The Drive Back: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado

On the road again!

After a glorious farm wedding on July 3rd, we were back in the car on the 4th to start our trip home!

As you can see from that first photo, most of us were unhappy about this …

Actually, Chris and I went back and forth quite a bit about extending our trip. We had booked refundable places to stay on the trip back, exactly for this reason. Ultimately, though, we decided to keep things as they were. We had jobs and summer camp and track practice and a home to get back to, as much as we would have liked to have stayed for longer.

It was Em’s first Fourth of July, and she spent it in the car! She didn’t seem to mind πŸ˜‰

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through β€” like we did on the way out β€” we planned for three stops on the way back home. We stopped at a Comfort Suites in DuBois, PA, an Airbnb in Vandalia, Ohio and a Sleep Inn in Oakley, Kansas. We would also be making some touristy stops throughout, to break the trip up even more.

After saying goodbye to our family (we hope to see you soon!), it was a “short” four-hour trip to our hotel in Pennsylvania. Even though we arrived late, a super-wired Grace caught some fireworks at the end of the night with Chris. The next day we took advantage of the awesome indoor pool and grabbed some breakfast before heading out.

One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken at a gas station on our way to a hotel … go figure.
This random pic at another quick rest stop was another gem <3
We love hotels! (And are also very excited to be out of the car!)
I mean, look at this awesome pool!
So fun!
Naturally, I enjoyed from afar πŸ˜‰
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop β€” a playground/picnic and then a splash pad, both in Ohio.

This playground in Ohio was so cute, and totally empty!
We only stayed here for a quick run-around and to have a picnic, but Emilia approved.
We drove about an hour from the playground to this random splash pad in Ohio. It was on the smaller side, but on a 90+-degree day, it definitely got the job done!
Splash pads and playgrounds really take it out of ya!
And we were off … again!
Thanks Ohio … we’ll see ya later!

World’s Biggest Things β€” The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip β€” about four hours β€” to our Airbnb in Vandalia β€” was a bit rough, if I’m being honest. We were all pretty over the car, somehow both tired and wired, at the same time. Luckily, about an hour outside of Vandalia, we saw a sign for some of the Big Things in the Small Town of Casey, Illinois, and made the split-second decision to pull over.

Man, oh man am I glad we did … because how much fun are these?!

Who knew big things could be so much fun?!
It was late, and starting to get dark, so we couldn’t see everything, but what we did see was so. much. fun!
World’s biggest rocking chair! (Allegedly …)
This is the world’s biggest wind chime!
Next was the world’s biggest golf tee!
Then onto the world’s biggest mouse trap?! I don’t know, but we loved it all!
What would it be like to write with the world’s biggest pencil?
I don’t think this was part of the actual attractions, but at this point in our trip I sure didn’t mind seeing my kids contained somewhere I wasn’t πŸ˜‰
Checking out the world’s biggest mailbox!
There was a fountain behind the mailbox where you could throw in coins and make wishes. Bet you could guess what my wish was! (Hint: Getting to our next destination quietly was involved …)
Such an adorable town, and definitely worth a stop on your way by it!

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

After our pit stop in Casey, we still had a couple hours to our Airbnb in Vandalia, but luckily the stop did what it was meant to do β€” wear the kids out! They all fell asleep on the ride to Vandalia and, luckily, this Airbnb was glorious. Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks. It was exactly what we all needed after a full day of travel.

This cutest little drive-through coffee shop β€” Shimoji Coffee β€” on the way out of Vandalia was so lovely!
The Kaskaskia Dragon is easy to visit on your way out of Vandalia! You can grab some coins at the store across the street to make him actually breathe fire!
About an hour later, we were at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Chris and I visited the Arch on our drive out to Denver from New York when we moved here, but it has since gotten an upgrade to National Park status. The museum is amazing now, and the grounds have even gotten an upgrade. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t been back in a while!
The museum is so much fun!
There are a lot of fun things for kids to do and see, too.

After our Arch pit stop, it was back in the car for a few hours, until we stopped for gas and went for a quick detour for treats at the Ozarkland General Store

One of each, please!
After Ozarkland it was on to Topeka, Kansas, where we stopped for dinner at The Pennant. This restaurant was perfect, because it had games and bowling and plenty of run-around space for the girls. Plus, it was right downtown, which was fun to check out!

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

After dinner we had a couple hours to our hotel in Oakley. We picked that particular hotel because it was just a few hours from there to our home in Colorado, and we needed to leave early Wednesday to get back.

Grace, exhibiting perfectly how we all felt waking up early on Wednesday to head home after our whirlwind trip.

And that, as they say, was that, friends! After countless miles, five hotels/Airbnbs and 11 states, we were back where we started! Being home felt lovely and completely odd, all at once. We are so grateful that we were able to have this experience, to see our people and to check out so much of the U.S.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have done anything differently … except maybe pay more attention to the rules of Dramamine earlier on in the trip. Sorry, Grace!

The Details

Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:

The Finances

Now for the super fun part … the money! We likely would have spent less money on this trip had we flown, even factoring in the cost of the flights. Gas is incredibly expensive right now, which was one factor. We also decided ahead of time that we didn’t want to scrimp on this trip. After not traveling for more than a year, we wanted to stop where we wanted to stop, eat what we wanted to eat, and stay where we wanted to stay.

And it worked out because, like I said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here’s how our finances broke down. We spent:

  • Hotels: $1581
  • Gas/Tolls/Parking: $770
  • Food/Groceries/Entertainment: $1112
  • Miscellaneous: $250

The grand total on this trip was almost $4,000 which, of course, is a lot of cash. Considering everything we did, though β€” including places stayed, food ate, things visited β€” for five people, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Plus, as the kids say, YOLO, my friends … YOLO.

And that was our trip! I hope each and every one of you β€” who has made it this far in this post! β€” has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!

The Sweetest Farm Wedding in Upstate New York

This was the gorgeous view from the hilltop at the wedding we attending on July 3rd.

The night before we started our trip home, we attended my brother-in-law’s sister’s wedding at her fiancee’s family farm.

Wright’s Farm is the sweetest little family run farm in Gardiner, New York. They don’t typically hold weddings there, but they do have a brewery, apple and pumpkin picking and a farmer’s market. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Cute as it is normally, attending a wedding there is next level! Unfortunately they don’t normally do events, but fortunately for us, we were able to attend this one because the bride just happened to be my brother-in-law’s sister. Lucky us!

The cocktail hour started at the bottom of the farm in the brewery, which is run by the groom (and his now-bride!). They had live music throughout the day, which was very on-brand πŸ˜‰
After the cocktail hour, guests were sent up the hill to the tent for the ceremony. Although the forecast for the day was dreary, the afternoon/evening ended up being gorgeous, with no rain and, maybe even better, no beating sun. It was a perfectly lovely, overcast evening for a perfectly lovely wedding.
Wrights Farm wedding view
There’s nothing like a beautiful wedding with some of my favorite people.
Every last detail of this wedding was so pretty, from the location and music on down to the table settings and the food.
I love a good tractor picture!
My younger sister was in the wedding, and my older one attended as a guest, as well.
Grandpa Robert was there, too!
We loved the venue, what can I say?!
Andddddd … we like to party!
The perfect ending to a wedding that takes place the night before the Fourth of July? Fireworks, naturally!

That, my friends, was the farm wedding in a nutshell. There were so many more amazing details I could have captured, if I weren’t too busy having fun πŸ˜‰

Bis bald, friends! I’ll be back tomorrow with this road trip finale … our 3-day car ride back home!

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 β€” 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 β€” and in this area in particular β€” 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 β€” and a trip like that β€” 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 β€” Claws “N” Paws Wild Animal Park β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
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 β€” because the beauty of it deserves a post all its own β€” 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 β€” including cooking and campouts! β€” 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!

Father’s Day, the 2021 version

Happy day after Father’s Day to all you dads out there! I hope you were thoroughly spoiled and had just the best time with your loved ones. We’re in full-on packing/planning mode for our trip over here, but we did manage to get out to celebrate Chris for a bit, which was lovely. It was bagels and presents in the morning, followed by a short hike/walk to New Terrain Brewing Company, then a movie and dinner ordered in.

Glorious.

Anyway, wish us luck as we continue to prep for our cross-country adventure! Any advice for long car trips with littles? Send ’em my way!

Bis bald, friends!

Chris went for a run in the morning and came home to three very excited little ladies .. and the presents they had painstakingly picked out for him πŸ˜‰
You can park about a half mile from New Terrain and walk to the brewery, which is always a lot of fun. You walk behind an archery course, a dog park and a bike park, so there’s no end of things to keep the kids occupied watching.
Someone was particularly mesmerized watching the archers
It was Em’s first brewery experience, and she approved.
The girls have also been happy to get back out into the world, I think. They’ve been pretty happy with the outings …
Particularly where treat are involved!

The Long Road Ahead …

Happiness is Grace at a splash pad!

Welcome to Friday, friends! This week felt … long! As I mentioned in this post about returning to normal, the more things we tack on to our calendar, the more time just flies by. Seriously. End of June, where did you come from? Summer? What happened to Spring?! But I digress.

Drinks and dinner at a new-to-me restaurant β€” American Elm, in Denver β€” with a friend earlier this week felt surprisingly normal and refreshingly wonderful.

The biggest thing we have coming up β€” other than Father’s Day this weekend … happy early Dad’s Day to all your wonder fathers and father-figures out there! β€” is our road trip out east, which commences next Thursday. I will be using this weekend to do all. the. things. That includes making approximately 1,000 lists and ticking each and every thing off methodically as I go along. Any other list-makers out there? It’s the only way I can seem to get everything done these days! (This Smarter Travel packing list is a good place to start …) I’ll head back over here soon to list out our actual plan for the trip β€” kid-friendly (hopefully!) stops we’ll be making on the way out and back, what we actually packed, etc. β€” but for now I wanted to hop on and say happy Friday/happy weekend/happy Father’s Day/happy Summer/and happy Juneteenth! However and whatever you’re celebrating this weekend, I hope you make it a great one.

Last weekend we tried out Westminster Center Park β€” also referred to as Peter Pan Park β€” for its playground area and splashpad. Even though the splashpad was smaller than we were expecting, the girls had THE BEST time, and the playground β€” modeled after the movie Peter Pan β€” was so adorable!
Em enjoyed it, too!
That itty, bitty face … gets me every time <3
It’s been 90+ degrees here all week, which has meant lots of backyard, blow-up pool time for us!
Chris planted two rose bushes the other weekend β€” one for my Grandma and one for my mom β€” and they are starting to bloom.
Somewhere along the way, this little one turned six months old.
It was Dads and Donuts morning at Lotte & G’s summer camp this morning … no better way to celebrate, if you ask me!

Bis bald, friends!

Life Recently: Returning to “Normal”

Living that post-vaccine life … or getting there, at least!

Happy almost summer, friends! This year we have … plans?! For things to do?! And how crazy does that feel after the year and a half we’ve all just had? I mean honestly, a friend of mine mentioned that after she got her first shot she expected balloons to fall from the ceiling and a marching band to play. Obviously that didn’t happen, but what did happen was that we’ve started, slowly, to return to what our life looked like pre-Covid.

Lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Golden when my stepdad came to visit a few weeks ago. It was the first time we had physically been to a restaurant in more than a year, and man oh MAN did it feel good!

It definitely took me a while to get into the swing of things, but I’ve now gotten my hair done, we’ve had dinner at an indoor restaurant and guests and playdates at our home. We’ve started to open our lives back up, and while that’s awesome and amazing and wonderful, there’s a small part of me that still longs for the quiet days. The older girls are in summer camp from now until school starts in the fall, Lotte has started track and we have a monster road trip planned from Colorado out to New York (and back!) to see family we haven’t seen in more than a year, to head to the beach for a couple of days and to attend a wedding.

All of this feels … almost too good to be true. And while I’m grateful to be able to do these things β€” see our family, most importantly β€” I’m also staring at our (overfilled) calendar and remembering the days when there was nothing on it but to hang.

So I propose a challenge, dear friends, to bring back the things that give you joy in your life when you feel comfortable doing so, but to also say NO to more things that don’t. That’s a tough thing to do β€” especially when it involves keeping your littles from doing things β€” but for me, at least, I think that’s the only way I’ll stay sane as we dip our toes back into life.

Bis bald, friends … and stay safe out there!

My birthday celebration back in April … I felt the same way the girls did about the cake, I just hid it better than they did πŸ˜‰
Real Simple helped me with our Easter table this year, and I could not have been more pleased. Was it just me, or has anyone else out there become obsessed with home goods during lockdown, as well?
Two of my three Easter bunnies <3
Outdoor parks and playgrounds continue to be our preferred places to hang, but we’re slowly opening up to indoor playdates and dinner parties, too, which feels oh-so-lovely.
Lotte went spring skiing with her dad again at A-Basin, and we even got her a season pass for next year. I love that she’s loving this sport, and I can’t wait until we can all go together as a family!
We honored my Mom on the 5th anniversary of her death with a family Zoom and, of course, making her (in)famous cinnamon buns.
The girls continue to find happiness in everything they do, which is truly the most inspiring.
This crew has become very good at finding new playgrounds to enjoy … and Em is just along for the ride.
My stepdad came to visit! We surprised the girls and they were SO EXCITED! It was truly adorable. Not to mention that Grandpa was the first grandparent that Em got to meet. It was a happy, happy time.
We headed to Golden with Grandpa, which is one of our favorite spots to bring guests. It truly never disappoints.
And we ate at a RESTAURANT! The Golden Mill just opened up along the creek, and it was so lovely to be out and about in a way that we hadn’t in so long.
That outdoor beer life <3
Emilia, taking in those mountain views.
These girls are picnic pros at this point!
Our little preschool graduate! Lotte is off to kindergarten in the fall, and honestly, I cannot talk about it …
Lotte has also started track! Which of course makes Chris endlessly proud …
Track star.
Chris & I dressed the girls in their best purple for a little “hike” around Evergreen Lake this past weekend as part of an event that my alma mater β€” JMU β€” was sponsoring. It was so nice getting outside with them and sporting those JMU colors!
Evergreen Lake views are pretty magnificent.
Ever-the-rebel.
The majestic mountain/water combo.
Evergreen Lake
The perfect day for a lake walk.
We also got family photos taken recently to celebrate adding little Em to our family, and I am SO HAPPY with how they all came out!
Big & Middle, always being monkeys <3
And our newest angel, who is truly just the sweetest child in all the world.
Our trio <3 <3 <3
Bis bald, friends! Hope your summer(ish) season is off to a great start!

Frisco, Colorado for the Perfect Labor Day Weekend

Our family of four hiking near Frisco, Colorado

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you all had a happy (and hopefully relaxing) holiday weekend. Chris & I took our lot to the mountains for a little getaway in Frisco, Colorado.Β  We had only been there once before when we stopped for breakfast on our way back from Beaver Creek two summers ago, and I made a mental note back then that we would have to come back and stay for longer. Plus, spending one of the final summer weekends in the mountains seemed like a good way to top off a summer of adventures.

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Hiking a Colorado 14er: Quandary Peak

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My husband and his friend from New York have started a tradition of hiking 14ers, or mountains that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation, and this past weekend they took on the task of hiking Quandry Peak. Colorado has a lot of 14ers, and there are usually multiple ways you can get to the top, including hiking, mountain biking and, sometimes, even driving. (We did this for my birthday back in April when we visited Pikes Peak.) Needless to say, hiking a 14er isn’t on my Colorado Bucket List, so I’m glad that Chris has found a companion in Gavin to tackle these adventures.

I asked Chris to do a little write-up about the trip. Here’s what he had to say:

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The Source Hotel + Market Hall and a Bacchanal Celebration of All Things New Orleans

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Happy Monday, friends! This past weekend I was hosted by The Source Hotel + Market Hall, where I got to stay in a King suite (and soak in the glorious tub), shop at Market Hall, eat at their different restaurants and attend Bacchanal, a New Orleans-style wine, food and music festival that was held in the parking lot of The Source. Besides the fact that having a full weekend in a hotel all by myself was glorious (love you Chris & kids!), it was also a great opportunity to see all the ways that this particular Denver neighborhood β€” called RiNo β€” is really developing.

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The Rustic Wedding of Every Instagram Account’s Dream

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Happy Monday, friends! We spent the weekend in the Albany area for my cousin’s wedding, and it was, without a doubt, the most gorgeous wedding I have ever attended. The M&D Farm describes itself as a rustic chic farm for barn and garden weddings, and every one of those words describes the exact atmosphere of Alyssa’s stunning day. Although it poured right before the ceremony and they had to move that part inside, the rain stopped just in time for cocktail hour and for the rest of the night, so we could wander around and check out the grounds. We also rented a house in a town near the ceremony that had a pool and lake and lots of land for the girls to run around on, so all-in-all it was a pretty successful and fun weekend.

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Your 2019 Colorado Summer Bucket List

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I mean … G is barely even in this photo, but you get the gist β€” Colorado isΒ amazing in the summer, and summer is right around the corner! I mean, it’s pretty amazing all of the time, but the summer is a great time to check out the mountains, lakes, hikes, breweries … and everything in between.

To help you out if you happen to be in the hood, here are a few of our fave hangouts when the weather gets warmer:

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The Perfect Mountain Retreat in Massanutten

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Happy new week, friends! I just returned from a wonderful press trip to Massanutten Resort inΒ Virginia, which is about a 20 minute drive from where I went to college at James Madison. This trip was so much fun, not only because the resort itself is full of any and every activity you could ever want (more on that later), but also because I got to meet up with my dearest girlie bestie for it, and we were able to take a pit stop at JMU on the way to Massanutten, as well. Top on our list of places to hit for our quick college reunion were our old Mexican food fave, El Charro, as well as ice cream at Kline’sΒ and a quick walk by the quad to visit the James Madison statue and the offices of our old college paper, The Breeze.Β Lisa and I could not stop talking about how our love for journalism began in those tinyΒ Breeze offices … as well as our love for each other πŸ˜‰

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Making Memories on Memorial Day in Upstate New York

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If you are looking at that above picture and thinking, “Stop it. Just ding dang stop it right now,” then you know how I feel about my new adorable niece.

Before I get any further, let me start this post by stating that I have a fabulous husband. As a surprise birthday treat, he booked a little New York getaway just for me β€” sans children! β€” for this past Memorial Day weekend. I flew in on Friday and got to spend a glorious three and 1/2 days with Steph and Ro and Brian (and a whole cast of other amazing people, as well), before flying back (and landing at 3 a.m. – thank you hurricanes, tornados, thunderstorms and hail … oh my) on Tuesday.

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A Girls’ Weekend in Nashville

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That right there is most certainly the picture of two very happy mamas. Why? Well because, as I’ve come to discover, finding the time to hang with your girlfriends β€” just you and your girlfriends β€” is just as important after you have babies (maybe even more so?) as it was before.

I say this as someone who waited almost three full years after becoming a mom to do so.

Carla and I began planning for this past weekend’s trip to Nashville in February, and it was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Besides the fact that Nashville itself is adorable (which pretty much everyone knows by now, but I had never been before), I got to remember what it was like to travel on my own (no screaming babies!), to sleep through the night, to have an uninterrupted conversations, to dress up and do my hair and stay out past 7 p.m.

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Day Dates in Evergreen

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Happy Monday, friends! This past Sunday, my sister-in-law and I decided to try our hand at a day date in the tiny mountain town of Evergreen, Colorado. Evergreen is about 40 minutes away from us, and we pass the exit every time we head to the mountains. I’ve been wanting to check the area out pretty much ever since we moved here, and Sunday seemed like the perfect opportunity.

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A Day for Family Photos, a Sneaky Get Away in Mudgee & Our Final Days in Bathurst

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I mean,Β could this family be any cuter?Β The answer is no. No, they could not.

The day after Boxing Day, the Connor Clan headed over to a park in Bathurst to take some professional family photos. Of course waiting for professional photos to arrive really isn’t my thing, so you know I had to snap a couple of my own.

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^^ All these cute Connor grandkids together makes my heart pretty happy <3

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While there were a bunch of things that Chris and I were excited for when it came to this trip, one of them definitely was taking a night away, just the two of us. Believe it or not, Chris and I had not been away together just the two of us since we had kids, and I have only ever been away from Lotte for one night, and never from Grace.

In other words, some time away was definitely overdo.

So after our family photo day, Chris and I packed up and headed over to Mudgee, which was about two hours from Chris’ parents house. We stayed at the Parklands Resort & Conference Centre and took a wine tour with Country Escape Tours, where we visited three wineries, one distillery and a cheese making company. The town of Mudgee was so cute, and the wine tour was really intimate and fun. Unfortunately we did return to a pretty sick Lotte (the next day after we got back was when we brought her to Urgent Care), but sickness aside, it was really nice to take the time away.

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^^ It’s not so hard leaving your kids when you know they’re in great hands.

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^^ We headed out to Mudgee Brewing Co for dinner the night we were in town. They had live music and we ate outside in their pretty garden and I had a delicious shrimp salad. It was pretty great, friends.

After we returned and took a couple days to get Lotte checked out and feeling better, we spent our last couple of days in Bathurst ringing in the New Year with Chris’s parents and brother and his wife, taking laps around Mount Panorama with the girls and having a picnic in the lovely Cook Park in Orange with Chris’s grandma.

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^^ This is potentially my favorite shot of the entire trip <3

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And that takes us pretty much through what I think of as the first part of our trip. After Christmas and New Years in Bathurst and Mudgee, we packed up the car and headed back to Sydney to spend our final couple of days in Australia staying at Chris’s aunt’s place, and then his uncle’s, and touring around all the best parts of Sydney, according to us seasoned pros. I’ll take you through our final couple days in two more posts, but until then, bis bald!

Great Sand Dunes National Park For an Epic Birthday Celebration

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Happy Tuesday, friends! Chris & the girls & I got back yesterday from a weekend away in Alamosa, where we stayed at the adorable 40 Winks Inn and visited Great Sand Dunes National Park. We only found out about the Great Sand Dunes over the summer when a cousin of mine was visiting Denver with her family and they went to see them. Chris really wanted to plan a visit for his birthday, and I’m so glad we did. They are the tallest dunes in North America and are surrounded by grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. It’s honestly, truly magnificent. And although Lotte originally referred to them as a “big pile of dirt,” I think she honestly had the most amazing time sandboarding with Chris and just playing in the sand in general. We had the most glorious weather, packed a picnic, and even did a little off-roading afterwards.

Colorado, you are one beautiful state, and you never cease to amaze us.

So, are you ready for lots of photos of sand? Well good, then you won’t be disappointed!

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^^ These ladies were the most amazing travel buddies on the four-hour ride. We were a little nervous about Lotte and the whole potty situation, but she only had one accident, and honestly it was our fault because we should have been paying closer attention. Overall, we were so impressed with these little travel warriors.

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^^ We stopped in Bueno Vista and had sandwiches at Biggies Sub Shop, which turned out to be way delicious and the perfect little half-way pit stop.

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^^ Colorado road trip roadside views = pretty epic.

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^^ Someone was less excited about the views πŸ˜‰

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^^ How cute was our Airbnb, 40 Winks? And how cute is little Lotte, making herself right at home on her potty! There were two bedrooms in the space, but there was also a Queen bed in the living room around the corner, so it was perfect because Chris and I just slept there and gave each of the girls their own room. It was a great little spot, and only two blocks from Main Street which, while very small, had some nice restaurants and breweries.

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^^ Our Airbnb was made for Insty πŸ˜‰

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^^ Our first stop after rolling in on Saturday was Square Peg Brewerks on Main Street, where Lotte made the cutest little friend, fell in love with a dog and had the best time playing cornhole.

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I didn’t take any photos there, but we also visited San Luis Valley Brewing afterwards for drinks and dinner, which was super tasty.

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^^ Sunday was the big day. After renting a sandboard and a sandsled from Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa, we headed to the Dunes, which was about a half hour from Alamosa. Our first stop was the visitor center, which small enough to not feel totally intimidating but had all the info you could possibly want about how the Dunes form (the Medano Creek brings the sand down, and the wind blows it back up … in a nutshell).

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^^ This studmuffin carried the sandboard, sandsled and our 2-year-old in her hiking backpack up the mountain of sand. I had G strapped to me and I was huffing and puffing. We only went to the closest dune before plunking down and having Chris take Lotte on some sled rides, but still, it was enough for me to know that anything further would have been really, really hard to do. One note about the sandboarding – Chris didn’t love it. I guess he was hoping it would be somewhat similar to snowboarding … but it’s not. Oh well, lesson learned, and at least he tried.

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^^ Epic and amazing.

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^^ G slept during most of our Dunes adventure, but she did wake up in just enough time for some adorable pictures.