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California Road Trip Part 4: Great-Grandma’s House

We continued up Highway 1 along the coast to Santa Barbara area, where we stopped for a quick visit with Jon’s cousin Jen and her 6-year-old son. I remember going to her baby shower – that’s how long it’s been! It was so fun to meet her sweet little boy and he loved playing with our kids. Santa Barbara is so pretty – beautiful hills, gorgeous Spanish architecture, trees, and the ocean.

Next stop was Lompoc, where my husband’s grandma and uncle both live. His grandma is in her late 80’s, so every moment we spend with her is precious. First, though, I have to tell you about her house. The family has always told me about grandma’s house and how every open space is filled – every wall, every surface, every nook and cranny – with collections, pictures, and quilts. I knew this, but I still was amazed when I walked in. It really did look like an antiques store, with all the displays everywhere. It’s nearly unbelievable that she and her daughter actually live here! I had to request a tour.

The entry way (where’s Jon?):

The living room:

Grandma’s bedroom wall (even grandma’s have celebrity crushes!):

While we were there, Grandma taught me how to make homemade tortillas – a coveted skill in the family, which we recorded on video for future generations (sorry I can’t share – family secret!). This was my first tortilla that I rolled out:

As you can tell, Grandma loves to sew and make things. It’s so impressive that at her age she is still learning new things and so active in her projects. She picked up quilting in her 70’s and already has 10 years of experience. There’s a dedicated craft room now with rows and rows of quilting squares, which she so kindly shared a set with me to make my own. She made the beautiful artwork on her bedroom wall with all her jewelry baubles. She decorates baskets, and most recently started painting the cutest little birdhouses with different themes.

Grandma is so generous, too – she willed to me her collection of angels for Christmas (my favorite!) and has bequeathed a special gold ring with her initials on it to Siena, whom she just adores. She says that our kids look a lot like her and her brother when they were young. We also got loaded with fresh lemons from her lemon tree – mmm, I love the smell of fresh lemons!

We were so happy to enjoy Grandma and our aunt’s company for a few days and having them over for dinner at Jon’s uncle’s house each night. Grandma is so funny and happy. We did a Skype chat with each of Jon’s three siblings and their families each night and at the end she just cried with tears of joy because she knew that everyone was doing well. She says she worries about all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and likes to hear from us.

We love you Grandma! We hope to visit you again this summer!


California Road Trip Part 3: SoCal

After Disneyland and California Adventure, we were ready to head to the coast. My husband has an uncle and an aunt in Oceanside (near San Diego), so we stayed with them for a couple nights each. I’ve never met these extended relatives, so it was fun for me and the kids to get to know them.

Jon’s uncle and his family took us to Camp Pendleton, which is on a Marine/Air Force base and only open to active (or retired) military, which Jon’s uncle is. Due to the restricted access, the beach is very clean and pretty empty. To our surprise, his aunt and uncle had actually booked a beach-front house for us to stay in! We set our stuff down and went to the beach and then later came back to the house and barbequed, played card games, then roasted marshmallows by the bonfire between the house and the ocean. It was gorgeous! It was a little cool and windy while we were there, but the views were breathtaking. We had so much fun hanging out and getting to know them. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time!

Sunday morning when we left, they took us through the base to see some of the buildings and the history behind them, then we went back to the house and visited until dinner, after which we went to Jon’s aunt’s house, which was right around the corner. At Jon’s aunt’s house, she has a cool pond out back with big fish and water turtles, which was fun for Siena to watch. She also spoiled Siena with toys, a coloring book, and crayons.

We spent the next day sightseeing in Oceanside. First we went to the pier, which is the longest wooden pier along the Western U.S. coastline. There is a Ruby’s restaurant at the end of the pier and they had the best chocolate chip cookie dough shake! We had fun watching all the people pier fishing.

The San Luis Mission was the first of many Spanish Missions we would see along Highway 1 during our trip. They are absolutely beautiful! I love seeing the Spanish architecture in California.

After a lovely visit with Jon’s family, we headed back towards L.A., where I had to stop to see Hollywood, before we headed up the coast on Highway 1. I wasn’t that impressed really with Hollywood, because I thought it would be more grandiose, but it was fun to see the Stars in front of the Chinese Theater and go up the “red carpet” at the Kodak Theater.

It was so fun driving up the coast, and especially between Santa Monica to Malibu – a high way lined with Palm Trees, winding along steep hills and sandy beaches, with the blue ocean as far as you could see. I wished I was in an old sports car, like a 1963 Corvette!

California Road Trip Part 2: California Adventure

After such a long day at Disneyland yesterday (12 hrs), it was nice to take our time at California Adventure today with enough time to go back and visit Disneyland in the evening before we left (with our ParkHopper passes). We packed up the car and checked out and were able to leave our car at the hotel for the rest of the day (til 11pm) at no charge. My uncle advised us that parking at a hotel is just as close, if not closer, than parking in the Disney parking lot. The bus turned out to be very convenient – and only took maybe 20 minutes, and with all the walking around coming up for the day it was nice to relax to get there.

This was 2 weeks before the Cars Land opened so unfortunately we didn’t get to see any Cars rides except for giant walls guarding it. We did the Little Mermaid ride first as a family, which only had a 5-minute wait, and Siena loved it. Then we headed over to the Toy Story Mania, which was a 45-minute wait, but the lines moved quickly, as they wind around corners and through other buildings, so it didn’t seem as long. However, the ride wasn’t that exciting for us since we were holding the kids on our laps – I had to hold the baby pretty tight as we spinned down and around, and Siena didn’t like wearing the 3D glasses. There’s 2 blaster guns for each bench seat and you point them at the screens and shoot at targets, while it keeps track of you and your opponents points. My husband liked it, but I think bigger kids would have a lot more fun with it, especially if they like video games.

When we left the ride we saw Buzz doing character greetings at the pier. Siena ran up and gave him a hug and a high five, and he blew Siena a kiss!

Then we enjoyed a yummy corn dog and watched the Phineas and Ferb dance parade. Afterwards, we walked across the park to Finding Nemo’s Crush Turtle Talk. This building has a huge open circular lobby area when you walk in that is dark with couches around the edges, playing videos about all the Disney movies – and it’s air conditioned! We knew this would be a great place for a nap since it was 80 degrees outside. We ended up spending a good 2 hours by the couch with the kids taking naps and Siena not feeling so well after getting sunburned (our first burnt Siena!! lol) and sunscreen in her eyes from rubbing them. It definitely put us behind schedule, but I was so glad we had a cool, dark and quiet place to hang out, especially since we had already checked out of our hotel.

We decided to let Siena relax in the shaded umbrella stroller while I took the baby to A Bug’s Life Heimlich train. It was perfect for him – slow, tame, and a “food” theme. Then Siena felt good enough to go on the ladybug spinning teacups, which was pretty fun for her. Everything in the Bug’s Life section was less than 10 minute wait when we were there.

Then Jon ran Siena through the Puddle Park, which made her sunburn feel better. She still wasn’t herself though, so I ended up going to the first aid center and they didn’t have Aloe Vera, but they gave me some paper towels to soak in cold water and put on her face, and I also gave her some children’s aspirin, which seemed to do the trick!

Then, Jon and I took turns on the River Run white water rafting ride. While the regular line was over 60 minutes long, we got in the single rider lane and had NO wait. It took about 20 minutes each to go and come back to the benches outside of the ride area, where we traded watching the kids and feeding the baby.

Next we went to eat and then made our way to the Aladdin show. We weren’t sure how the kids would do during it, but Siena was engrossed the whole 45 minutes, and Traz, though a little wiggly, never cried or anything. The show was very well done and the Genie was as hilarious as people say, throwing in jokes about pop culture. Thanks to our friend’s advice, we chose our seats in the back row of the front section on the aisle and were able to see the Aladdin parade up close. We loved it!

At this point, we felt like the kids had rested quite a bit today and were feeling much better now, so we went back over to Disneyland. We went on the Peter Pan ride, the Teacups (Siena’s last request), Minnie’s house in Toontown (which closed at 8pm), then the Jungle Cruise (awesome in the dark!).

One place we didn’t really get to visit more of was TomorrowLand, which we’ll save for next time when the kids are bigger! It’s nice to leave some rides and “lands” to be new for next time we go, when they will remember it more, too.

Overall, we were pretty happy that we were able to do all our “must-see” stuff and that we had two days to do it. The kids did really great, and our daughter is still talking about it. Our arms and backs were tired from carrying around the little ones in the lines for the rides for two days, but the good news is that we are now headed to the coast to relax by the beach for the next couple days!

California Road Trip Part 1: Disneyland!

When I found out I would be going to California for my summer internship, we knew we would have to go on a ROAD TRIP! We’ve been talking about a California road trip for as long as we’ve been married since we both have family there (and it would make a pretty cool playlist: list of songs about California).

Our first stop on the trip was down to St. George, where my aunt lives, for a quick overnight stay. Then we headed across the desert through Las Vegas, to get to Anaheim. We stopped in Studio City to visit with my uncle Scott and his family, who picked up some SoCal tickets for us for Disneyland. My cousin Cathryn also gave my daughter a “vintage” Tinkerbell hat to wear there. This was going to be a big day for Siena!

We actually spent two days at Disneyland – one in the Disneyland park and one in California Adventure park (which we had never been to before). This was also our first time with kids! The first day we did Disneyland because its the larger park and most of the stuff my preschooler wanted to do was there, then we could make it a lighter day at California Adventure with less pressure. Beforehand, we printed a map of Disneyland and plotted out the main rides we were interested in and roughly figured out how much we could realistically do in one day there. Anything that wasn’t essential was put at the bottom of the list to revisit if we had time at the end of the two days (like the older kid rides).

As soon as we walked in at 8:30am, we saw Mickey come out and we were one of the first in line to meet him. This was Siena’s first character meeting, and she was a little shy!

Then we went straight to Fantasyland, thru the castle, and Siena’s first ride was the Dumbo ride, which had a 20-minute wait. She really enjoyed it and wanted to go again, but instead we went over to Pixie Hollow to meet Tinkerbell. Although it was a 45-minute wait, it was a treat for our daughter to meet Tinkerbell and her fairy friends, Fawn and Vidia, too. I was so happy that Siena immediately felt comfortable with them and wasn’t being shy.

Then we took both Siena and our baby on the Finding Nemo submarine, which was our baby’s favorite. He really enjoyed seeing all the fish through the submarine window!

Then we took the Railroad Train to New Orleans square and ate at the Blue Bayou for the famous Monte Cristo chicken sandwich, with salad and rolls, which was definitely delicious and enough food for my husband and I to share for lunch (which was good given it was $25 per plate!). They gave the kids these menus that turned into cute pirate hats, too (below). Afterwards we went to Pirates of the Caribbean, which seems to always have a quick-moving line. We thought it might be scary for the kids, but our preschooler really enjoyed it and our baby even fell asleep during it!

We got on the train back to Fantasyland to meet some princesses. The line was still as long as it was in the morning – about 60 minutes. We let the kids nap in their umbrella strollers while I stood in line, which actually worked out really well, so Siena didn’t have to actually stand for an hour. Jon just waited with them near the end of the line, which is right next to the ice cream trailer so there were tables and chairs, too. Then 10 minutes before our turn, Siena joined me in the line and we got to meet Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White:

I had decided to make my daughter a Belle-inspired summer dress to wear today, hoping we would be able to meet Belle. It was quite simple – just a yard of yellow ruffle fabric sewn together in an A-line shape on the side and the shoulders – but it looks absolutely adorable on her! I added some yellow flowers (silk flowers and ribbons sewn on an elastic) in a small half-up bun and curled the rest of her hair. She got lots of compliments and the princesses all knew right away that she was dressed like their friend Belle. Her face just lit up every time one of the Disney staff called her a princess!

Next we went on It’s a Small World – always a classic! It was fun to see it “updated” with characters from Toy Story, Lilo & Stitch, and others:

Time for Tangled! Siena and I stood in line for 35 minutes to see Rapunzel, another favorite of Siena’s, which was really cool because she was in her own “house.” Rapunzel showed Siena all her paint jars and the painting on the wall behind her, it was cute!

We then walked over between the castle and the Matterhorn, which was a perfect place to view the parade up close because it’s so narrow. Siena absolutely loved it! The music, all the characters and the dancers. It was a great way to see many of the characters she didn’t have a chance to meet. When she saw Belle, my daughter started running out into the street waving at her and we had to pull her back! I knew we would have to go back to the Princess Faire and try one more time to meet Belle. At the end of the parade they said something on the speakers about “where dreams come true” and my daughter looks at me and hugs me and says, “Mom, my dreams came true!” And my heart melted…

The line for Princess Faire was still 60 minutes, so again I had Jon and the kids wait on the side in the strollers. It’s pretty hit and miss with the princesses because they rotate out every half hour and the staff isn’t supposed to tell you who is there so you don’t get disappointed if they leave. With Siena dressed up like Belle though we really really wanted our daughter to meet her, so we asked one of the staff on the side and she told us that Belle “might” be there between 5pm and 5:35pm (with a wink), and at that time it was 4:35, so we knew it was cutting it close.

When it was our turn, we saw Little Mermaid first. Ariel was actually my favorite growing up and I should have taken a picture with them! Siena got her autograph and pictures with her though. She also got to see Princess and the Frog’s Tiana, which is a favorite movie of hers:

Then it paid off! Siena got to meet her favorite princess Belle. Siena gave Belle a kiss and hugs and they did gnome kisses with their noses and she got an autograph. Belle complimented her “summer” dress and said she wanted one like it. Then Belle saw the baby, and couldn’t resist his chubby cheeks. She called him a little “Beast”:

I can’t even describe the joy it gave me and my husband to watch our daughter meet these idols of hers and see the huge smiles on her face. So worth it!!

After getting the major stuff out of the way, we got on the train back to Splash Mountain so Jon and I could go as single riders. We decided just to do one fun ride for us at each park and we both wanted to do this one. It took a bit longer than we thought – at least 30 minutes each – but it was so nice and refreshing! It was a good break.

If we had more time – or a day without princesses – I would have taken Siena to more of ToonTown, which is more or less a big playground to explore houses and treehouses of classic Disney characters. She did the Carousel, though, which she liked, and Traz tried to take the sword out of the stone:

In the end, we were happy with our choice to bring two umbrella strollers. One was our Maclaren, which has a shade and basket underneath, and the other was a $15 Cosco one we got at Target when we got to Anaheim. We only saw maybe one other person have the same stroller while we were there. Although Jon would have been more portable with the two kids while I was in a line, a double stroller would have been too big and bulky. The walkways gets narrow and there were crowds of people in some areas which would have been difficult to steer through. There were a few times when we split up with one kid each and we couldn’t have done that with a double. I was considering getting a monkey backpack harness for my preschooler, but I’m glad we went with the stroller instead. She stayed in it pretty much the whole time because it was hot and there was a lot of walking, and she even took a nap in it. If she had a harness I would have ended up carrying her a lot more. I was already carrying her enough standing in lines where we had to park the stroller outside. The only other downside was the Cosco umbrella stroller, while small and easy to carry, had shorter handles (which was fine for me at 5’5″ but not for my husband at 5’10”), and my daughter got sunburned on her forehead. My bad – I should have reapplied in the middle of the day!

Lastly, when we got back to the hotel we gave Siena a gift from Disneyland (Tinkerbell and Vidia dolls) – which we had actually picked up at Walmart a few weeks ago – as a souvenir!

End of 2011

It’s the last day of the year and I really needed to catch up on my blog before the year’s out!

The last six months have been sooo busy. I think it’s been the busiest time of my entire life! We had our beautiful baby boy, put our house up for sale and sold it, moved to Utah, and both started school. It’s been hard and stressful, but we are so happy with our decision. I am thrilled to be getting my MBA, and Jonathan has been so supportive. He’s also had his best grades this last semester in his online degree! I couldn’t have asked for better kids either. Siena has reacted really well to having a baby brother and loves to help and make him laugh. Traz is a calm, sweet baby and has been such an easy addition. We feel so blessed!

We are really enjoying Utah, especially the weather so far. It’s only snowed a few times and it hasn’t stuck more than a day. In fact, it was 50 degrees last night when we went to Temple Square in downtown SLC. It feels like an extended fall, but with NO RAIN! It’s amazing. It’s also been awesome to be by my side of the family down here. My dad and my sister Lindsey both live here, my uncle, my aunt, tons of extended relatives, and I even have 4 cousins at either BYU or UVU right now.

Last night we went with Lindsey, her husband Jon, and my niece Mikayle to go to Temple Square and ice skating at the Gallivan Center. We walked the temple grounds to see the lights and then took a lovely carriage ride around the Square.

Siena really enjoyed her “princess carriage”. Mikayle and Siena both liked the trees with red lights.

After the carriage ride we went ice skating. This was only Siena’s second time and she’s still learning what to do but started to get a hang of it. She loves being out there on the “slippery” and likes when Aunt Lindsey and I slide her across the ice.

This is where Jon & Lindsey got engaged a few years ago, aww!

Happy New Year everyone!

A Christmas tradition: Finnan Haddie

This year we went to Christmas brunch at Uncle Mike’s for Finnan Haddie. Mike is my great uncle – my late grandma’s baby brother. For as long as I can remember Uncle Mike invited everyone over to his house for brunch Christmas morning, and we always had cod and hashbrowns. Fish for breakfast? Yes, fish for breakfast, with lots of butter and salt.

My whole life I thought it was “fin and haddie”, short for fish and hashbrowns, but I had a chance to talk with Shauna, my great-aunt, and she set the record straight:

Me: Shauna, what’s the story behind “fin and haddie”?

Shauna: Well there really isn’t a story at all. We don’t know why it started but we think it started with the Pope Family. Do you remember Essie, your great-great-grandma?

Me: Yeah, I’ve heard about her.

Shauna: In Essie’s family we think she had a tradition of Finnan Haddie on Christmas. Her daughter, your great-grandma, didn’t make it for us when we were really little, but around the time I was 12 years old (she’s the oldest) my dad would go buy some cod and we started the tradition again.

Me: What does fin and haddie mean? Does it mean fish and hashbrowns?

Shauna: No, hashbrowns has nothing to do with the name, it’s just what we ate it with. See, look at the box.

[She showed me the box the the fish we bought this year came in, and sure enough it said “Finnan Haddie”]

Me: Wow, I had no idea. Do you know what it stands for?

Shauna: Well Finnan Haddie isn’t always cod, it could also be haddock. It means smoked cod or haddock. We usually have cod, but this year it was actually haddock. Mike normally has it shipped from Scotland or Norway, but this year it came from Canada because he had to use a different guy.

Me: Ah, that explains the difference. I didn’t like it as much. [Not dissing on Canadians, just the haddock!]

Thanks Shauna for clearing it up!  Finnan Haddie is a true Scottish tradition of my forefathers (foremothers?)  and it’s not so crazy after all to have fish for breakfast.

And to my husband who thought his whole life until now that he was eating “doubled eggs” on Christmas (“you know, because you cut it in half – double it” –Jonathan), let me help you clear it up. Here’s why they are correctly called “deviled” eggs:

Does anyone else have funny Christmas traditions that you don’t really know why you do it or what it means??

P.S. If any of my siblings or cousins have pictures of Christmas brunch, send them to me!

Turning Three

My little girl turned three this month. When we asked her what kind of birthday party she wanted, she said a “sparkly birthday”. With the new baby and everything, we wanted to keep it a low-key family party but I wanted to make sure we did something special for her.

Jonathan primed up his cake decorating skills and made this cute little cake like she wanted with a sparkly ladybug on top. Siena has inherited my love for ladybugs and we try to incorporate it in her birthday every year. She is starting to like princesses more, but I’m not a huge fan of buying all the commercial princess stuff, so we got a little craft kit to make your own crown and she wore that with the outfit that she picked out.

This was the first year that she can open up her own presents and display them all by herself. She’s so big! I almost cried while I watched her do her birthday all herself.

She got lots of fun new things from her grandparents, aunts, and uncles, including Lego Duplos, clothes to dress up in, play cooking set and tea set, and Candyland.

Siena’s favorite things

Favorite color: Purple (she likes pink and blue a lot, too)

Favorite food: Quesadillas

Favorite movies/shows: Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, Backyardigans, Dora, and Phineas & Ferb (Daddy got her hooked on that one cuz he hates Dora)

Favorite song: KT Tundstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”

Favorite toy: Legos

Favorite activity: Coloring

Our favorite things about Siena

She always has a song and dance to share.

She loves to make new friends.

She loves to learn new things.

She has a huge imagination that is infectious.

She is always willing to help, especially with her baby brother.

My little treasure

Traz Ryan, September 3rd, 2011, 7 lbs 9 oz

Traz was born on September 3rd, six days before his due date. I went to the hospital around 9am and was put on Pitocin about an hour later. I received an epidural before they broke my water, around 1pm. By 4pm I was fully dialated and could start to feel lots of pressure. When the midwife came in to check on me, Traz was ready to come out. She called in the nurses and with just 4 pushes he was out.

We stayed in the hospital for about 2 days, and Traz was so calm and slept well from the start. I was so afraid that he would be the opposite of my first baby who I thought was easy, but he is actually doing even better! He eats a lot more than her, too. I love his chubby cheeks and thighs!

Baby Traz, 10 days old

Background on the name

Traz is an original name I made up in 2004 after returning home from my semester in Germany. One of my favorite German words is “zart”, which means “sweet and tender” and is sometimes used as a term of endearment. When I transposed it backwards it spelled Traz – a tough sounding name that comes from a word for sweet. I love the juxtaposition. When I got married I told my husband that it was my favorite name for a boy and to my delight he loved it too. So that’s how his first name came to be!

Ryan is hubby’s middle name and also a family name that all the boys have. which comes from the Ryan PT-22 airplanes his grandpa used to love when he was in the Air Force.

My drunk driver story

Car hit by drunk driver

Ten years ago today, I was admitted to a hospital for emergency brain surgery for epidermal hematoma, or bleeding of the brain. It was a warm, summer Thursday evening around 6pm and I was heading to the ATM just a mile from my house. As I was driving down a familiar street by the high school I had just graduated from, I was T-boned in the driver’s side door by a drunk driver. He was a young man who had had a couple beers  and was driving across the street to the other neighborhood and misjudged how fast he could make it across the street, causing him to run right into my car while I was going the speed limit.

I don’t remember any of it, in fact I don’t recall much from the following couple of days, but I know that my car veered off and ran right into a nice lady’s house, knocking her out of her seat behind the wall. She called 911. The hood of my car started to go up in flames while I sat inside completely unconscious. A brave neighbor and his friend carefully pulled me out before the firemen could get there.

The whole time my family was at our house waiting for me to come home from the bank. An hour or two went by and they didn’t hear anything. After not being able to reach me on my cell phone, my mom started calling my friends, suspecting that I got sidetracked from my errands. Another hour passed, then another. My mom and sisters started to get really worried and decided to call the hospital “just in case.”

The panic set in when they told my mom I was admitted and waiting brain surgery. She yelled at my sister all the way to the hospital. The doctor shaved almost half of my hair off for the surgery. In the days following, I remember waking up in what I thought was a “dream” not knowing why I was in the hospital, several times. Finally, by the third night I decided to “walk out” of my dream and go home. I picked up my catheter bag and walked out to the reception in just my hospital gown and started walking towards the doors. Of course the receptionist freaked out and called people to bring me back to my room and I was out again. The next morning my mom told me what had happened.

I’ve never publicly posted this story or the pictures, or even wrote it down until now. As it’s the 10-year anniversary of the crash, I wanted to share this with friends and loved ones to tell (or remind) their friends and loved ones not to drink and drive – even when it’s only crossing the street. I am so grateful that I was able to recover from the injury (OK, some people say I’m not normal, but for the most part…) and that the lasting effects were just scars.

All of the emotions came flooding back coincidentally just 5 days ago when I received a phone call from the Clark County Prosecution Office. I was told that the man who hit me had a warrant out for his arrest ever since 2002 and they just found him. This whole time I thought that he had already served for his crime (1 year in prison), but in fact he had fled. The case worker explained that with my participation in the case they would be able to bring him back to the county and prosecute him. I agreed to comply, and now I await – finally – for justice for this man who nearly took my life.

Olympic Peninsula Scenic Loop Roadtrip (aka Twilight Tour)

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is to take a trip to Forks, home of the Twilight series. There’s something insightful about going to the settings of favorite books. In college I visited Paris when I was reading the Da Vinci Code and a few years later went to the Vatican City & Rome after reading Angels & Demons. (Which subsequently makes me want to go to Washington DC to see the places from the Lost Symbol!) With the Twilight series being set in my home state I would have been remissed not to go check it out. What I was surprised to find out though was how beautiful the trip was just to get to Forks!

I presented this trip to my husband as a scenic trip around the Olympic Peninsula (Highway 101 kind of makes a loop around the peninsula), and just happening to stay over in Forks since it’s a halfway point. Plus it was my birthday, and I’m six months pregnant, so he had to say “Yes.”  It really was a beautiful trip. Although the Memorial Day weekend forecast looked grim, we managed to get through the whole trip without a drop of rain! And it was nice to get away as a couple before #2 arrives.

We left Gig Harbor to Port Townsend early in the morning. It was a perfect start to the day – clear, crisp air from the water and no traffic or tourists yet. We stumbled upon their local Saturday market and enjoyed some yummy breakfast pastries. We took pictures of the Victorian houses on “the bluff” and walked along the waterfront and through some shops along the main street.

Port Townsend - Victorian B&B

Port Townsend - Victorian Lighthouse

Port Townsend steps

Next we headed towards Port Angeles, via Sequim. The drive along Discovery Bay was gorgeous, and getting to see the Dungeness Spit (a long skinny strip of beach with a lighthouse at the end) was a treat. We decided that quaint Sequim would be a nice place to retire – since it’s along the “banana belt” of Washington, with water and mountains closeby, too!

Port Angeles was the start of my “Twilight tour” and I saw 1st St where some of the scenes in the book take place. We were lucky to come across the Tall Ships – two local “pirate” ships that tour the area. We’d never seen them before, so that was pretty neat.

Lady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftain

We also ran into this wonderful guide at the Visitor Center named Cal, who was sooo helpful. We were planning to take a side trip to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains to see the view, but weren’t sure if it was nice enough weather. Cal recommended not going since there was still snow and clouds up there that would block our view. Instead he suggested a wonderful little stop along the way that would be an easy hike to a waterfall and to stop at the Lake Crescent Lodge. It was a great idea!

My favorite part of the trip was traveling between Port Angeles and Forks along Lake Crescent – which has got to be one of the most beautiful, scenic lakes I’ve ever been to. The water was so blue and the mountains and trees framed the lake perfectly. The Lodge was nice and quaint – it’s owned by the Olympic National Park so it’s open to anyone who wants to stop in. We stopped at several “viewpoints” along the highway since we weren’t in a rush and felt free to just take our time and enjoy the scenery.

Lake Sutherland

Hwy 101 along Lake Crescent

Dock at Lake Crescent Lodge

Surprisingly we got to Forks by 5pm that same day and another uber-helpful guy, Todd, pointed us in the right direction for places to eat. We drove the 30 minutes to LaPush, another Twilight town, which is right along the ocean. The “First Beach” was absolutely beautiful – a little beach cove surrounded by seastacks and cliffs. Then we ate at a nice dinner place Todd recommended along the waterfront. Along the way back to Forks we saw this sign that said “Vampire Threat…Low”, lol.

First Beach, LaPush

Waves at First Beach

Vampire Threat - Low

When we got back to Forks, it was still light outside around 8:30pm, so Jonathan kindly took me around to all the Twilight stops, which were literally only a few miles apart from each other and covered almost the whole town. I think it’s crazy but cool how the town has really embraced Twilight (literally, in every store) and everyone there is so friendly to the tourists –  and now it looks like they are doing a complete remodel of their high school, which is great, and I think the tourism has kept Forks “alive” (excuse the pun).

Welcome to Forks

Bella's truck in Forks

After a good night’s rest, we got up, checked out of our room, and went to eat breakfast at the other placed Todd recommended, the Forks Coffee Shop, i.e. the local diner. I had to try the huge 10″ pancake (I’m eating for two, remember), although I still didn’t eat it all. It was a very yummy breakfast.

We had a good 45 minutes before we reached the Hoh Rainforest, which is one of the only rainforests in the United States. I might classify it as a really mossy forest, but there were hundreds of species of plants and more shades of green than you could count. They also have almost all the animals from Northwest Trek in the area, like the Roosevelt elk and Black-tailed deer, which we saw along forest road. We did the pretty easy Hall of Mosses trail and took pictures of the big tall trees – the average there being 200 ft tall!

Mossy tree - Hoh Rainforest

Mel & Jon in Hoh Rainforest

Our last few stops were near the other two lodges in the national park – Kalaloch and Lake Quinault. Ruby Beach and Kalaloch beach were pretty, but not quite warm enough to go play. At Lake Quinault we did a couple short hikes, one to the biggest Spruce tree on record and one to a large stream that terraced down the hill. We also saw the beautiful Merriman Falls off the road.

Kalaloch Beach from lodge

Lake Quinault Lodge

Jon next to World's Biggest Spruce Tree

Merriman Falls at Lake Quinault

Now it was time to head back home! Both Jon and I were exhausted, but fulfilled – what an amazingly beautiful state we live in! It’s trips like these that make us want to live near the water and mountains all the time. I’m so glad that we saw all of these places – and that I had read Twilight to give me a good excuse to do the trip!