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!

The Covid Christmas We Should Have Seen Coming

Christmas Day was surprisingly joyful, considering what came before and after …

As the final days of 2021 wind down, I’m hoping that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. Our trip to New York for the holidays got disrupted by an outbreak of Covid within our family (extended family, at least, so far the five of us are still Covid-free), so we ended up cutting it short by a week. Still, we managed to pack in a lot of celebrating before things turned ugly.

While I’m grateful for the positive things that came this year — vaccines, three healthy daughters who turned five, four and one, a husband who loves me and takes care of us in this roller coaster of a life, a career that I really love, and so much more — I also won’t be sad to see it go.

Here’s hoping there’s even more to look forward to in 2022. Bis bald, friends … and happy New Year!

The “Calm” Before the Storm

The week heading into our trip was crazy for us, as well, with my stepdad flying in for a visit, Grace turning four and Emilia turning one. We managed to get in a lot of partying before we even boarded the plane.

My sweet, sassy middle daughter. I hope you never, ever change <3
She insisted on having her dinosaurs with her in this picture. Just one of the many reasons I love her so.
My last baby. Emilia turning one has been bittersweet for me. It’s the most fun to watch her grow, and also the saddest to leave the baby phase behind.
Never. Not. Happy.
We took the family to see the holiday lights at Chatfield Farms before we flew out to New York, which ended with freezing cold kids and lots of tears … but it was pretty while it lasted!
Early Christmas at home before we left meant another excuse to wear our matching Christmas pajamas … not that I ever need an excuse.
Thank you, Denver Airport, for having all the fun holiday entertainment! Emilia hadn’t met Santa yet, so this helped me tick that item off my bucket list 😉
As a surprise to no one, Emilia is a champion traveler.
At Grandpa’s …. pre-Covid confirmations :/

New York City for a Day

We had always planned to head into the city for a day during this trip, but we got spooked by Covid numbers the morning we were meant to catch the train. So we ditched the public transport idea and decided to rent a car, instead. I’m so glad we did, because it ended up being a highlight of the trip. It was the first visit for Emilia, and seeing the city we love all decked out for the holiday … well, there’s really nothing quite like it.

We stuck to the touristy parts of midtown — Grand Central, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays — and seeing these things through the kids’ eyes, for the first time, was so much fun.

Ah, the allure of a mini-van. I won’t lie … it was definitely nice having this extra room! We love our Highlander, but a mini-van … let’s just say I get it now.
There is nothing like that skyline.
This is the building where it all started for me. My first real job in magazines — an internship at More and then a full-time gig at Parents — was right here, and I must have walked these streets hundreds of times. To be back there, taking a photo with my girls, really meant a lot to me <3
Of all the places in the city to visit on a holiday trip, Bryant Park is my absolute favorite.
And of course no NYC trip is complete without a big ole’ street vendor pretzel!
Times Square was freezing! But the ball was up, and the girls thought the craziness was so much fun!
Grace was very excited by the Rockefeller Christmas Tree 😉
We spent a lot of time in front of these window displays, and Lotte would have stayed even longer! She was so thoroughly entranced by them, and it was the cutest thing in the world to see.
We ended our visit with a trip to Grand Central, where Chris showed the girls the parabolic curve (where you can talk to people on opposite sides!) and the pretty main hall.
And the Grand Central Market for treats, of course!
Love ya, NYC. Until next time …

Christmas and the Days Before It

We learned the day after we got back from the city that my stepdad had Covid, so we hightailed it out of his house and went over to my sister’s (after we all got negatives on our rapid tests, of course). This ended up being futile, since our Christmas morning tests were negative again, and by the next day my brother-in-law and then sister had it, as well. Still, for those couple of days, we continued on, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Chris and I had already decided that we would be leaving early, and we had already cancelled our Airbnb trip to a lake house in PA (THANK YOU AIRBNB FOR ISSUING A REFUND!) and had moved our flights up by a week to return home (THANK YOU SOUTHWEST FOR ALLOWING US TO DO THIS FOR ONLY THE COST OF THE FLIGHT CHANGE, A MEASLY $150!). We figured if we’re going to get sick, we’d want to be at home when that happened.

Plus, we had nowhere to stay. We officially had Covid cases in both of the family homes where we could go.

I know a lot of people had their holidays ruined or changed due to Covid this year, and I can only hope that by next year, we’ll be in a better place. Who knows, really, but for now, like I said, I’m counting my blessings …

At least there was snow on Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve gifts from elves, courtesy of my sister <3
At-home manicures were a big hit!
The cutest.
Also the cutest!
Christmas morning cuties!
Grace’s face pretty much says it all … does it not?!

And that was our trip in a (shortened) nutshell, friends. We made it back home in one piece, which is pretty much all that I can ask for at this point, and we’ll be ringing in the New Year together as a family of five <3

See you all in 2022 … and BIS BALD!

Keep the drinks coming!

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 😉

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through — like we did on the way out — 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 😉
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop — 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 — The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip — about four hours — to our Airbnb in Vandalia — 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 😉
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 — 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 — Shimoji Coffee — 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 — including places stayed, food ate, things visited — 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 — who has made it this far in this post! — has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!

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!

1,834 Miles & 8 States: From Colorado to Brigantine, New Jersey

It was pure joy for all of us when we finally arrived in Brigantine after our overnight drive!

Happy Friday, friends! The photo above was taken the morning after we arrived in Brigantine, which was around 2 in the morning. Despite that early morning entry, someone (aka Lotte) was up and at ’em on Saturday morning, ready to start her vacay! I was totally here for that, so we hopped in the car and headed to get some Brigantine Bagels for the family while we waited for everyone else to wake up and for Steph & Brian & Rosalie to arrive … but I digress.

First …. we drove across eight states to get there!

We picked the girls up from summer camp around 1 MT and hit the open road!

We really wanted the girls to get one more day of summer camp in, and for Chris to work one more day, before we left for our trip. So we decided to leave right after picking them up on Thursday, around 1 pm MT. They were so excited when we got them, and totally ready (although possibly completely unaware of what it would really entail!) for the ride! We decided to head out via Nebraska, so we could add that state to our list, and to head back the same way we came when we drove out back in 2015 when we first moved here.

Driving overnight was a conscious decision we made to get to our destination more quickly (and to save on hotels), but we knew we’d be exhausted driving home, so we planned to break the trip up into three nights on the way back. Now, having completed the trip, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Driving through the night was hard at times, but the adrenaline really kicked in (for me, at least, the Red Bull kicked in for Chris), and it wasn’t as bad as you might imagine.

The Nebraska/Colorado state line

We were super excited for the girls to tick a bunch of states off their list as well, but unfortunately most of the state line signs were directly on highways, where it wasn’t safe to stop. We did get this doozy of a photo as we entered Nebraska, though ….