Thursday, July 24, 2014


Several years ago, through a series of events, Steve got a job working for a company that was based in Portland, Oregon.  Before that time, I had never thought a single minute about that city.  I had never met anyone who lived there and had never even talked with anyone who had ever been there (that I can remember)!  I was just completely clueless about it. The summer after Steve started at this new company, he had a conference to attend and he invited me to go along, so I did!  And, that was the beginning of my love relationship with the Pacific Northwest.  Every time I have been there, I have been absolutely amazed at the beauty of it and the laid-back, healthy lifestyle that is so much a part of that area.

I've blogged about my trips there in previous posts here, here, here, and here.  This summer was my fourth time going.  Steve left a few days before I did and then I flew out to meet him last Thursday.  I had a five hour flight, so I got a lot of reading done and I was able to finish the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed that I had started right before I left.

Let me just say that I love to read, and I have read lots of books!   But something about this book just struck a chord with me and I absolutely LOVED it.  I am so intrigued by people just telling their story.  I guess that's why memoirs and biographies are my favorite genre.  No fiction can ever match the true story of someone's life in my opinion!

Wild is Cheryl Strayed's story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  She did this right after she lost her mother to lung cancer.  It was kind of her way to cope with and heal from her mother's death.  It was honest and heartfelt and genuine.  And I loved how even though she was trying to "heal" and she was on a sort of "quest to find herself", she wasn't entitled and whiny like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.  No, Cheryl Strayed had strength and ingenuity and determination and I am inspired by people like that.  The title of the book is definitely appropriate and there are some things about the book that I wish weren't in there, but they are all part of her honesty and her just telling it like it is.  Anyway...I finished the book just as we were landing in Portland.  That was so fitting, since Cheryl Strayed's journey ended very near Portland and that is where she lives today!  (By the way, the movie Wild with Reece Witherspoon is coming out in December!  Yay!!)

This was the view of Mt. Hood out of my plane window as we were landing!  So beautiful!

Steve had to work on Friday, so I had the whole day to myself.  A whole day to myself is super fun to me! Several years ago, I found the BEST little restaurant very near our hotel in Portland called The Little River Cafe. It has an amazing breakfast menu and has become one of my favorites.  So that is where I started my day, like I always do when I am there!  The day couldn't have been any more perfect.  The sun was shining and it was cool enough to need a light jacket.  Plus there was no humidity.  I left my hotel at around 9:00 and didn't come back until 4:30 that afternoon.  It was just too pretty to be inside!

First, I visited Powell's Books.

It is the largest independent, used, and new bookstore in the world!  I could literally spend hours in there!

Portland has a really fun downtown with lots of stores and shops and restaurants, so I spent most of my day just browsing around.  Did you know that Nike is based in Oregon?  I had to visit their store and ended up buying some new tennis shoes.

I also love browsing around in the Columbia store.  It is also based in Portland!

As I was walking, I just happened upon the Oregon Berry Festival.

Everything there looked so fresh and yummy.  I wish I could have taken some home with me!  I learned that Oregon grows more blackberries than any other state!  Who knew?

As I was walking through a park in downtown Portland, I also came across a film crew filming an episode of Grimm!

It was fun watching that for a while!

For dinner, Steve and I had dinner at Jake's Grill, one of our favorite places in Portland.  It was such a fun day!

On Saturday we woke up early and left for Port Angeles, Washington, so we could catch the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia.  Steve and I always have fun traveling together.  We open the sun roof, put on some good music, and just talk and look at the scenery along the way.  I love doing that!

It was EXTREMELY windy that day, so our ferry ride was super choppy.  I was glad when we got there!

I had never been to Victoria before, but it was absolutely gorgeous!  It is right on the water since it is a harbor.

Lots of local musicians and artists are set up there, so it is fun to just sit down on the steps and hang out and listen to music!  It's even more fun with an ice cream cone from a local ice cream shop!

The Empress Hotel is in the middle of downtown.  It is so big and impressive and beautiful!

The day we got there, we spent most of the time just getting our bearings and sight seeing.  For dinner, our concierge recommended Nautical Nellie's, so that's where we went and it was so good!

On Sunday, we visited Butchart Gardens.  It is the largest garden in the Western Hemisphere.  I have never been to any kind of garden like that before and...!!  It was absolutely breathtaking!  Here are just a few pictures from our day there, although no pictures can really capture what we saw in real life.  We stayed a long time just taking in all of the amazing beauty.

One of the things that stood out to me about Victoria is there are flowers EVERYWHERE!  Even the houses are covered in flowers!

That night we had dinner right on the water.  I had a salmon mango salad, because when you are in the Pacific Northwest, you HAVE to get salmon! :)

Monday, it was time to start heading back to Portland, but on our way we wanted to stop and see Olympic National Park which is in Washington.

We drove up and up and up until we reached Hurricane Ridge.  We were worried on the way up that we may not be able to see much because it was so cloudy, but when we reached the summit, the clouds were gone and we had a gorgeous view!!

We only did a short hike because the clouds were rolling in and we really couldn't see too much from the trail.

As we were walking along, we saw this beautiful deer.  It was so tame and so close, that I could have reached out an petted it if I had wanted to!

I absolutely love being outside and seeing all the beauty God made.  It never ceases to humble me and awe me at the same time.

Traveling is one of our favorite things to do together.  We always have the best time and come back thankful and blessed and full of lots of amazing memories.  I never would have imagined that I would spend as much time in the PNW as I have, but I have definitely left a piece of my heart there.  If you ever have a chance to go...DO it! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


 One of the things I want to do, just for myself, before I post about our summer- is to go back and highlight some of the things we did during the spring!  You will have to bear with me.  This might take a while!

Will was born on March 28th and that was such a happy day for our family!!  During the month of April, we spent lots of time just holding him and loving on him.  He is officially the sweetest-baby-ever-in-the-whole-wide-world. (Just saying.)

We also spent lots of time helping Ashley with David and Caroline.  New mommies need lots of TLC so we did all we could for her!

Spring came to Charlotte and brought all the ridiculous pollen with it, but it sure did make everything look beautiful!  This is a picture I took at the zoo the day I took our class on a field trip.  The wisteria was so pretty.

School was as busy as ever with lots of trips, parties, and events.  I was twirling around like a top!

I think I told you that Ashley got a kidney stone and ended up in the hospital...

Apparently, kidney stones are a thing in our family!???

Despite all the sleepless nights and recovering from just having a baby and kidney stones, she stayed positive and is always the sweetest mommy.

And John is such a good Daddy, too.  Can you tell how crazy his kids are about him?

Easter rolled around before we knew it.  We did all the usual things....dyed eggs, went to church together, and had a big lunch and Easter egg hunt at Steve's mom's house.  It was a fun day!

At the end of April, I turned 50!!  Wow.  I really can't believe I have hit that milestone, but it was the BEST birthday.  I honestly just feel so blessed to have had these 50 wonderful years and I don't focus on my age much at all anyway.  I am truly one of those people who just believes you should embrace the moment and enjoy it, no matter how old you are!

My day started by Laura surprising me at school with specialty donuts from Your Mom's Donuts.  That was so sweet and such a fun way to begin my birthday weekend!

Of course, I had to share them with David and Caroline once I got home!  David wanted to light a birthday candle and all we had was a seven.  Haha!

Steve was so sweet to plan the BEST weekend for me in New York.  If you know me, you know how much I LOVE NYC!!  So this was the perfect weekend for me!

This is what the view from our room looked like the night we got there...

We spent the weekend eating amazing meals (Steve had made reservations at The View...a restaurant overlooking Manhattan, for my birthday dinner), shopping, sight seeing, walking through Central Park, and just being together.  Spring is so pretty in New York!

We also had tickets to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  I love Carole King so much and we both really loved the musical!

On Sunday morning, we went to Tim Keller's church, Redeemer Presbyterian.  It was so great to worship with such a diverse group of believers.  I know that is what heaven is going to be like!

After church, we had a little while in the afternoon to eat lunch and enjoy the beautiful day...

Then it was time to say goodbye to NYC.  It was a birthday I will never forget!!

Soon, it was the month of "May"hem.  Haha!  What a CRAZY month that is.  We celebrated my dad's 76th birthday and Ashley's 27th birthday.

Laura came home from Boston to help us celebrate all those fun things, along with Mother's Day, and Mark was home from law school.  We loved seeing them!

My dad took his first "selfie" ever with Laura!! :)

The kids kept growing every day...and looking cuter by the minute.

The last day of school finally rolled around and I had to say goodbye to my sweet class.  Here are three little girls who were best friends all year.  They were all cuddled up together reading on their last day together.  So sweet....

I said goodbye to my assistant Lyndsey and wished her well as she left to do her student teaching.  I sure will miss her!!  We had such a fun year together...

And on the last day (even though I will miss my sweetie pies), this was my theme song...

I have to admit...I was pretty happy! :)

So, that brings me up to the beginning of summer.  I will try to post about all the fun we've had very soon!  Tomorrow I am off on a trip to Portland and Victoria, British Columbia, so I will have to post when I get back!  Have a great rest of your week!