Sunset Magic

October is one of my favorite months of the year because it is the start of the holiday season (for me), and it’s a time for believing in magic. Whether you love the magic of multiple aisles of candy at the stores, costumes from fantasy worlds afar, or the every day magic of the changing season, it’s a time of year that everyone can enjoy.

To celebrate, I thought I would share with you not only our favorite memory from our recent trip to Portland, but our own glimpse of magic… the perfect sunset!

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We had decided to take our first Saturday in Portland and drive out to Cannon Beach. The drive itself was unbelievable. Leaving Portland, it starts out with open meadows, and farmland nestled in between tree-clad hillsides. The contrast in colors of the straw-yellow, harvested fields, to the bright red barns, to the dark evergreen of the pines was gorgeous. Then of course you’ll also see hidden gems of golds and ruby reds peaking out from behind the giant evergreens. I literally spent the whole of the drive on the very edge of my seat, craning my neck all around trying to see it all.

As we got closer to the coast, we saw less open areas, and less deciduous trees of color, but much more coniferous. Indeed it felt very much like we were driving deep into a dense, dark, haunted forest. And we were! Until all of a sudden the coastline appears before you. I was completely taken by surprise.

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Here in North Carolina the landscape tends to get more sparse as you head towards the coast. The trees get shorter, are farther apart, and things look more, well, beachy. In Oregon the forest backs right up to the sea. It is the most amazing thing in the world. If you stand with your side towards the ocean, you can look straight down the beach and see mountains on one side, and ocean on the other.

By the time we had finished exploring Cannon Beach, and a little ways south down the coast, I told Emile that it looked like we might be able to see the sunset on the beach. He argued that the view would be better from atop a hill. I said no I think it would be much better to be at sea level, and he still insisted otherwise. I acquiesced.

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Esmé was happy because she got to run around in the grass. Mama and Papa were happy that it wasn’t the beach, where she would be eating, throwing, and smearing sand everywhere. She tried her darndest to channel Taylor Swift, but I told her no one was going to remember her staring at the sunset because she wasn’t standing. The song says nothing about running, it’s standing. Sheesh. Well I guess she wasn’t wearing a nice dress either. I digress.

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The evening looked promising. There was just enough cloud cover to display an array of colors, but not so much that it would block out the sun completely.

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Then the sun got lower, and more clouds rolled in. Now there was only a tiny gap in the clouds. We waited and waited, until I was sure that we had missed it because the sun had already missed the gap.

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All of a sudden the gap began to glow with a pale yellow light.

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It got brighter and brighter…

IMG_5419until the sun burst through the clouds in golden brilliance. I screamed over my shoulder ‘Husband! Husband! It’s here! We didn’t miss it!!’ and then just continued to say ‘wow’ over and over again, while taking as many pictures and snapchats as I could. I honestly have never witnessed a more spectacular sunset. Just behind those trees was a cliff that led down to the sea. The gap between those trees closer to us, and those farther away to the left was filled with mist from the waves rolling in, and the sunset actually lit the mist up in this soft orange glow, making it look like there was a fire.

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It illuminated the entire landscape with a rosy glow, so the grass looked greener, the mountains looked more purple, and Esmé looked like a magical fairy stuffed in a fleece jacket.

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Ok, ok. I know she doesn’t look that magical in this picture, but she did when she was running around, and the sunlight turned her hair into spun rose-gold curls. Emile caught a little bit of it on video here.

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Just as suddenly as the sun appeared, it tucked itself back into the clouds once more and disappeared for the evening, leaving the mountains (and us) to be enveloped by the evening mist. A truly magical, very October-ish, end to our perfect day.

Enchanté France

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Our first trip to France was a last minute decision to take a weekend and drive north. We decided to stay at a hotel in a tiny town called Bélesta, for Saturday night, and then we would spend Sunday exploring a medieval city nearby. It ended up being one of my favorite trips out of everything we saw in Europe.

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When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted so enthusiastically. They brought out an ice-cold fancy bottle of french water, escorted us to our room, provided us with complimentary wine and treats, then let us know someone would be by shortly to set up the baby cot (it’s what they call a crib in Europe). I was flabbergasted.

Since my husband and I eloped to Las Vegas, we never really went on an actual honeymoon, but I told him that this must be what it’s like for people who actually do. Well, minus the someone setting up your baby cot part.

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Once we got ourselves settled in, we decided to go for a walk in the little town, before the sun set. It was the most enchanting little scene. The majority of the village is made up of these ancient cobble stone buildings and walls. The streets are all paved with little square stone tiles.  It was so peaceful and quiet that the only sound to be heard, besides the squeak of our stroller, and our footsteps on the paths, was that of the wind whistling up from the vineyards and through the old cobblestone buildings. We only saw a handful of people on our walk, so it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves to explore.

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Once Esmé was all tucked in her little bed, we went and sat outside to enjoy our spoils in the fading evening light. Our room had a little patio that faced the town church, so we got to hear the church bells chiming the time, and see the neighborhood cat scale the building on his nightly prowl.

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Before we packed up and headed off on our drive to our medieval castle adventure, we had a spectacular breakfast overlooking the vineyards in the morning sunshine.

IMG_4827The drive up to the city of Carcassonne was the second best part of our weekend adventure. We wound our way in and out of vineyards that led to narrow mountain roads for what felt like forever. All of a sudden the view would open up, and there would be a little village tucked away in the hills. As we drove through I was amazed at all the golden yellows, pinks, and orange colored buildings with their sun-baked, red-tile roofs.

I so wished that we had more time to explore these tiny gems, and I did try, multiple times, to get my husband to stop the car so we could get out and take pictures. Alas, we were on a tight time schedule, and he did not give in to my pleas. Before I knew it we were lost in the woodsy mountain roads again.

As we got closer to the medieval city, we saw less mountains and sunny villages, more tree-lined roads bordering vineyards and fields of sunflowers. We were starting to wonder if we were ever going to get there when all of a sudden this sprawling castle-walled-city appeared before us as we crested a hill. I may or may not have let out a shriek of excitement in the car and woken up our sleeping child.

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My husband said that this place is like Disneyland, but better, because it’s the real deal, and he’s right! As you walk in through the entrance, you are immediately funneled into these tiny, cobble-stoned streets that are lined with shops so full of goodies, that their merchandise spills out onto the streets. I imagine that it’s probably what it’s like to go shopping in Diagon Alley.

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There is also a castle within the castle, if that makes any sense at all. It’s inside here that you can learn all about the history of this city and the fortress it once was.

IMG_3747You also get treated to some pretty phenomenal views of the grounds from the upstairs windows inside the castle, as you can see from the picture above.

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This was seriously one of the coolest experiences ever. It wasn’t castle ruins, or a tour of a gutted, nearly crumbling old building, it was a living, thriving, still in tact medieval village.

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We got to take a walk back in time through a castle with our daughter, and we found hidden treasures in the charming villages tucked away in the hills.

I’ve already told my husband that we have to go back. Even if it’s many, many years from now, I have to go back, and soak it in all over again.

Milestones and Memories: 17 months

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I can’t believe it’s been 5 months since one of these posts! Time flies when life gets a little crazy. Before any more time passes, I thought I should write about how much she’s grown before she goes and has another growth spurt on me. Here’s what she’s been up to lately:

-At her 16 month checkup (we had to do our 15 month one a month later because we were gone) her height was: 92%, her weight was 82%, and her head was >95%. Being the only grandbaby to two sets of grandparents, and only niece to all aunts and uncles has really gone to her head. It’s huge. Literally.

-She has 13 teeth now. Her left lower cuspid just started to poke through, and the other three are not far behind.

-She is moving from signing into talking now! This is so crazy to me because I feel like I spent so much time trying to get her to learn them and now she’s already done with them. She says all sorts of words now: ‘nanana’ is banana, ‘up,’ ‘lahder’ is water, ‘papa,’ ‘dada,’ ‘mama,’ ‘ow,’ ‘hah-t’ is hot, ‘cooh’ is cold, ‘mo-mo’ is more, ‘ca-ker’ is cracker or chips, ‘no,’ ‘bah’ is ball, ‘CAH!!!’ is car (she is obsessed with them right now, so it is always with great excitement that we use that word),  ‘buhbo’ is bubbles, ‘hi,’ ‘bye,’ ‘ah-po’ is apple, ‘cir-coh’ is circle, ‘tuh-tol’ is turtle, ‘ahma’ is Ouma, ‘nay-nay’ is Auntie Rene, ‘cah-kul’ is Chuckle, and ‘GaGa’ is our lovey giraffe that we must have with us at all times.

-She is also starting to put words together. So she’ll say ‘papa up’, when Emile goes up the stairs, or she’ll say ‘mo-mo ah-po’ if she wants more apple, and ‘ma-MA-ma’ when she wants to sit on my lap and eat my meal.

-She is starting to give kisses!! Although I should clarify she is more willing to give them to my husband than me. It’s very funny if you ask her to give you one and she does it, because she scrunches up her face and says ‘mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…’ all the way until she kisses you. Ha! I think it’s because Emile and I have been showing her exaggerated kisses to try and get her to do it, so we would make the ‘mmmmwah!’ sound.

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-You know how there was that whole thing with people ‘planking’ all over the place, in all sorts of random places? Well Esmé does downward dog everywhere (sorry the video isn’t great…I just saved it from my snapchat). It started because she was copying my husband stretching before a run, but now she does it all the time. She does it in the parking lot, she tries to do it on the steps, she also tried to do it in the swimming pool, on the bed, on the floor, or on the couch. I don’t know if it’s a comfort thing for her or what, but she loves it. And it’s hilarious.

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-Speaking of swimming pool, she started taking swimming lessons last week. We saw how much she loves being in the water (and playing in the water) when we were in Europe this summer, and thought we might give swim lessons a try when we got back. Funnily enough, she is somewhat blasé about them. She likes to play with the toys they have, likes to climb out of the pool, and doesn’t mind having to go under water, but she isn’t crazy about the songs we sing going in a circle. She also really dislikes being on her back in the water. I guess we’ll just have to see if they get better with time.

-Her fine motor skills have really started to develop. She can now stack her rings by herself, she can fit a circle shape into her shape sorter, and she is starting to put things away (not necessarily where they belong, but she packs them away where she feels they belong). She also really likes to color. Most of the time it’s on paper, but sometimes we get excited and it ends up on our mat. She also likes to eat the crayons.

-She isn’t quite running yet, but she is a very fast walker. She also loves to dance. I can’t wait until she is 18 months old, because there is a dance studio here in Raleigh that allows for children that young to come. Yes she will be in a tutu. Yes it will be the cutest thing you have ever seen. And yes I will take pictures/ videos galore so you all can see too.

IMG_4817-I’m seeing a lot of baby butt lately, and you know why? Because Esmé is a climber.

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She climbs onto chairs to get on top of end tables. She climbs the couch to try and climb over the banister, so we had to pull the couch out away from the banister. She climbs the bookshelves, but that’s ok so far, at least, because they’re anchored to the walls.

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She climbs on top of her piano to try to reach the top of the mantle,

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and she climbs onto the dishwasher. This is not something mommy is very excited about, because I know we are going to have an epic fall sometime in the near future.

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-Lastly she LOVES her books. She will sit right in front of her shelf and pull them all out and get lost in her own reading. Her current favs are the ‘BabyLit’ books, her ‘Happy ABC Book,’ that her Nana made specially for her, her little family album, and her ‘Highlights’ books.

She is getting bigger all the time. While I wish that time would just slow down, we really are loving how much more we can play and do with her as  she gets bigger. She is such a clever little monkey.