Friday, May 26, 2017

Dreaming of Hawaii

Aulani

There are three parts to every event:  First, the preparations.  Next, the actual experience of it.   And lastly, the remembering.   The preparation part is exciting and fun as you dream of how it will be, think through practicalities, choose vacation clothes, etc.  Then you go and experience everything.  It's almost surreal that it is actually happening!  Afterwards, you look at all your photos and treasure all the many memories.  Each part is special.  I wanted to blog so I can truly remember this trip and how special it was.

Last December we asked the kids if they would like to go to Hawaii for 9 days with us for our anniversary.   The answer was a resounding YES! The boys all put in for a week off of work, and the preparations began.   Nowadays, you can pretty much book an entire trip in minutes on your computer or even on your smartphone.   So, I did some research on my own and then decided to visit my friend's travel agency to see if anything better was out there to be had.   Sure enough, they discovered many perks to go along with our accommodations, so we went with them.  I'm glad we did.  They really took care of every detail for us!  I decided to book the airfare separate, as the prices were high at the time they booked our trip.  I watched carefully until a sizeable dip in prices occurred, and booked it.  In the end we actually flew one way on Virgin, and the other way on United, as those were the best times/prices for us.  Incidentally, if you ever plan a trip to the Aulani, my tip is to get yourself the Disney Visa card.  I had one and my travel agency was able to tap into several significant benefits for cardholders!  It even has no annual fee. 

I have to admit, my first inclination was to go to Maui, and even return to the spot of all of our honeymoons, the incomparable Hyatt Regency on Ka'anapali Beach.   It's just our favorite spot, and that strand of beach is sure hard to beat.  Then Emma suggested the Aulani, which is on Oahu.  I'm not a huge Oahu fan (compared to Maui that is), but I started looking into the resort.  I discovered it was on its own little cove in Ko Olina.  It looked so amazing and had so much to offer. I liked the fact that we could enjoy resort life AND get a large family room/villa that we could all stay in together.   At the Hyatt, we would each have had our own basic hotel  room.  The most obvious pro to your own room is, well of course, privacy.   But, the pros of the villa were numerous -- a good size kitchen and living room, each of the kids could have their own large bedroom with their own bathroom for their families, and there was a place for Rich and I to sleep in the living room, and an additional bathroom for us.  In the villa, we could all be together at night when the babies went to sleep, instead of isolated in our own rooms.   Also, we as grandparents wanted to be easily accessible to help at anytime, and especially at night if the kids wanted to grab a little date out.  So we all agreed the villa would be the way to go.  And to add to the appeal, it was about 1/3 cheaper than 3 separate rooms would have been.

Well, the villa was the way to go!!  We took full advantage of that kitchen!  Stephanie and I found a Whole Foods market on the way to the hotel, and when we got to the resort we filled up the fridge and cupboards with lots of healthy food.   We didn't plan to eat every meal in the room, but we did plan to cook a few nights and also got breakfast and snack foods.   I cannot tell you how much of a blessing that kitchen was.  We could get up in the morning, make  coffee and tea without leaving the room (and have our cream!), and everyone could eat breakfast on their own schedule.  Most days, we ate at the pool for lunch and cooked dinner, which I thought was a nice balance.  Dinners we kept super simple --Rich would barbecue meat, we would steam some veggies and/or make a salad, and they even had a rice cooker!  Super easy, and I felt much better than if I had been eating every meal out (I didn't think of that benefit at all, but what a blessing to be able to have eggs or yogurt, fruit and granola instead of a big heavy breakfast or junky muffin. Also no waiting with babies to be served food at a restaurant - a huge bonus).  Not to mention, the villa was SO well appointed-  a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, two patios with a view, a large dining room table big enough for us all and they even gave us high chairs and playpens for the kids.  And maid service!!  The Aulani was so attentive --anytime you needed anything they brought it right up.  

And the grounds -- OH MY!!  So GRAND!!   Even though the Aulani is a Disney resort, you were only subtly reminded.  There is a place to meet characters but it isn't front and center.  Of course if that is your thing you can go to the Character breakfast, which we did (and I highly recommend).  Overall, the resort was just very classy and very Hawaiian.   And such a huge place - it took me awhile to get oriented!  A huge open air lobby with shops, many winding paths, pools, big slides, a long, lazy river to inner-tube down, the gorgeous green landscape, the cove with gentle waves and sandy beach -- it was just amazing to behold.   There were little food stands everywhere offering shave ice, dole whip, easy to grab or order food, as well as poolside food/drink service.  On the beach there were ample chairs, lounges, and umbrellas, and if you wanted a boogie board or sand toys, they were complimentary to use.  A path winded around the cove to the next cove, which was perfect if you wanted to take a picturesque walk or exercise.

So... to be honest, the best thing wasn't being in Hawaii or even getting to go to the Aulani.  Don't get me wrong -- those were great aspects of our trip, but the best part was just the extended time we could spend with our kids and grandkids.   It is truly such a joy to spend time with them.  We love them all so much.  Rich and I think it's great to be at a place in life where we can all just enjoy each other.  The hard, tiring years of raising children is over.  We love who they have become, we love their dear spouses, and we adore our grandbabies!  We are now enjoying the friendship phase of our relationship with the kids, which was always our hope!  We also are so thankful that our kids enjoy being with us, something we don't take for granted.  We just kept thanking them for coming with us!  It meant the world to us.

So, I just can't possibly put all the photos in order -- I think I'll just have to post my favorites with captions!

Next post -- photos!










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Thursday, May 25, 2017

30 years!

Aulani
30th anniversary, Diamond Head, Oahu

 
Yes... I'm quite aware that it's been awhile since I've blogged (like since last Christmas).  For my faithful followers (if there are any of you even left), you've probably noticed a decreasing frequency in my posts over the past few years. 

When I created this blog 10 years ago, it was perfect for the phase of life I was in.  I was home much of the time overseeing my children's homeschooling.  I would blog alongside them in the office (or "schoolroom" as it was called then) all the while standing by in case they needed anything.  It was a good creative outlet for me and I got positive feedback from some that they really enjoyed reading it. 

But... I'm not a "sit at my computer" person by nature, so once that chapter closed, I got busy with other things and didn't find myself too often at my desk looking for something to do.  Now, truth be told, it's just easier to Instagram. 

Every once in awhile though, I feel the need to document something, as I do consider this blog an online scrapbook of sorts.  

Recently we celebrated our 30th anniversary.    It's unreal to think that we've been married THIRTY YEARS!   Of course, a lot has transpired in those 30 years... but also in a strange way it's really flown by. 

          Here are some photos from our special day, May 16, 1987:



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When I look at these photos of us (besides wrapping my brain around the fact that it IS really us)  I think to myself, "we had ABSOLUTELY no idea what lay ahead."  We were young, in love, and so happy to be together...  and I'm so glad I can say that only one of those things has changed (Did you guess? We are OLD now).  

Is that because our lives have been a beautiful bed of roses?  That we haven't had any trials or challenges over these 30 years?  (Not at all) Is it because we are super-godly, perfect people and selfless spouses to each other? (Not by a long shot)  It is solely by the grace of God in our lives, and Him alone enabling us to continue to stand on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.  There is no secret to our marriage except that God has been our common bond, helping our love to grow, and sanctifying both of us in the process.  We stood at that altar 30 years ago, not knowing what would happen in the future, but we were very confident in our faith that God would grow us if we stayed committed to Him and each other.   We have truly considered our marriage to be the "grace of life" and are so very grateful for the many years we've had together.

Next to each other, we are so very thankful for our children:  Brady, Drew and Emma.   As many of you know, our Brady went home to be with the Lord at age 14.  We rejoice that he is "home safe" in heaven, though in this life our hearts will always ache for him- our dear firstborn child and the one who made us parents.  We are thankful for the blessing it was to raise our other two children to adulthood, and in addition to watch them get married to their best friends and have children of their own.

We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our anniversary than with our children and grandchildren.  After all, they are the product of our union, and mean more to us than anything on this earth.   

So Rich and I got the idea to go on a trip together-- and since Hawaii is a dream destination for all of us (we all honeymooned there -- on the same island and at the same resort even!), we wondered if we could make that happen.  Emma suggested the Disney Aulani to us, as she had been there as a nanny several years back.   After a little research, we became convinced that the Aulani would be a great family vacation spot for us and the planning began!

To be continued...






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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas Wishes & A Sweet Recipe

This year's family Christmas photo features the wonderful addition of TWO new grandbabies!
 Duke is now 4 1/2 months and Violet just 10 days old the day we took this.
Sweet Darsy is now 20 months.  
She knows how to fake smile already - it just kills me.  She says "cheese" when she does it.
So now we have three under three!  
So nice that Rich and I don't have to fight anymore over who gets the grandbaby - there are plenty to share :-)
They should make for a very merry Christmas indeed and we feel blessed beyond measure. 
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At the photo session we got one of Pop and Grammie hugging our sweet little grand-blessings.   This photo is such a treasure.
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And this Christmas as usual, we will be having these for breakfast:


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BUT -I happened on a new recipe this year... 
and people - it's the best EVER.
These are the cinnamon rolls of my DREAMS.

Browned butter just may be my new favorite thing!
I also made some browned butter cookies that were To.Die.For. 

You're welcome for the recipes. :-) 
It's my little Christmas present to you, my blog readers.
Blessings to you all this Christmas, 
may the joy of Jesus and what His birth means be yours.

 
BROWNED BUTTER CINNAMON ROLLS

Dough:
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast (or 2¼ teaspoons)
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg
Filling:
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of butter
Frosting:
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 2-3 cups of powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it.)

Instructions
  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in butter; stir until melted. Let cool until lukewarm.
  2. In Kitchenaid bowl, combine 2¼ cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; whisk together. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well with paddle attachment. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, using a wooden spoon to stir well after each addition. Add a little extra flour if you need to, the dough needs to form a ball and clear the sides of the mixer.
  3. When the dough has just pulled together, switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. When ready, the dough will spring back when lightly pressed.
  4. Place dough in a medium bowl, cover with a cloth and let rest on the counter for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, brown your butter by placing it in a small microwave safe glass bowl or container. Cover it with a saucer or other well-fitted cover and microwave for 4-6 minutes. Butter will melt, pop and then turn brown. (you can also do this over the stove-top, but I find the microwave method pretty easy.) While butter cools slightly, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 12x9 inch rectangle. (use your 9x13 baking dish as a guide.) Using a pastry brush- slather the dough with the brown butter. Sprinkle dough with cinnamon sugar mixture and press in lightly so it doesn't fall out when you roll it, getting all the way to the edges.
  7. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Using a serrated knife, cut into 12 equal size rolls and place in a 9x13 baking dish. Cover and let the rolls rise in a warm place* until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees .
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 14-19 minutes, or until golden. Let cool for about 10 minutes and then spread them with frosting. (directions below) Serve warm.
To make the frosting:
  1. Whip together the softened butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time. Beat until creamy and spreadable.
Note: I'm not a huge fan of cream cheese frosting, so I just made a simple glaze of powdered sugar, softened butter, milk & vanilla.

BROWNED BUTTER SEA SALT COOKIES
(copycat of the The Brown Butter Cookie Company)

1 cup salted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Flake sea salt

In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Add to KitchenAid mixer bowl, add both sugars and vanilla and mix.  Cool to room temperature.
In a small mixing bowl combine flour and baking soda.  Stir it into sugar mixture and mix just till combined. 
(At this point it is recommended that you  let the mixture rest for 1 hour, but it is not necessary)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  
Roll dough into 1” balls and dip lightly in salt.   Bake just until set -about 13-15 minutes.  Do not overcook!






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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Grandbaby #3 is HERE!!

INTRODUCING 
 Violet Rae Steadman 
Born December 8, 2016   
7 pounds 15 ounces

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I cannot BELIEVE we are now the grandparents of THREE sweet babies!  We are so grateful for each one of them!  They sure have our hearts.

Here are a few photos of our newest little cutie pie!

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Less than a couple hours old! 
I guess she already thinks Pop is pretty funny.

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One day new :-)

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Darsy, say "cheese" (love her little squinty eyes)

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Two granddaughters!  All the heart eyes.

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Precious baby 

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Family of 4!

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Sweet sisters at home

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Pop and I had so much fun with Darsy while her parents were in the hospital.  Rich was able to work mobile and we went and stayed at Emma's. 


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Morning book time

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While Emma was in labor and we were awaiting updates, we took Darsy to the mall to get her own "baby" at Build A Bear.  And one for her new baby sister too. :-)

Approaching Build a Bear... 
Darsy couldn't even BELIEVE such a place existed! 
She wanted a wacky neon one, but Grammie steered her towards a more classic (and cute) one.

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Getting the bear stuffed.  The machine was a bit loud, so she wasn't so sure about it.

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Choosing names for the bears with Pop. 
They (he) chose "Sky" and "Sunshine."

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The finished products! (note the Violet theme going on)

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She really liked Panda Express for lunch.


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That sweet face!


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She loved getting on the rides at the mall
(thankfully she doesn't yet know they go on for $1)

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Later we made a little Costco run and grabbed some pizza.  
She picked every single olive off my slice- girl after my own heart!

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The next day when she visited Violet, she brought her new bear and doll stroller we got her. She was so proud and seemed to grow up overnight.

And before I go... don't want to forget my sweet grandson, Duke!
Here are some recent shots of our big boy!

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A recent selfie with Duke at Grammie's.  
(Just noticed the gun supplies in the background.  
Don't worry - everything is ok over here, ha!)

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4 months!  He smiles so big now!


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Still hanging on to those blue eyes...not so much the hair though!


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Having rocking time is the BEST!  
I think it's safe to say that Duke liked it too. 

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And one last shot... all my grandkids together for the first time!  I think Duke is feeling a little trapped between TWO girls! And he only has girl cousins on Stephanie's side, too! (Poor dude!)







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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Portland & Washington


Rich has a colleague who invited us to stay at his horse ranch in Yacolt, WA.  We decided to make a nice trip out of it, so in mid-November we travelled to the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  It is one of my favorite places to visit - not only because is it incredibly beautiful, but because many of my loved ones live there!

We flew in early morning to Portland (the closest airport to Yacolt) and spent the day exploring.  We grabbed our rental car and hit downtown for some window shopping and lunch.  I highly recommend Lardo. We had the most delicious pork shoulder sandwich, the best salad with delicata squash, beets, and candied hazelnuts, and their "dirty" fries with chunks of pork, peppers, fried herbs and parmesan.  YUM!  A little tip:  go hungry and don't plan to eat for the rest of the day.   Well ... that is unless you just decide you need a donut from Blue Star.   I mean, when in Portland, right?

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After lunch, we visited the largest bookstore in the country, Powell's. Wow, what a place!  Humongous, and fun to browse.  Later that afternoon we visited the Pittock Mansion,  a turn of the century residence on 46 acres that is now open to the public.  Also, we made a short trip to the International Rose Test Garden, but at this time of year blooms were not on full display.  

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                                        Pittock Mansion, Portland

In the late afternoon we made the little over an hour trek from Portland to Yacolt, WA.  I'm sure you've never heard of Yacolt.  I hadn't!  It is a very, very small remote town in Clark County with a population of around 1500.   Rich's colleague, Chuck, bought a large acreage there and built Mustang Mountain Ranch over the last 20 years.  Recently, he acquired an adjacent property on 20 acres, a home called Wild Horse Station that he rents as a vacation home.  He invited us to be his guests there.  We got there around dinnertime and Chuck and his family warmly welcomed us.

We were a little blown away by the "cabin" we thought we were to stay in.   I guess I was thinking something smaller and more modest - more of a guest house I suppose-  but the place was a full blown authentic log cabin home!

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It looked so pretty at night when we arrived! 

We enjoyed a lovely home cooked meal and evening at the main house and then retired to our toasty, cozy home in the woods.  
It was really something else.

The next morning, we enjoyed some tea by the fire before heading over for another gracious meal of omelettes made by Chuck, bacon, fruit and croissants. 

Chuck showed us around the grounds of his horse ranch.  It's quite incredible.

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Chuck and his sweet daughters, Andie & Theresa


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 Andie and one of their 25 horses!

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The road to the Log Cabin from the main residence... makes me want to sing "Country roads... take me home" 

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Log Cabin front entrance

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 View from front porch - the main house is on the right 
(the red roof is his indoor horse arena, house is above that to left, mostly obscured)

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Cozy fireplace, stairs leading to loft

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Entrance to living room

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the gorgeous living room (I spy relaxing hubby)

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The large kitchen

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The master bedroom -- vacations are for unmade beds, am I right?

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I'm even gonna show you the bathroom because it was so cool. It had log cabin walls!

After a few lovely days in Yacolt, we headed to Seattle to see these awesome people!!


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Kait and Tim moved to Seattle last summer and are living on a BOAT! 


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Here she is - the "Autumn Dawn" in Salmon Bay.

We even spent the night there on board! It was an experience :-)
We had a great time having lunch and exploring their little town of Ballard and having Kait's homemade pizza in their cozy "galley".  


The next day, we headed to Pike's market.  Rich had never been there, and it is a must see place if you're in Seattle.

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You kind of have to start the morning with coffee at the original Starbucks right outside the market, and a delicious coffee cinnamon roll at Piroshky Piroshky.  Just follow your nose to the cinnamon smell, you can't miss it.

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We later hit breakfas
t in the market at Lowell's -- if you want a yummy breakfast with a great view this is your place.  We had a delicious leisurely breakfast of eggs and potatoes.

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In the afternoon, we took the 35 minute ferry ride to Bainbridge Island.  The ferry is enormous and holds at least 50 cars!  There is both outdoor and indoor seating, both with great views.  It's such a fun experience.

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The view looking back at Seattle from the ferry.

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My love on Bainbridge shore.

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  We drove around the island and then happen to find (read: happened to YELP) some really yummy ice cream at Mora.  Cinnamon ice cream with pear sorbet - pretty incredible!

Later, back in the city, we had to stop at the iconic Seattle chowder spot, Pike Place Chowder for an early dinner before Rich flew home.  They have 8 different chowders!

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We shared the "sampler" which is four 6 oz chowders of your choice.  Only $13.95 - perfect for two and SO perfect in the cold weather.

Poor Rich had to get back to the "real world" but my adventure wasn't quite over.  I dropped him off at Sea-Tac and headed about 1 1/2 hours north to my bestie's house.

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Carol, my dearest friend, lives in Sultan with her wonderful, large family.  These days only six of her eight children live at  home, but it's still a full household.   She and her son Matthew thought it would be funny to hack my phone,  and I think it's funny that I can post this on my blog :-)

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The next day, I got to accompany her on her bi-monthly shopping spree!   She lives kind of far out of the city, so she treks out only once every two weeks for major shopping, gathering her food and household needs.  She usually takes one of her older children to help, but since I was there I got to step in. :-)  It was really so much fun to hang out all day, just us two.  We hit 4 or 5 stores, stopped at a latte stand, may have polished off a box of Trader Joe's macarons in the car, and even squeezed in a delicious lunch at a cozy place.  Lots and lots of chatting about everything -- she is my closest confidante and one I admire and love so much.  We email and text frequently but it's just so great to have face time.

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Other than our big outing day, it was a low key stay.  We enjoyed a walk through her neighborhood with her three sweet little girls.

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I love her daughter Hannah as if she were my own!  I wish all young ladies were as mature, sweet, and so easy to talk to/hang with.  Not only is she super cute, but the girl has some mean homemaking skills, too (I could learn a thing or two from her, not kidding).

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Movie selfie on my last night. 
Auntie K was sad to leave this sweet family that I love so much!





 







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