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Any time we drive north, through the gorgeous Skagit Valley, we make a mandatory stop at Snow Goose Produce for some of the best, and definitely the biggest, ice cream around!

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It’s hard to believe that Jack and I have been home from our Pensacola trip for nearly three weeks now! My, oh, my, really where does the time go?! I just finished uploading and editing the photos from our two week vacation and, to no one’s surprise, there are quite a few pictures despite my best attempt at choosing only the best to include. There are also moments missing from these photos that I wish I had captured (like more with my parents, David’s parents, Mimi, and Martha…)- I guess we will have to make another trip there again soon!
Anyway, here are some of the highlights:

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We spent the first part of the trip at my parent’s house playing outside, going to the Naval Aviation Mueseum, discovering all of the fun, new food trucks and restaurants Pensacola now boasts, and pretending to swim in the pool (it was still quite chilly in the water).

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Easter was celebrated with a very early visit from the Easter Bunny, sunrise service, a large family lunch, and an egg hunt, before we headed out to the beach condo for our second week there.

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At the beach, we played in the sand, collected shells, found hermit crabs, swam in the Gulf water (!!!), took beach walks, flew the dragon kite, woke up doing barefoot beach runs with Jessica that included quite a few stops for shell hunting, and ended our day with the gorgeous sunset. We also shared plenty of laughs, like good families do. The story of Martha, Jessica, and my parents adventure at Red Bones in TN was hilarious! And, sorry for the inside joke, but Dad, so happy you got to have your bread pudding!

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One day, a great friend took us on a boat tour of the area. This was one of my favorite parts of the vacation. There is something so magical about viewing the land you know from the water. And, to be boat riding while holding Jack’s hand, well, that’s even better!

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Another highlight of our trip was Jacquelyn and Landon’s wedding! It was so gorgeous in the backyard bayou home of my aunt and uncle and, it’s always a great time having the whole family together to celebrate! Jack, per typical wedding behavior, danced his little booty off, even stealing a dance with the bride. After dancing for about four hours non-stop and telling us from the dance floor that when we get back to the condo, we are going to have another dance party (!), he passed out in my sister’s arms on the dock! Reminded me of a drunk and fun loving adult trapped in a four year old body! When we got home, Dad made us all (aside from sleeping Jack) a midnight breakfast of sausage and egg biscuits! The best!

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It was hard to leave such a comfortable place and loving family, but good to get back to David! Pensacola, you are in my blood and bones, we will be back soon! xxo

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Cheers to a fun and picture-worthy 2013! May 2014 be filled with people you love and unimaginable adventures!

Happy New Year! xxo!

PS I posted a similar (shorter) video on Instagram a few days ago…maybe you saw it there; if not, follow me over there!: stephaniebrowngoat.

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It’s difficult to find words to describe the elation and comfort of being surrounded by family. There’s even greater elation and, thus, a greater challenge in describing the feeling, when surrounded by said family whom normally reside over 2400 miles away!

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We felt lucky. I know that much for sure. Spending our weekend in a beautiful cabin rented by Dad in Cle Elum, playing at Suncadia Resort’s Harvest Festival, running through the mountain trails, soaking in the sunshine and the views, and enjoying drinks and good times.

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I love each of these people. So happy that I can call them mine…and, over the moon that they came to visit! Thank you Aunt Diane, Uncle Wayne, Martha, Jessica, Mom, and Dad for a fantastic Autumn weekend!

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The first weekend in August, our family of three travelled to the Bay Area to celebrate the wedding of my cousin, Jennifer, to her sweet boy, Alan. We spent a fabulous four days exploring San Francisco, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Sonoma, and kept our home base in adorable Mill Valley. And, I, not unexpectedly, fell in love with this part of the country! I find myself pining to get back and even scheming up creative ways to live closer…

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After flying into Oakland and grabbing our rental car, we made our first stop at famed In-n-Out burger in San Francisco, near Fisherman’s Wharf, for a late lunch. I have to say that I was sadly unimpressed…our southern chain of What-a-Burger is so much tastier! Plus, the location we chose was so busy that we had to eat outside in the wind and amongst the crazy number of very tame pigeons. Our dinner made up for it, however.

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After settling into our cozy and very cute cottage in Mill Valley, we met some Emory medical school friends at Sol Food and the Puerto Rican cuisine was amazing! It’s an order at the counter eatery with limited seating, but we got there early and got one of the coveted table. The plantains were delicious, the spicy shrimp dish was perfect, and the mango iced tea is something I find myself craving on hot afternoons. I wish I had photos, but we were too into our food and catching up with our friends to remember to take pictures! After dinner, we walked around Mill Valley and found a great playground (we have a special talent for this these days!). It was a fun first night that made us instantly feel like we “belonged” in this quaint town just minutes north of San Francisco.

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The wedding magic took place at the cozy English setting of Pelican Inn in Muir Woods beginning with the rehearsal on Friday night. Jack, who was the ring bearer, did a good job rehearsing and made me especially proud wearing his preppy outfit without a fuss. He was awarded with a new Wolverine toy.

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We spent the morning of the wedding at Stinson Beach. It was chilly and foggy and even a little drizzly, but glorious, particularly the windy drive through Muir Woods along Highway 1. Then, we went to Super Duper for lunch and ate one of my favorite burgers of all time…and, if you know how much I like burgers, thats’s no small feat! The burgers were juicy, the pickles homemade, and the fries garlicky and crisp. Yum!

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The wedding was fabulous and fun! So many unique and personal touches added by the very talented and artsy bride. The event was intimate and the dinner delicious and cozy. The English style pub was open the whole time, as they rented the entire Inn for the night, which created a fun pre-wedding and cocktail hour environment. What a wonderful event and setting to meet new friends and to catch up with some family!

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On Sunday, we went back into San Francisco to meet another Emory medical school friend and her two lovely little girls for some playtime at Dolores Park in the Mission District. And, I finally got to have a beverage from the highly famed Blue Bottle Coffee- I chose a New Orleans style iced coffee, which was delicious! They have several locations in San Francisco; we went to the funky little kiosk located in an alley in Hayes Valley. You may remember that I did some recipe testing for Blue Bottle (remember the granola that I teased you with?). I should share the recipe here with you since the Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee Book has now been published and I’m acknowledged!

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Just before flying out on Monday, we drove into Sonoma and Napa and had a yummy lunch on the back porch of Sonoma’s The Girl and The Fig. Then, we enjoyed a wine tasting at one of the oldest wineries in Sonoma, Buena Vista. It was a fun way to end the vacation and made us feel like we took full advantage of the area, although we could have stayed another week, easily and happily!
Even weeks after being there, I can tell you that the Bay Area has stolen a little part of my heart. What an amazing place!

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As promised, here is the perfect weekend home that I just happened to stumble upon one day during a walk at Lake Chelan. I love the large back porch with arched entrances, the way the grassy green lawn slopes down to the blue water’s edge, the oversized adirondack chair, the large trees and beautiful landscape, and the unobstructed views of the lake and mountains as the home sits at the end of a small street almost on a point. The fact that there was an old-school wood-paneled land cruiser in the driveway (my most favorite car!) was a pure bonus! So, homeowners, if this is your beautiful home, I’d love to talk one day when we are in the market for our weekend getaway! ;)

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Recently, we spent a week at Lake Chelan sharing a vacation home with our dear friends- Amy, Phil, Johanna, and Britta. It was nothing short of gorgeous and immensely fun! The glacier-fed lake, which is nearly 55 miles long and located in northwestern Washington in the Cascade Mountain range, looks like the Caribbean Ocean with both turquoise, greens, and dark blues coloring its clear water. And, the surrounding hillside reminds me of Tuscany- gently rolling hills dotted with homes, villas, the occasional tree- ponderosa pines, vines of grapes, a patchwork of lush green orchards, and many wineries. One afternoon, I took a walk and was able to get to a height above an apple orchard- it was especially pretty looking down on the neat rows of apple trees leading to the Caribbean blue waters with the Tuscan-looking hills in the background. Off in the distance, the mountain peaks still held snow, making the landscape even that much more rich and stunning. What an insanely beautiful place!

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We hit several of Lake Chelan’s wineries while we were visiting- there are more than two dozen wineries surrounding both the north and south shores of the lake. Our first tasting was at Wapato Point Cellars and the bonus here was that it is family friendly and has a small play area on the grounds. This means the kids were well entertained while the grownups tasted wine!

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Both couples enjoyed a date morning (sans kids) where we did something active as a couple and then enjoyed a wine tasting at the Lake Chelan Winery. This winery had my favorite wine of the trip, a white Syrah, which went perfectly with our grilled vegetable and mozzarella pasta dinner.20130508-055700.jpg

We also did a girls only outing to Vin du Lac , a charming French inspired winery (note the Eiffel tower in the second photo) with amazing views! The weather was perfect and we indulged in a few wine flights on their lovely patio and then ended with a glass of sweet and florally Gewurtztraminer.20130508-040110.jpg

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One morning, we hiked at Echo Ridge…it was fun to see a different part of the area and to try to picture what the cross country skiing would be like around there, but the older kids weren’t that into walking so the dads ended up carrying them and, of course, baby Britta was carried, which left me as the only parent free of carrying extra kid weight! We saw a few deer on the hike, lots of pretty yellow Baslamroot flowers, and great views! The kids had fun looking for bugs- we found a cool lizard- and building a “bird nest”.

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We spent a lot of time playing on the beach and just really trying to soak in the views! Jack looked at us from time to time while involved in play and said, “it’s really pretty here, right?”. “Yes, baby, it is,” I always replied with a smile and a happy little sigh.

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This was really a perfect trip to do with friends! The area is so relaxed…it was a joy to be able to spend so much time with our great friends with no real agenda. We ate fantastic meals, soaked in the hot tub for hours, indulged in many tropical drinks and local wine, and were able to comfortably spend lots of quality time with each other without rushing home for naps or bedtime! Our rental house, Lazy Creek, was the perfect find (thanks to Amy!) with a pool, hot tub, multiple outdoor seating areas, great views, and lots of space to claim as your own.

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Jack and Johanna “got married” several times during the week which looked like lots of hugging and tumbling and spinning around…clearly, they are quite fond of one another!
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On our last day, just the three of us visited Blueberry Hills Farm where we had brunch. It’s a few miles outside of town. Looking out from the restaurant’s elevated back deck, you see rows and rows of blueberry bushes which we explored after our meal. They smelled wonderful as they were in full bloom…too bad we weren’t there during the picking season! On our way out of town, we made one last stop to Lake View Drive-In. We weren’t overly impressed with our lunch there earlier in the week, but, man, their milkshakes are delicious- we had to have another one for the drive! My favorite was peanut butter hot fudge, which had a rich peanut butter flavor and a ribbon of thick hot fudge marbled evenly throughout…mmm!

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I also found a home that I’m pining for right on the north shore of the lake!…I took pictures of the home and will do a separate post next week. Oh, house dreaming is fun!

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