In all seriousness, though, we had a wonderful time with family and friends, exploring beaches, making s'mores, and enjoying the time spent together.
And then I came back and read all of the wonderfully sweet and encouraging comments you've been leaving on my giveaway post. I've been brought to tears by some of them. You have no idea how much your kind words have meant to me, especially after some of the challenges I've faced this summer (more on that in a later post). Thank you so very much. Sometimes it's hard to tell how much your blogging is impacting others. I try not to make it all about numbers and "success" by the world's terms. To see how much this little blog has encouraged, edified, or brought enjoyment to so many of you was a huge blessing. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and making my week. :)
I wanted to share a few highlights from my trip with all of you. I didn't take as many pictures as I normally do, and while I brought a few dolls and toys along, I didn't do as much of a "dolly on vacation" storyline with my photos this time. Instead, I decided to focus on the photography itself and the time with my loved ones. I got some wonderful pictures of the beaches we visited, too. It makes me smile just to look at them. :) I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
This is the place we stayed. It's a rental in Cleone, California (a few miles away from Fort Bragg, quite close to MacKerricher State Park). The house is called "Cleone Bliss." :)
This is the room where Hubby and I stayed.
It had this really cool closet with material behind the wooden designs on the doors...
...and beautiful hardwood floors.
I also brought a menagerie of toys with me. Not all of them ended up making appearances in my photos, but it was fun setting them up on my nightstand. ;)
There was a lovely brick courtyard between the two sides of the house (the house is an L shape).
And that, pretty much, is the end of my house pictures, at least the ones that don't show the faces of my family. I meant to get pictures of all of the rooms, but somehow I never got around to it. ;) If you want more detail on the house, you can see more HERE.
The house was within walking distance of beautiful McKerricher Beach.
Isn't the water the most perfect shades of blue and green? :D
I had to show you these pictures. As far as I've come in my photography, I still have my epic photography fails. ;) The first day we went to the beach, it was super bright, so I couldn't see any of the pictures I was taking when I looked at my screen. I decided to take a few of my typical Zelf pictures by holding Mermalade out in front of my phone camera with the beach in the background. When I got back to the house, I scrolled through my pictures to see what I got. This is what I found:
So, apparently I'm not the greatest at blindly estimating where to hold my toys in front of the screen when I'm taking my photos! ;) Thankfully, I had several other opportunities for toy photo shoots before the trip was over. :)
Several of us girls spent one of our afternoons in downtown Fort Bragg. This is the station for the Skunk Train. We've never actually ridden it in all the years we've been to Fort Bragg because of the expense, but we've always talked about how fun it would be. ;)
We walked around the mall and museum next to the Skunk Train.
Our favorite store there was "Low Tide," a place with fun shells, keychains, jewelry, and more at affordable prices.
"Tangent" was another fun store, located on the main stretch of road in Downtown Fort Bragg. It was a bit like Hot Topic, some really fun stuff with some merchandise I couldn't fully recommend. There was a really cool journal there I would have loved to purchase, but I was trying to be good this trip. ;)
It was so much fun to find the "Spunky Skunk" toy store again! This was always one of my favorite places when we used to go to Fort Bragg for Christmas. It's a high end toy store with lots of fun things. I was able to see some of the newer Lottie dolls in person, including my two favorites, School Days Lottie and Rockabilly Lottie. They also had the two newest "Made to Move" Barbies in stock, the redhead and the new blonde. They were much more expensive there than on Amazon.com, but it was still really hard to walk away and leave them there!
When we got back from our shopping, we returned to the beach. It started out as a much foggier beach visit, but within the hour, the fog cleared and we had another bright, sunny day.
Thankfully, in spite of the bright sun, I was able to get better pictures of my Zelfs this time around. ;) Featured in the pics are Mermalade and Oceana.
Middle Gal spent the first part of her beach visit following in her mother's footsteps and doing a dolly photo shoot.
Oldest Gal and Little Gal were too busy playing in the waves to worry about dolls and toys. ;) I love this picture of them. These two are so alike, and often butt heads because of it. But then they have these beautiful moments, like this one, where they're just enjoying life together and the adventures it brings their way. I hope they can hold onto that as they get older.
That day on the beach, my aunt took this really cool picture of my family and my younger brother's family. From left to right are: my youngest niece, Hubby, Oldest Gal, Little Gal, my sister-in-law, my oldest niece, my brother, Middle Gal, and me. I love how it turned out, especially with all of the beautiful waves crashing in the background. :)
That night, we cooked s'mores at the fire pit behind the house. :)
The next day, we took a bit longer of a walk to visit Ward Avenue, the street of houses where we used to stay for Christmas, and the part of Mckerricher Beach located just across the street from the rentals.
In this picture, we were almost there. The houses on the right of the picture are on Ward Avenue.
And here is our beloved Pelican House! Out of all of the houses we stayed at, this was the one we stayed at the most times (three different Christmases).
I went through my photo albums and found this old picture of what it used to look like. This was from 1997. The first time we stayed there, it wasn't painted, and was just weathered, brown wood on the outside. By this year, they'd painted the outside and updated it a little.
As you can see from the two pictures, it's been updated even more over the years. I love that they added an upstairs balcony! :)
Hubby and I wanted to take a picture in front of the house, because this was where my family was staying that wonderful Christmas fourteen and a half years ago, in December of 2001, when Hubby drove over to surprise me and asked me to marry him. :) (I think we were entertaining the people inside the house...they stood at the window and watched us, and some of them were waving.) ;)
Here we are back in 2001. The Pelican statue behind us is the Pelican at the left of the house in the picture before this one.
And here's one of my favorite family pictures, taken the same year. ;)
It was so fun to visit the beach across from the Pelican House again. I spent so many hours on this stretch of sand and water. Visiting it was like coming home again. Here I walked alone and sang and quoted poetry. I brainstormed overly-romantic stories that I never finished. I played in the waves with my brother and collected seashells and driftwood with my mom and dad. I strolled through the sand with my grandpa and my uncle on my dad's side, a bittersweet recollection since both of them have now passed away. I spent time with my other uncles and aunts, some of whom had returned with me this time. I dreamed of Nathan being there, and then, one Christmas, he was, asking me to marry him with the beautiful Beauty and the Beast-themed ring box he'd made with my dad. My first kiss was on this beach, during a quiet, moonlit walk together.
And now, here I was, introducing my girls to the same special place. Watching Hubby and Oldest Gal explore the beach, and Middle Gal collect driftwood with my dad, and Little Gal set up her dolls for a photo shoot. It was such a wonderful day. :)
Hubby and I walked to what we think was the part of the beach where he proposed (a lot has changed in the landscape in the past fourteen and a half years). We took a picture for fun. :)
Here's a picture of us on the same beach the year he proposed.
As always, in the middle of my sentimental nostalgia trip, I took the time to capture some doll and toy photos. Here are some of my favorites:
On our last night there, my parents and aunts watched the girls so Hubby and I could get away on a little date. We had dinner at a small restaurant and then decided to check out Glass Beach. My family had been there in the 90s, and we were curious if it would be worth taking the girls there before we left for Kelseyville (the next stop on our trip). Glass Beach was once a town dump in the 1950s or 1960s, and over time, the water turned the glass that was dumped there into beautiful, soft-edged sea glass that covered the beach instead of sand. But we'd heard that there wasn't nearly as much glass there anymore, so we figured it would be a good idea to check it out ourselves first.
Like many of our beach days on this trip, the weather was foggy and overcast when we got there.
I asked Hubby to hold up my Zelf so I could get a picture. This was the result. ;)
Not long after we arrived, the weather cleared into beautiful sunshine.
Me and my sweetie.
When you park at the Glass Beach parking lot, you follow a trail, and two signs point you in two opposite directions. The one on the right says "Easy Trail" and the one on the left says "Difficult Trail." We started with the easy one. As the name implied, it was easy to get down to the beach, but there wasn't much glass (although the beaches were still quite lovely).
So after we'd explored that part, we went to the left and took the "Difficult Trail." The only thing difficult about it was that there was an extremely steep set of wooden stairs down to the beach.
Glass Beach was a lot smaller than I remembered. (The tide was high, so that didn't help things.) Over the years much of the glass has been taken, so much so that it is now illegal to remove glass from the beach. But it was still beautiful, especially in the light of the setting sun.
I felt like a fairytale princess, walking on a beach of jewels. :)
We decided it was definitely worth bringing the girls, and my brother and his family decided to join us. So the next morning, after we'd packed everything up, we returned.
My sis-in-law, brother, and youngest niece. As you can see, the glass isn't nearly as stunning in this sort of lighting. ;)
Glass Beach also had all sorts of fun rocks to climb and explore.
We found several chunks of solidified garbage among the rocks, a reminder of the dump that once was. There's a tiny crab hiding in this picture. Can you see him? He's right in the center.
We spent a good couple of hours on the beach. My brother's family didn't stay as long with their smaller girls, but our girls climbed rocks and followed their daddy to several small tidepools. I took pictures of the breathtaking scenery and wished I could stay forever.
Sea lions and Sea gulls on the rocks. :)
Catching hermit crabs
It's been such a long time since the five of us have had a few hours to spend all together. I'm so glad we had this wonderful day to share with each other.
I don't have any pictures from Kelseyville, but we had a great time catching up with old friends, singing, playing games, sketching, and visiting.
I hope you guys enjoyed this little look into our vacation. I'll be back with some toy reviews later this week. Happy summer to you all, until next time. :)