with the rest of Andrew’s family, we made a quick stop at Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, Yaquina Head. Ellie got to run around after being in the car for four hours, and we even saw some gray whales in the bay. Win-win!

Our last destination was the gorgeous beach house Andrew’s parents rented in Lincoln City with his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousin. We got to reconnect with them and with each other, while they entertained Ellie for us. They even had an early birthday party for her with new toys, clothes and even a Cookie Monster cake. She was definitely one spoiled little girl. My only regret on this trip is not taking more pictures of them!

Andrew and I even got to go on a date! We spent a wonderful day going on a whale watching tour where we saw about eight gray whales, wine tasting and did a little light shopping. We had sparkling champagne at lunch and watched the waves crash on the bluffs from a bench above the bay. It was my favorite part of the trip.

Overall, this was a trip that will be on my mind for a long time to come with so many great memories to choose from. Ellie won’t remember it, but I’m so happy and thankful I’ll be able to show her (through photos and videos) so many special experiences on her first trip to Oregon.

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Fall Picture Time!

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This little sweetheart got her fall pictures taken at daycare and they are so cute! When Andrew or I ask Ellie to smile for pictures, she usually does the opposite, but for some reason she has no problem cheesing for complete strangers. I figure it’s because she’s not comfortable enough with them yet to be her normal rambunctious toddler self. Whatever the reason, kudos to the photographer for not only getting her to smile, but also getting her to stay still long enough to snap THREE super cute fall photos.

Seeing her pictures this time of year is fun because we’re coming up on her birthday, so the pictures almost mark each year of her life. Of course, there have only been two fall photo sessions as we’re coming up on her second birthday, but I am always surprised by how much she has grown right in front of my eyes. I don’t always see it day-to-day but I definitely see it when looking back at earlier photos. On the left is last year’s fall picture, with this year’s picture again on the right. My little baby is not a baby anymore!

Winter is Coming

img_6883Today is the first day of fall, my favorite time of year! This time of year always flies by because we have one holiday after the next to look forward to. In Montgomery, the change of seasons didn’t mean all that much because the weather doesn’t get cold enough to keep you inside too long, but in Cleveland, fall weather means it’s almost winter. Winter in Cleveland means several feet of snow and a gray dome that sets over the city for several months until spring. It’s always this time of year that we get outside as much as possible to make the most of what little time we have left!

I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Even my indoor husband has wanted to get outside some the last couple of weeks. ๐Ÿ™‚ I take advantage of the Cleveland Metroparks as much as I can, at least a couple of times a week, and recently I’ve been taking Ellie and Andrew along to show them my favorite spots and most scenic hikes. Ellie is an outside baby! She loves it as much as I do. I’m looking forward to taking her on longer and longer hikes as she gets older.

Last weekend, I took them to the Rocky River Reservation for a walk along the river. The water was lower than usual, but it was so peaceful. Ellie loved running through the leaves along the path. Watching her run is one of my most favorite things.

The weekend before last, we checked out the Lock 39 Trailhead in Independence, OH and discovered this bridge overlooking the Cuyahoga River.

And I’ve been taking Ellie to our city park as much as possible. I love that they have separate play areas for toddlers and older kids, and Ellie feels like such a big girl sliding down the slide by herself!

Goodbye Summer!

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Last weekend, we said goodbye to summer with a visit to the beautiful “Maria’s Field of Hope” in Avon, OH. The sunflower field was planted in memory of a young victim of brain cancer named Maria. Her family plants the field every summer and hosts events with proceeds going toward children’s cancer research. It seems like the field becomes more popular every year. Last weekend was the first weekend the flowers were in full bloom and there were a lot of visitors. I didn’t think I would be able to get pictures of Ellie by herself, but the field is so huge there was plenty of space for all of the mommy and daddy photographers I saw there.

Ellie had the time of her life running on the dirt paths through the field and picking up rocks. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the visit.

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Southern Holiday

Ellie and I just came back from the best holiday weekend visiting my family in Mississippi. Andrew decided to stay behind for this one and enjoyed some much needed R&R at home. I don’t blame him–the trip was a whirlwind of visiting family and friends we haven’t seen in several months. It. Was. Crazy.

…Crazy fun, I mean. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ellie and I caught a direct flight from CLE to BNA after work Friday and she was so great on the trip. It helped that the flight was only an hour and a half. I kept The Boss Baby playing on the iPad and she was good toย go!

Once we were in Iuka, we hit the ground running visiting family and friends, even if just for a few minutes. We even snuck in quick visits to the park and to our favorite Mexican restaurant. Ellie had a lot of firsts on this trip–she stepped in her first fire ant bed thinking it was a pile of dirt (and didn’t even cry), she rode a four-wheeler (a regular one and the toy version), she sat on a tractor seat, and she tried ribs for the first time. My city baby got a southern education last weekend.

She had so much fun playing with her cousins, now we can’t wait to go back for Christmas!

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Visiting Stan Hywet Hall

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Last Saturday we did something I’ve wanted to do since last fall–we visited Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio. Around that time I wrote this blog post about seeing America’s castles and linked a list of the largest houses in the U.S. ย Stan Hywet Hall ranks 43rd on the list with 51,134 square feet. The estate was built by the founder of Goodyear Tire in 1915 and has 65 rooms. The grounds are filled with gardens, a conservatory, a butterfly house and a carriage house with a cafe and a gift shop inside. The grounds originally covered 1,500 square miles. It’s Tudor architecture reminded me a lot of Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, Michigan that I wrote about in this post.

With an almost-two-year old in tow, we didn’t think a guided tour was a good idea, so we did a self-guided tour that was actually perfect. We were given a pamphlet with details about the architecture, decor and purpose of each room. It only took us about an hour to get through it and we were back outside letting Ellie roam around the English garden. It made a great day trip and Ellie took the best nap of her life on the way home!

Happy Independence Day!

img_5544The last few days leading up to the holiday were bittersweet, as we said goodbye to Andrew’s family after a three-week-long visit and had to get used to being a three-person household again. Thank goodness for FaceTime, or Ellie would be going through some serious Gram and Grumps withdrawals right now!

We actually celebrated the holiday over several days, complete with afternoons by the pool, hot dogs on the grill, and sparklers in our hands. It was SO NICE being home with nothing on our agenda but playing. I’m looking forward to many more weekends like this one this summer!

That last picture just cracks me up. The typical attempt at a family photo with a one-and-a-half-year-old. I looked back at pictures I took during the July 4th holiday last year and can’t believe how much my little baby has grown. She’s a full-blown toddler now. This time last year, she couldn’t crawl yet and now it’s hard to get her to stay still for a couple seconds while I take a picture!

Today was her first day back at daycare after being out for a month. Andrew said she was a little apprehensive at first, but I know that will fade as soon as she starts playing with her friends again. Here is her outfit of the day. ๐Ÿ™‚