Japan Adventures: Toyama

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Traveling to Toyama

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Bento box lunch I chose for train ride. It had 50 different things to try!

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Our room at the Kadokyu ryokan

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Giant persimmon tree outside the window of our room

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Innkeeper dressing Natalie in kimono

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Natalie and Olivia in kimono

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Dressed in kimono outside Buddha of Takaoka

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25 foot bronze Buddha of Takaoka

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Flowers on alter inside Buddha of Takaoka

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Wonderful lunch with good friends

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Aikido group when Doshu visited Budokan and taught. I’m sitting to the left of the man in the suit in front

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Greenwood Aikido students who traveled with us to Japan

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Beautiful chrysanthemums at Kureha Heights hotel

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Traditional dance and music performance

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Gorgeous dinner

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Carre and I at celebration dinner

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Chikako, Roger and Yoshida Sensei making toasts

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Everyone having a fun time!

 

The next stop in our Japanese adventure was to Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. Here we joined our Aikido Sensei, Koji Yoshida to participate in a three-day aikido seminar taught by Nishio style aikidoka from all over the world. People traveled from Ukraine, France, Mexico, Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia, Malaysia and more. It was organized to commemorate Yufukan Dojo’s 40 years in Aikido.

A special class was taught by the current Doshu of Aikikai. Guest instructors, including my husband, Philip each taught a class.

Our first accommodations were at the Kadokyu ryokan (traditional inn) for two nights. We very much enjoyed our stay here! Our family had our own room and it was spacious and had a beautiful view of the gardens. We slept on futons and had buckwheat pillows for the perfect nights sleep.

The ryokan had a great soaking tub and breakfast was delicious too. One of the highlights from our stay at the ryokan was the sweet innkeeper. She made sure that our every need was met. Upon arrival I told her that I noticed outside our window a giant persimmon tree. She excused herself and came back with persimmon slices for us to eat. This small act made my heart swell, but there was something else that she did for Olivia and Natalie on our first night stay. She asked them to come into a room where she asked if they would like to be dressed in kimono. They agreed and she proceeded to dress them both. I had never watched the careful and detailed order of this art. Each of the girls had three under garments and each of those under garments were accessorized with thick belts and topped off with a haori (jacket). So many layers. So much attention to detail. Just being witness to her care and consideration really touched my heart. I thanked her many times and the girls went to dinner with our group feeling like princesses.

Across the street from the ryokan sits the Buddha of Takaoka, or Takaoka Daibutsu. This 25 foot bronze statue is the third largest Buddha in Japan. The Buddha of Takaoka was originally built in 1221, and there have been many reincarnations of it as it was originally made of wood and burned down several times before being re-built in bronze.

Our second accommodations in Toyama were at Kureha Heights. A beautiful hotel with an amazing view and onsen. After our aikido seminar we quickly rushed to get back, bathed and got ready for the beautiful night Yoshida Sensei had prepared with traditional dance, music and a feast to celebrate that was incredible. I have to say that dinner was the most beautiful Japanese dinner I’ve ever had.

We said many toasts, celebrated our good friends Chikako and Roger on their recent wedding. Yoshida Sensei arranged for them both to be dressed in traditional Japanese wedding attire and surprised the 100+ guests. They looked so happy! We had a great night and sake was brought in that our late teacher, Nishio Sensei loved. We had good food, good drink and great company to share it all with. All in all it felt like a celebration of love and happiness. Sounds corny, but everything just felt like it came from love. I am grateful to all who planned and made this an experience to remember!

 

 

 

Japan Adventures: Tokyo and Kanazawa

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Olivia very excited to be back in Japan!

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Carre’s first time in Japan!

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Our aikido students: Mike, Simeon and Mike

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Chibi Harry Potter merchandise

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Manhole cover in Ueno Park

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Family picture in Ueno Park

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In Kanazawa we arranged to have a class in wagashi confection

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Top left is beginner, bottom left is intermediate and yellow on left most difficult. It was very challenging!

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Lovely lunch in Kanazawa with our friends

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We toured Kanazawa Castle built in 1590’s

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Kanazawa Castle grounds

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Inside its all wood!

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They had an ikebana exhibit inside the castle

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Part of our group that visited Kanazawa! What a great day!

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Kenroku-en Gardens: These ropes are used when snow is falling as to protect the trees from the weight upon their limbs

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Golden Japanese maple leaf

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The colors were so spectacular! The last time we visited was in the Summer so seeing all the Fall colors was a treat!

We arrived in Tokyo late afternoon and were ready to get started on our 12 day trip through Japan. We were in Tokyo for one night so we didn’t have much planned other than getting to our hotel and getting some food and do some local sight seeing. The flight over takes 12 hours so we were pretty tired from the traveling by plane and then by bus to get to our hotel in Shinjuku at the APA Hotel. We found a yakiniko restaurant (each table has a built in BBQ) where you can grill up your meat and vegetables just how you like them. We were happy to eat and have some beers.

The next morning we woke around 5 to get up and packed for the first morning aikido training session at Hombu dojo that started at 6:30am. We invited our aikido students to come to Japan and happily three came with! It was all of their first time in Japan. After training we headed back to the hotel, had a hearty breakfast and then took the train to Kanazawa for the day. First we had an hour long class on the traditional confection called wagashi. Wagashi is usually served with tea (most common confection in traditional Japanese tea ceremony). We made three different wagashi, each different scales of complexity and difficulty. Our teacher had been making wagashi his entire life! Next we headed to Kanazawa Castle. We toured the grounds, took lots of pictures and had a great day. The castle was beautiful inside! So much history and so much beauty. After touring the castle we made our way to lunch where we had a nice time with several different small meals. After this we headed to the Kenroku-en gardens. Some of our group had some seasonal corn soup and tea. We decided on coffee to warm up as the day was cold and gloomy. This area was pretty touristy. This time of year people travel all over to see the seasonal changes in landscape. It was a beautiful garden and I hope to visit there again someday.

This was our last stop before heading back to hotel to pack up and travel to Takaoka where we stay in a traditional ryokan for three days.

Keep posted for the next part of our trip to beautiful Takaoka and then Kyoto!

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Ponder: The Meaning of Life

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I don’t know if you’re like me but I have a tendency to get sucked into a rabbit hole on the internet. You begin a search on one thing and end up somewhere completely different. I think its pretty cool though when it happens. I stumbled across this pretty neat letter the other day written by Hunter S. Thompson back in 1958. He penned this letter to a friend asking him for advice on the meaning of life.

I find his letter charming, insightful and one to ponder every now and then. I have a tendency to collect and revisit this sort of thing- a mental floss for the brain. LOL

 

April 22, 1958

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
Your friend,

Hunter

Obsessed: Blythe Dolls

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image via Pinterest

blythe 2

Image via dollytreasures.com

blythe 3

image via marbleandphillip.com

blythe 4

Image via m.flickr.com

blythe 5

Image via chuthings.com

blythe 6

Image via Pinterest

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Image via flickr

How kawaii are Blythe Dolls?! With the dolls’ over-sized heads and large eyes, hobbyists customize them- from skin tone, hair, clothing and accessories. I just love their expressions and poses. The hobbyist spares no small detail on these dolls- no wonder they cost $200+

Obsession around these fun dolls has reached a cult like following.

 

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Road Trip Fun: Part 3

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Oregon!

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Peaceful

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After a day of adventures, ramen and beer is in order!

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Yum!

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Multnomah Falls

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Multnomah Falls Pool

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So many trails

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Liv, the adventurer

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Horsetail Falls

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“Actually, the best gift you have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” Lewis Carroll

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Nat bought her first pair of Dr. Martens

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If only I could have tried all of them…

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Ice cream time

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Oregon Coast

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Yachats

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Near Heceta Lighthouse

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“I believe there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” -Henry Thoreau

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And here we are, back in sunny California!

After leaving Seattle, we made our way to Portland, Oregon where I rented us a fun little place from Air bnb. It was our final destination before heading back home to California.

We visited the beautiful Portland Japanese Garden our second day in Oregon. It was a beautiful day, a little light rain, but we didn’t need to break out our umbrella. It is known to be the nicest Japanese garden outside of Japan. It did not disappoint! I took about a million pictures, everything was so inspiring and lovely. After our visit to the garden we headed to a shopping area where we purchased art supplies at Blick and Natalie was so stoked to buy herself her first pair of Dr. Martens. We ate so much good food- the highlights were donuts at Blue Star Donuts, Salt & Straw ice cream, Ramen at Noraneko, pretzels and root beer at Henry’s and German schnitzel at Swiss Hibiscus.

The next couple of days we headed 45 minutes outside of Portland to visit Multnomah falls. It was so crowded but well worth it. Wow, this is a huge waterfall, just breathtaking! After exploring here we decided to hop back in the car and keep driving. We stopped for two more waterfalls. Oneonta and Horsetail Falls. Both just really cool! It was so fun to see all the falls and make those lasting memories with my girls.

After our three days in Portland, we headed to the Oregon coast, passing through Tillamook and traveling down south to our destination in Yachats, Oregon. What I loved about our drive were the fresh fruit stands and coffee huts. We stopped to buy fresh cherries at a fruit stand and kept ourselves warm with coffee and tea. The Oregon coast was rainy and freezing for most of our trip along the coast!

We finally arrived in Yachats at the Fireside Motel (highly recommend!). I reserved a room right on the ocean for the night. We watched otters play in the surf and enjoyed a lovely meal at Ona before retiring for the night. We were pretty tired! We had been traveling for the last 15 days!

We left the next morning to drive back to Yreka, California for one last night with our friends who live there. I think the girls were pretty anxious to get back home, get back to routine, get back to their daddy. We left Yreka early in the morning and drove 9 hours to get back home. What a trip!

I had the best time with Olivia and Natalie. I am so lucky to be able to go on road trips and see new places with them. We had plenty of Beatles music, snacks and adventure, and really, that’s all one needs, right? I can’t wait until our next adventure in Japan!

 

 

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Road Trip Fun: Part 2

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We just entered Oregon!

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Our home for the next couple of days in Hansville, WA

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Nat and Farra

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Liv, Farra and Nat

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We waste no time getting to exploring!

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Foul Weather Bluff

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Evening stroll on the beach

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Our hosts Charlie and d’Arcy

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Liv in her element

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At Point no Point beach

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Liv

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I love shells!

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A little break from our exploring

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Point no Point Lighthouse

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Nearly 100 steps- we were so active this entire trip

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When in Seattle you visit the gum wall!

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Silly!

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Paradise Valley Conservation Area

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See the owl? He dive bombed us as we walked by!

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So much beauty in Washington! Cant wait to visit again!

After leaving Yreka, CA, we made our way (nearly 10 hours in the car) up to Washington. We decided to see Washington first, Oregon on the last part of our road trip. My friend wanted us to come up for the 4th of July. She wanted us to see what the 4th was like. So we made it up to Hansville, WA July 3 by late afternoon. We wasted no time in getting to our exploring. It felt so good to be in Washington! 

Our first visit was to Foul Weather Bluff. We had the beach to ourselves. What an amazing place! Olivia loved it here. She’s a nature girl, just like her Mama! We visited Point no Point beach and the lighthouse. What a fun experience. Our friends took us to the best places! For the most part, we spent a lot of time in nature, and that’s what makes Washington so lovely in the summer. It really is an explorers paradise!

After a couple of days in Hansville, we took the ferry over to Seattle from Kingston to spend the last half of our visit in the city. We took the kids to Pikes Place Market, the Gum wall and just took in the sights and sounds of the city. Our remaining stay was in Bothell, WA. What a great city! It’s right next to Woodinville, known for wine produced in the region. We ate some amazing food and had a great time! One of our favorite places to visit is the Paradise Valley Conservation Area. D’Arcy and I visited here on my last trip to Seattle and its one of my favorite places. So much green! We hiked here for a couple of hours, had a nesting owl swoop down on us- that was pretty exciting. Olivia spotted it hanging in a tree down the path. We stopped to watch it, it just eyed us. Finally, it swooped down on us. Another hiker told us he had lost a few hats by the owls swooping down on him. This time of year the owls become territorial and confront hikers. The owl just didn’t want us in its space.

It was Liv and Nat’s first time to Washington. We had an amazing time visiting with our friends, so much fun packed in! Can’t wait to go back! Stay tuned to see our last destination- beautiful OREGON!

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