San Juan Island Family Vacation.

Alright.  I’m finally ready to creep back in and admit that my summer “sabbatical” is over.  I will just start by saying – I am so grateful for all of you who continue to check in and be part of this community, particularly when the community “leader” has been a bit of a ghost lately.  And while I certainly took my summer “vacation” a bit more literally than I’d even intended, I’ve also always hoped to stay true to this space.  And this summer, that meant walking away a bit. 

As I’ve said before, I really just wanted to go enjoy the sunshine with my family.  And with that, I found myself honestly just feeling uninspired to write.  I respect you guys and what I’ve created here too much to write when I’m not feeling it, and I assume you don’t want to read things that are fake or forced.  So I soaked up a lot of summer sun, made wonderful memories with my family, and waited for inspiration to strike.

And guess what?  It did.  So hi – how was your summer?  It actually feels funny talking about summer because – even though it was 87 here on Monday (!) – fall is definitely in the air.  But before I plunge forward into all the things fall, I have to pause and recap the very end of our summer.  Because my online journal here would not be complete without including two totally amazing summer vacations.

We try to do an annual vacation with Casey’s family each year, and this year we did one with my family as well.  And as the scheduling worked out for both sets of families, we ended up doing our two big vacations for the year almost back to back (problems, right?).

We’ve done annual vacations with Casey’s family in Georgia, Hilton Head, and Charleston in recent years – and so this year everyone finally headed out west!  Casey and I were really excited to share our part of the country with his family, and in mid-August we all headed up to San Juan Island – a beautiful island that is part of an island chain outside the Seattle area.  In fact, it is one of National Geographic’s best summer trips!

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Casey’s parents rented this incredible home for our family to share for the week.  It was truly an island oasis, and I spent all week feeling so grateful and happy to be there. 

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The property sat on a small peninsula, jutting out into the water looking out over 280 degree private views of the breathtaking water and surrounding islands.  We had a dock, a small beach, a heated lap pool, and so much more.  It was HEAVEN. 

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The inside of the house was really comfortable and spacious for our group (six adults and three kids!).  And everywhere you looked there was water in the background – nothing better.

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I think this was my favorite spot in the house – not surprisingly, the kitchen!  It had an eat-in table with a window seat and the sun would rise each morning right over this spot.  The one time when it is an advantage to have kids who wake before the sunrise!  :)

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It was so peaceful and serene there, and it was the perfect spot to relax, unplug, and unwind. 

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Between the deck, the beach, and the pool there was plenty to do each day, so we stayed at the house a lot of the time.  The kids all loved the pool, and the adults spent a lot of nap times floating around enjoying the sun. 

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It was wonderful to see my niece, Hadley, again – and the boys had a blast playing with her.  Weird that she and Graham are only five months apart since she seems so much older right now.  He couldn’t get enough of her!

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And of course, the kids can never get enough of Grandpa and Mimi.  One of the things I loved about being in the islands is that we just really relaxed and slowed down.  There was no agenda or rush anywhere, and we savored everything around us – family we love and so much natural beauty. 

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In the evenings, we took advantage of this amazing bonfire pit!  We let Cullen stay up a few nights to do s’mores with us, and I could tell he felt like a very proud big kid. 

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While the sun rose through the kitchen, it set just off the left side of the beach, and the fire pit and dock were the perfect places to sit and watch the skies turn pink and orange each night.

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Is there anything more summer than a s’more at sunset?

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After a few days of mostly hanging around our place, we eventually ventured out to Lime Kiln State Park on the west side of the island.

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And we got there just in time to see a pod of ORCAS swimming by!  This is my favorite thing about the San Juans – the incredible natural beauty and wildlife.  There is something seriously magical about seeing giant killer whales in their natural environment. 

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And so fun to spend a week away with this guy, who actually got to unplug and enjoy some time away.  We both really needed it!

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We had one nice dinner out in Friday Harbor, which required showers and nice outfits, and of course – the annual family photos.  These three are a hoot, and I can’t wait to watch them all grow up together.

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We wish the Atlanta crew weren’t so far away, but I’m grateful that through the magic of frequent flier points, we get to see them as often as we do. 

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That’s about the best our family could do – haha. 

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But all smiles for Mimi and Grandpa, whose arms and hearts are so full for their grandchildren. 

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Does not get ANY better.  I could spend every night out on that beach!

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Our big adventure of the trip was a whale watching tour!  Seeing the whales from the park was a wonderful surprise, and got us even more excited for our boat tour later in the week.  I have dreamed of whale watching in the San Juans eve since we moved here!  The boat made Graham sleepy…

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We spent the first hour or two driving around learning about local islands and history, and saw other cool wildlife like wild deer and sunning sea lions.

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And then – ORCAS!  I don’t know what it is about them that seems so magical and mysterious, but I was seriously in awe of their giant black dorsal fins and smooth movements. 

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The rest of our time was spent throwing rocks and digging on the beach below the house…

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Cooking family meals – like taco night (and the ONE food picture I snapped all week!).

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Doing an awesome 1,000 piece puzzle – Casey, Tina, and I finished it on day five!

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And making lots of wonderful memories that I know I’ll be cherishing and holding onto during these colder, darker winter months.

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And just after the sun rose on our final morning, we ferried back to Seattle after a week that left me feeling very full and happy. 

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It was so fun to share this Northwest gem with our family, and we are forever grateful to them for all traveling up this way and for sharing this beautiful home.  I am crossing my fingers that this was the first of many summers we might spend there in the years to come!

Until then, I’ll hold onto pretty pictures that serve as a nice reminder of a wonderful week.  That, and the leftover s’mores fixings made their way home to my pantry.  :)