Before we get started, how about an etymology lesson? I originally was going to use “Cowabunga” as the title of this post, an exclamation I associate with surfers, Dude (since, duh, this is a beach story). Then I looked it up to make sure it meant what I thought it did. It DOES, but it also has an interesting and varied word history. If you’re a nerd like me, check it out.

Now to the good stuff. We’ve been literally AT HOME for months, having groceries and occasional meals delivered and staying safe (and mostly sane). With President’s Day looming (read: No School), we decided to get away for a few days. We have a lovely friend who lives in Hermosa Beach, and the apartment above her became available for short-term rental. Safe space, a block from the beach, near an awesome friend who knows the area: Win, Win, Win, Win!

In the photos you’re about to see, the weather looks gorgeous, and compared to much of the country 65 degrees with 20-mile-per-hour winds really is fabulous. So I will not complain, but you will also notice my husband in a jacket, bundled up on the beach, and that’s why:

I texted that photo to Bart’s family, and his brother replied, “Is that Bernie?” If you haven’t seen the Bernie Sanders memes with his mittens at inauguration this year, you should. I didn’t even think of that as I took the picture, but given that Bart’s dad’s name is Bernie AND I think those memes are hilarious, I should have. Oh, Bernie.

Meanwhile, though the ocean was rough due to the wind, the girls had a BLAST in the sand.

Zoe drew the heart with the teal scoop above, and one of my favorite photos is this one of Ella, who looks like she’s trying to cross the Sahara in search of an oasis…

Remember, it’s only 65 degrees and somewhat chilly. Or maybe my favorite is this video of her chasing a seagull:


She did not catch it, thankfully. Or this video of her pure joy at seeing the ocean waves crashing in.


Or THIS photo capturing the joy on the faces of both girls when we arrived to a cute beach apartment where our dear friend had left Valentine’s Day candy for our arrival!

The loot above also included a necklace-making kit, which the girls loved to make (after negotiating over who got which beads…).

I think they both ended up looking terrific, but I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t been around to mediate, there would have been a very different outcome. Their version of negotiation includes name shouting (Ella! Ella! Ella!) as one of them is doing something the other does not want, and other fun exclamations like “But I had that first!” and “You already have one like that!” Fun, not fun.

We spent the night before Heart Day at a drive-in watching the original Aladdin animated film, a wonderful love story to put us in a cupid frame of mind. I definitely don’t hate that this stupid pandemic has generated a revival of the drive-in movie! We wrapped up Valentine’s Day with a scavenger hunt that ended with finding these cutie pies hiding in a closet!

Though, other than the beach time, we mostly stayed in, having a few meals delivered while we were there, we went out to eat once for lunch, something we haven’t done since early November. Between the surge in covid cases out here in LA, which shut down even outdoor dining, and our general conservative approach to living in a pandemic, we just haven’t eaten out. So, it was weird being outside without masks while eating, but it was also so nice to get to enjoy a meal on a gorgeous day that didn’t involve poor Bart having to prepare it.

We also played a game I love at dinner tables with kids (not sure I “made it up”, but I did think of it without someone suggesting it, so maybe?): Give them 3 words and ask them to incorporate all 3 in ONE drawing, in any way they want. Here are Zoe and Ella’s drawings based on the following words: “penguin, narwal, rock”.

See how fun that is?! Try it! Smarter people than me have probably already packaged it and made millions, but I’ll settle for giving all you blog friends a possibly new way to create moments of peace at a restaurant during dinner with kids. It works. So does wearing them out with exercise (which sadly our kids haven’t had enough of during the pandemic). Bart took the girls for a long scooter ride on the Strand (pedestrian and bike path beside the beach) down to Hermosa Beach pier, and I took them for an even longer one to Manhattan Beach pier, where I took these:

The walk is incredible, as you pass by multi-million dollar homes, many of which are currently vacant because their owners know it’s not quite warm enough to be at the beach. I didn’t mind the lack of crowds though, so that worked out well for me. I took this picture of a gorgeous empty home with a huge empty bottle of Don Julio 1942 tequila (super expensive) on its patio.

Just imagine owning that place as a “sometimes home”. I cannot. And so, the Johnson family passed a few days at the beach together. It was rejuvenating just to be ANYWHERE but home, even for a short while. We came home on Wednesday after doing our best to work + home school away from home. Our internet bandwidth needs exceeded the normal load on a vacation beach house, but we made it through by staggering video calls for me and Bart (which worked out well) and keeping the girls as focused as possible. One other hiccup was sleeping arrangements. These girls are spoiled by having their own rooms and haven’t slept in the same bed in a very long time… The first night Ella ended up on the floor (at Zoe’s insistence), and when it was Zoe’s turn to sleep on the floor, this was her solution: A Pillow Wall.

Though we had a great time, it’s good to be home. We had another brief outing yesterday at Descanso Gardens, our favorite outdoor home away from home (which we also haven’t been to since November), to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Ironically, I took few pictures, preferring to just BE there with friends and nature, but as we walked into the forest Ella ran over to a large rock, posed and asked me to take her picture:

So many captions I could post for this photo. I’ll just focus on the fact she’s looking UP, as I hope we all can do right now. May you always stand in your power, little angel. The world needs more of that. Stay safe out there, and keep looking up.

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