YMCA of the Rockies — The Estes Park Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post on the Monday after Thanksgiving, as we had just spent the weekend at the second YMCA of the Rockies location. Since the trip was a sponsored press trip, I waited to post this until the story for the publication that sponsored me went live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, loves! Our little family was lucky enough to try out the second YMCA of the Rockies location — this time in Estes Park — the weekend after the holiday. (You can find information on our stay at the Granby Ranch location here.)

While similar in many ways, and with many of the same amenities as Granby, the Estes Park location did feel slightly different. There is less property at this location, which means the cabins and activities are closer together. This is nice if you’d like to opportunity to walk around more easily, but the vastness of the Granby location also had its perks. Whichever you visit, you honestly can’t go wrong. Grace spent the entire first-day-back-preschool-morning-check-in walking up to her little friends and her teacher and saying, “I went to the YMCA of the Rockies!”

It obviously had a lasting impact. Here’s a little bit why …

Even the check-in area was charming!
We had a real fireplace at this cabin, which you just KNOW Chris loved!
Games were another big part of our stay.
So glad we got to check out the pool on this trip!
The most fun!
Who doesn’t love a good air throw?
Just like in Granby, the cafeteria was a big hit.
Me and my cute little crew 😉
We took a cute, short guided nature walk that involved hugging trees!
Borrowed some clubs for some mini-golf!
The library — and more specifically the story time at the library — is a MUST if you come here!
Grace did some rock climbing on the scrambling wall, while Lotte …
… gave the big wall a go!
Nature Center cuties
We made ice cream!
We explored some trails!
We made art!
We made a mess 😉
We tried out the playgrounds!
We got cozy and colored by the fireplace in the lobby!
We made smores in our jammies back in our cabin!
And on Sunday morning, we woke up to gorgeous, snow-dusted vistas.

And that was our action-packed, amazing trip in a nutshell, my friends! Check out the YMCA of the Rockies in the Good Housekeeping travel awards here.

Bis bald, friends!

YMCA of the Rockies — The Snow Mountain Ranch Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post the Monday after we made our actual visit, but had to wait until the story was actually live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends! We have been battling all the illnesses over here lately (just like literally everyone else in the world, I know), but we did manage to pull it together this past weekend for a quick press trip out to YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.

As you’ll recall, we are already big fans of Granby, but the YMCA property took that love to a whole other level. I won’t go into a ton of detail here (because all of that is covered in the actual story that the press trip was for, which you can find here), but I’ll just say, this is the best, most upgraded camp experience you could ever have, dropped right in the middle of the most majestic mountain setting.

Some of our activities included:

  • Meeting the sled dog team and going on a little ride
  • Checking out the Kiva/Rec Center
  • Making crafts in the Craft Center
  • Smoresing and bonfireing
  • Building a float for a mini Thanksgiving Day parade
  • Enjoying our SPECTACULAR mountain views

We feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this iconic spot.

We stopped off in Idaho Springs on our way home, as well, and had lunch at Beau Jo’s <3

I hope you guys are staying healthy and have some relaxing and fun holiday plans ahead. Until next time … bis bald!

2021: A Year in Review

They can’t all be good photos, right?!

Welp, friends … there goes another year. As the photo above indicates, we’ve had our highs and lows. I think the year didn’t quite pan out the way most of us were hoping it would, but still, there were bright spots to be found.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings you and your family all the happiness and cheer that you deserve! And here’s what we were able to get up to in 2021 …

April

We dusted off our travel boots for the first time in more than a year (!) this past April for a trip to the mountains. We headed to one of our favorite low-key spots — Granby Ranch — and the older girls even tried their hand at skiing for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
Chris and the big girls posing on frozen Grand Lake.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.

June

By the time June rolled around, Chris and I were fully vaccinated, and we were able to start hosting some of our favorite people at our house again. We also went on a fun mountain/lake hike, Lotte continued her adventures in skiing and started running (well, that was pre-June, but I blogged about it in June!) and we continued to find adventures everywhere we could in the great Colorado outdoors. We also spent Father’s Day in one of Chris’ favorite places.

Grandpa came for his first visit in more than a year!
Lotte started track!
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Me and my JMU girls 😉
We sure do love a good splash pad!
Just a dad and his trio of ladies.

July

The end of June and beginning of July was a busy time for us, as we packed up the car and hit the road for our trip out East! We started in Colorado and made out way out to New Jersey and New York and then back, stopping in a number of states along the way. (You can find all the gritty details here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Cody Park, Nebraska
Cody Park, Nebraska
The Bean in Chicago!
Brigantine Beach, NJ
These cutie cousins <3
With Atlantic City in the background
Staying at a real, working farm in Pennsylvania was … interesting!
One of the best stops on our trip home!
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
entering Colorado on the way home
Colorado State Line

Then, at the end of July, our firstborn turned FIVE!

August

We hosted more of our besties in August, Lotte started kindergarten, Grace returned to preschool and we managed to make it to Frisco for one final summer mountain visit.

Frisco, Colorado
Frisco, Colorado
Em’s first Frisco visit!

September

We hosted one of Chris’ good friends in September, and they hiked a 14er (a tradition they started years ago). We also spent Labor Day at Standley Lake with friends.

Kayaking on Standley Lake
Kayaking on Standley Lake
Standley Lake, Arvada
Standley Lake, Arvada

October

We spent October in our traditionally favorite way … with all the fall activities!

December

As the holidays rolled around, we were really looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with family back in New York. Unfortunately, Covid had different plans for us. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year. Still, we managed to get a day in Manhattan, and we did get to spend actual Christmas Day with family, which was an upgrade from last year, so we’ll call it a win.

Times Square is never not entertaining!
Grace was very taken with the Rockefeller tree 😉
Snow on Christmas Eve was a perk!
Christmas Day cuties
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And that’s 2021, my friends. We’re looking forward to a quiet New Years Eve (and wedding anniversary, for myself and Chris <3) and planning for (hopefully) some fun travels to come in the New Year.

But until then … bis bald, friends!

Our Road Trip Continued: The Pennsylvania and Upstate New York Edition

Paddle boats on the lake behind our Airbnb in Pennsylvania were definitely a perk.

Welcome back, friends! After our delightful stay in Brigantine, we were ready to hit up our next destination — an Airbnb attached to Billy’s New Hope Barn in Honesdale, PA.

I should start by saying that the ride out to the farm was less than optimal. (Think lots of things going wrong, including traffic and car sickness … it wasn’t our best ride …) So by the time we arrived, we had all about had it. The farm itself was very sweet, with lots of rescued animals for the girls to fawn over and fall in love with. I, however, was ready for a delightfully decadent shower, or perhaps even a lovely bath.

That wasn’t going to happen here.

Staying on the farm is a unique (and ultimately worthwhile) experience, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I’d liken this stay to “glamping,” since there was a roof over our heads and running water, but it wasn’t fancy by any means (nor is it advertised as such … that’s just what I was hoping for at that particular moment in my life.)

Once we started to get over the effects of our gross ride, things got better. It was actually very sweet to see the girls react to the animals, to eat a picnic dinner on the table by the lake, to watch the fireflies outside next to a campfire and to fall asleep to the sound of bullfrogs, and all the other nature surrounding us.

The farm is right next to the cabins on the property, so we walked over pretty much as soon as we arrived.
After this trip Grace won’t stop asking for a cat, while Lotte has her heart set on a dog. Either way, I’m not ready for a new pet, so here’s hoping they forget soon!
I do love a cute barn scene.
There are a ton of animals on the farm that are being rehabilitated from less-than-optimal settings. The girls loved being able to feed and pet them all.
Too cute.
This was the view right outside our cabin, and the girls couldn’t wait to get out on the water with Chris the next day!
That quiet life.
Taking it all in.
I made Chris stay near the cabin on his run that night (hah!), but this view wasn’t too shabby!
Like I said, the girls were ready to go the next morning!

In all honesty, we decided to stop off in Pennsylvania — and in this area in particular — because my sister and I are considering getting a lake house together and we’re scouting spots. We love the idea of getting a place together where our kids can grow up and visit throughout the year. Living far away from family is hard, but if we had a place like that — and a trip like that — to look forward to every year, it might be just a little bit easier.

After our one-night stay in the cabins, we decided to check out Hawley, PA and the cute zoo — Claws “N” Paws Wild Animal Park — in the area. We only got to spend a couple hours in Hawley, but I can tell it’s a very cute area, so we definitely plan to be back!

Livin’ her best life, always!
Lotte was thrilled they had lions, as they are her favorite animal 😉
These cuties <3
So much to explore!

After the zoo, we were finally on our way to upstate New York, where we would be spending the rest of our trip. That included a stay at Grandpa Robert’s in Newburgh, one night at my sister’s in Middletown and one night at my aunt and uncle’s in Goshen. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to watch the girls for us while we attended a wedding, and we were forever grateful!

I’ll post separately about the wedding — because the beauty of it deserves a post all its own — but for now, here’s a bit of what we got up to in New York …

No visit to New York is complete without a stop in Equilibrium, Chris’s favorite brewery.
Our stay with Grandpa Robert was delightfully chill, filled with barbecues and walks with Ranger.
It was love at first sight for Emilia … not so much for Ranger!
Me and my girl <3
Grace and Ranger, on the other hand, had a love affair going on!
Our last morning before leaving Grandpa’s.
The girls had THE BEST time at my Aunt and Uncle’s!
It was so sweet seeing them together, especially with Em, who they were meeting for the first time!
Seeing Em with my sister for the first time on this trip was pretty special, too <3
Cousin love.
These photos were actually taken on the night Chris and I went to the wedding and my aunt and uncle watched the girls. I mean … look at that face!
My aunt and uncle planned such a fun night for the girls — including cooking and campouts! — and we were so grateful.
Taking fabulous care of our kids AND making homemade scones for us the next day? I mean … why did we ever leave?!

We always have the best time when we head back to New York, but it’s usually really hard to fit in seeing everyone who we want to see. Even though this was a quick trip, we got lucky and were able to cram a whole heck of a lot of visiting in. I am so grateful for all the memories we made with so many people we love. This was one amazing trip that we won’t soon forget.

The Details

Most of this portion of our trip included stays with family, but we did visit a few noteworthy places:

I’ll be back tomorrow with one of the most beautiful weddings we’ve been to. Until then … bis bald, friends!

Back in the (Travel) Saddle, Again

Oh hi there, friends … remember me?! If you don’t, I am not offended. My last post on this website was September 1, 2020, but even then, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to report. Sure, the past year has been pretty busy — we had a baby, Chris started a new job and became a U.S. citizen (he has dual Australia/U.S. citizenship now … wahoo!), we both tried to hold on to some semblance of our careers while watching two children from home full-time. However, because of the pandemic, there was also a heck of a lot of nothing that happened. My trip back to New York with Lotte in February of 2020 was my last flight, and Chris’s trip back to Australia in February was his. Those were the last times that we saw our family, as well. If only we could have known what was coming … am I right?

Anyway, it’s been a rough 12+ months for everyone, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my friends. Although Chris and I haven’t been able to get vaccinated yet, just knowing it’s right around the corner — and seeing the numbers drop from the people who have been vaccinated already — is such a joy. So, with all of that in mind, Chris and I decided to pack up the car with our brand new family of five, and to head out on a vacation that was as safe as it could possibly be. Rather than taking a super-long car ride, we opted to head into the mountains, to one of the spots that we’ve loved in the past: Granby Ranch. We stayed at a little Airbnb in the Blue Sky Trail area, which was the perfect location for skiing (the older two girls got their first lessons!), as well as quickly getting to a beautiful hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and checking out the most adorable Grand Lake area, which had the cutest little town and, as you might have guessed, a very grand lake 😉 The lake was frozen, so we were able to walk out on it, which I think the girls found to be pretty fun.

Grace is never happier than when she’s running into wide, open spaces!

Before I get into the fun parts of the trip, and the amazing pictures (because, Colorado), let me just say … Chris and I were pretty surprised at the level of difficulty this trip reached. We’ve traveled with a 3-year-old before, but every 3-year-old is different and, if I can just say, our current 3-year-old can be quite sassy, to put it delicately. When we were out and about exploring, everything was pretty great for the most part, but when we were back in the cabin, things tended to get a bit hairy. To be fair, thanks to the pandemic, Grace probably doesn’t even remember the trips that she has been on in the past, so she’s not used to being on an extended adventure. I was looking back at pictures of her last trip, and wow she was so little! Chris and I kept reminding ourselves that this, right now, with a 4.5 and 3-year-old and a six-month-old, will likely be the hardest it’ll be for us in terms of traveling. At the end of the day, the minute you get home, the stressful moments tend to either fade away or become funny memories, so it’s almost always worth it, or at least it has been so far, in our experience.

What about you guys? Any other readers out there traveling with littles? Care to share any tips and tricks to make it magically easier?!

While I wait for that advice to roll in, here’s a look at our trip in pictures ….

Lotte, Emilia and Grace, ready to hit the road!
Chris, Lotte and Grace, adventuring out on the lake.
Okay, so maybe we didn’t actually make this snowman – hah! But we did enjoy posing with him!
Just a couple of ladies on the ice … cue the Frozen soundtrack 😉
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.
Grace might seem uninterested, but I’m happy to have gotten this shot of the three of us in front of the lake.
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
We stopped for lunch at the top of our hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The terrain was icy in spots, but I’m glad we stuck with it!
Anyone else have a trick to get a sassy 3-year-old to smile for pictures?!
We were honestly very impressed with both of the big girls on this hike … they took it like champs! Lotte even walked the whole thing — about a mile — by herself.
This gorgeous view was a short but steep hike about three minutes from our cabin in Granby Ranch.
It was windy and freezing at the top of the hill, but we just had to stop for a quick family selfie!
Lotte and Grace had their first ski lessons on this trip, and I was honestly so proud of both of them! Lotte especially loved it, and I think Grace will come to love it more with time, as well.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
If we offer the girls hot chocolate after every ski lessons, I’m pretty sure they’ll always be happy to oblige 😉

And that, my friends, was our little trip in a nutshell. We packed a lot in, while still trying to be as socially distanced and as safe as we could. I’m glad that we were able to get away, for however short of an amount of time. We were all so happy to be back home, even though we’ve spent pretty much every day here for the past year, which was a nice feeling. Now, with some more trips planned for the summer, it’s starting to feel like things are getting back to normal, and we are HERE. FOR. THAT. Hope you guys are all finding some moments of happiness amidst this craziness and, until next time … BIS BALD!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Driving to the Top of Colorado’s Pikes Peak

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Welp, friends, this past weekend consisted of ticking things off the bucket list from left to right and every way sidewise. It was our annual birthday trip getaway for my birthday (if you’ll recall, we’ve made something of a tradition of heading out of town for both my and Chris’ birthdays. Last year was Great Sand Dunes National Park for Chris and Telluride for me), and we headed into the mountains — to Woodland Park, to be exact.

Woodland Park is charming in its own right, but really, the main attraction for people coming to this particular area is the drive up to the summit of Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s (in)famous “14ers,” meaning a mountain whose summit is higher than 14,000 feet. This particular mountain reaches 14,115 feet … and I had no particular interest in heading there.

Until, of course, Chris mentioned it as a potential spot for my birthday weekend getaway.

Continue reading “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Driving to the Top of Colorado’s Pikes Peak”

This Beautiful, Magical Place They Call Yosemite …

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Happy Monday, friends. I’m on to the last leg of our California trip, Yosemite National Park. We stayed in the most amazing cabin called the Birdhouse, which was part of the Scenic Wonders properties. It was right next to a babbling creek and had an awesome wrap-around porch with a grill and hot tub, plus a fully stocked kitchen, huge dining and living room area and a loft space with a King-size bed and two smaller beds, plus plenty of room for Lotte’s Pack and Play. It was perfect for our two-night stay, even if we did arrive a bit later than we expected to on Sunday night because things got confusing with closed roads due to a fire :/ Still, we arrived! And it was awesome! And we had a full day in Yosemite on Monday to explore, which included taking in the scene at Tunnel View, catching the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour (which takes place on a tractor!), seeing the Bridalveil Falls, having a picnic and checking out the Yosemite Falls, as well. Unfortunately two things we wanted to see — Glacier Point Road and Mariposa Grove with sequoias and Redwoods — were closed because of the ongoing fire.

Guess that just means we’ll have to come back 😉

The views:

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^^ Our cute little Birdhouse, tucked away and secluded in the Yosemite woods.

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^^ Our little fam at Bridalveil Fall. I was nervous about the trail leading up to the falls because it was marked as steep and dangerous, but really it was so short, it was no bother at all.

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^^ Ridin’ along on our tractor tour strapped to dad in an Ergo — that’s the way to go! Lotte was pretty good on the tour, which lasted two hours. She fussed a bit but I think she really enjoyed the motion of the tractor and being outside, and she eventually fell asleep in the Ergo, which was awesome. It also helped that our tour guide was seriously amazing. You could really tell that she loves her job — she even sang to us at one point — and she made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
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^^ Checking out the scenery at Tunnel View. You can see the whole valley from here, and it’s so spectacular.

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^^ The only family shot at Tunnel View that we were able to get 😉

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^^ Ergo napping baby!

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^^ It lightly drizzled on-and-off during our picnic (that’s Yosemite Falls in the background), but that turned out to be great, because no one else was around!

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^^ This blurry photo of my babe and my hubs in front of the falls is one of my faves 😉 We didn’t do the actual Yosemite Falls hike, but you can take a short path up to the base, which was really beautiful.

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^^ Oh hi there, tiny humans of mine!

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Tuesday we had to head back to San Francisco to catch our flight home, but we took some time in the morning to head back to some of our favorite sites and snap some photos before leaving. Yosemite was so wonderful and majestic, and I’m so glad we got to take Lotte there. Even at her young age, you can still tell she’s noticing everything, and her favorite thing in the world to do right now is point and babble. She did that a lot along our California journey, and it felt great to be able to tell her exactly what she was looking at … just beautiful ole’ America, which is here for her to enjoy.

Bis bald, friends!

A Final 2016 Trip

img_1879^^ The gang’s all here …

The day after Christmas we all packed up and headed to Keystone to spend a couple days in the mountains. We rented a cabin in Gateway Mountain Lodge, which was super close to the slopes and the little shopping area, so everyone was happy.

And while my day at the mountain was cut painfully short when my lovely daughter refused to take a bottle from my sister and stepdad, who were babysitting (long story short, it was actually my fault … lesson learned), I still had a lot of fun, and I think everyone else did, too.

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^^ Ready for her mountain adventure!

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^^ Could the back of these pants be any cuter?

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^^ Darkest photo ever of our pit stop at Red Rocks on the way to Keystone.

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^^ This window in our cabin … can I have one in my house, please?

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^^ Although I missed out on snowboarding last season since I was pregnant, this was the first time I got on my snowboard and really just felt it all click. So. Much. Fun!

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^^ Somebody had a five month birthday celebration at the mountains, surrounded by family. Not a bad way to spend a birthday, my friends.

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