Sunflowers, Friends & Family, Farm Animals and Unbeatable Views in New York

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Happy Tuesday, friends! We’re still here in New York, where we’ve been since last Wednesday, and we have done all. of. the. things.

We flew in. Rented our car. Drove to Liberty State Park. Spent one night at my sister’s before driving to stay with my friend at her place in Woodstock. Threw Lotte a third birthday party. Drove back to my sister’s. Visited my grandmother in the hospital. Took family photos at an amazing sunflower farm near my sister’s house and, today, I babysat all three babes while my sister, Brian and Chris worked.

Phew! And we aren’t even halfway through!

Continue reading “Sunflowers, Friends & Family, Farm Animals and Unbeatable Views in New York”

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 — sans children! — 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.

Continue reading “Making Memories on Memorial Day in Upstate New York”

Cousins Are for Life

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Is there anything in the world quite like holding your baby sister’s first baby in your arms? I’ll go ahead and answer that for you — no. No, there is not.

I just got back this past weekend after nine days out in New York, the purpose of which was to do just that — hold my baby sister’s first baby in my arms.

And, you know, help out, however I could.

Continue reading “Cousins Are for Life”

An Epic Holiday Trip to Australia

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Man, oh man — do those look like happy faces, or what?!

I can hardly believe I’m about to write these words, but our epic holiday trip to Australia is over.

Sad face times one million, for real.

But, if the above picture (and all the 5,000 that are about to follow) are any indication, you better believe that an amazing, fantastic, wonderful, memorable time was had by all.

I’ll break our trip down into a couple different posts to cover some of the best parts, but I wanted to start off with a little intro post to cover some of the major points that I learned about traveling with two littles all the way across the world:

  1. Prep is great (and important!), but at the end of the day, you can never really know how your travel will go down. For example, I spent a small fortune on snacks and gadgets and toys for the kids, and while yes, we did use some of them, we didn’t end up using probably half of what we brought (clothing included). Still, I say it’s better to be prepared than to be without, and while the girls both ended up being pretty awesome on the incredibly long and taxing flights, I do think that having everything we had helped me relax a bit, since I knew we did all we could to make them comfortable. (P.S. When it comes to products, this Fly Tot inflatable cushion was pretty clutch when it came to Lotte’s comfort, since she is too big for a bassinet and too small to be comfortable just pushing her seat down to sleep. We were able to inflate it and put it between her seat and the back of the seat in front of her so she could put her feet up on it. It also worked well as a spot to hold extra toys.  The LapBaby was also good for G, since we could strap her to our waist and she and we could both have our hands free. Other suggestions I found useful (even if not necessarily for us) were to bring along sugar-free jelly beans for little ones’ ears for take off and landing, as well as Pedialyte powder packs — which, turns out, Lotte doesn’t like much — to keep them drinking and hydrated.) One other thing we found useful with prep was to really hype the airplane aspect up ahead of time. We made sure that Lotte knew we would be getting on an airplane and flying really long and far to see Nan and Poppa, and that we would be eating and sleeping and playing and watching tv … all on an airplane! And I think that helped, because for both flights Lotte kept saying things like, “I’m eating dinner on an airplane!” “I’m taking a nap on an airplane!” I mean, how often in parenting do we get to call something a flat-out win? Like, never, right? So I’ll take this one!
  2. Packing cubes rule the most. Especially if you’ll be traveling with a family, get some multi-colored packing cubes to throw everyone’s stuff in — they will change your life! You can keep everyone’s stuff organized by color cube, and you’ll be able to keep everything organized both in and out of the suitcase, as well.
  3. Do some healthcare research ahead of time. Lotte actually did get sick on this trip — a chest infection that included a fever, which was her first — but we were lucky enough to be with family who knew where to go and we were in a country where we spoke the same language. If we had been in a foreign area or a place where we didn’t speak the language, the situation would have been much more difficult. A quick trip to urgent care (or Australia’s version of urgent care, anyway) and a prescription of antibiotics later, and Lotte was back to her bouncy self in about a day. I’m grateful we were able to get her feeling better so quickly. My advice would be to check out where the closest hospitals and urgent care (or equivalent services) will be where you are traveling, and to be sure you can get across the important information in the language you’ll need to know to make things right. Find out the best way to cover emergencies overseas, as well, since your American healthcare plan likely won’t help you much, there.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No … seriously. At the end of the day, even the frustrating or silly or insane things that happen to you while traveling (within reason, of course) will be the funny stories you tell when you’re back home, or even more likely, they’ll be the things you completely forget. I know for a fact there were stressful times on this trip — how could there not be with a 2.5 and 1-year-old — but right now, I couldn’t really tell you what they were. Keep that in mind when you’re actually going through it, and remember to breath.
  5. No, there is no such thing as too many pictures. Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time documenting our travels through photos rather than sitting with them in the moment. I’ve come to the conclusion that no, there is no such thing as taking too many pictures.

What’s that you say — you’d like some proof? Oh, okay, twist my arm why don’t you?! Here are some shots from our first two days. Yes, these are just from our first two days. Many, many more photos and memories to come, my friends 😉

‘Til tomorrow … bis bald! And happy 2019!
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^^ Pure bliss with Auntie Kate, who will be here in five days and is staying with us for two months! However did we get so lucky?!

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^^ Did I deflate this ‘Welcome to Australia’ balloon and bring it back with us so that I could frame it for the girls as a keepsake of their first trip to Australia? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll never know. (Except that yeah, I definitely did.)

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^^ That Auntie Sarah is some kind of special — she always, always got the smiles out of our girls <3

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^^ Introducing the girls to Chris’ grandma was most definitely a major highlight of this trip <3

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^^ There were lots of other family members eager and excited to meet our littles, as well.

img_3496 (1)img_3494^^ On the second day, we threw Lotte in the car and headed off to a place referred to as ‘the tip,’ which is essentially a big ole’ garbage heap where the kangaroos hang out. Gross? Maybe. Amazingly fun and exciting, especially when you watch your 2.5-year-old see her first live kangaroos? Most definitely.

More on our adventures tomorrow, friends!

2018: A Year in Review

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Well friends, somehow — and I’m really not sure how — this photo was taken on New Years Eve ONE YEAR AGO. 2018 is coming to a close, and since we leave for Australia the day after tomorrow, I figured I should put together my Year In Review post before we head out, and then just add Epic Australia, as I will from now on be calling it, once we’re back.

So without further adieu, here is a bit of what we got up to in the year that started with us expanding our little family ….

Continue reading “2018: A Year in Review”

A Trip Back East & Little Grace’s First Flight

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Happy Wednesday, friends! Lotte, Grace, Chris & I are back from a quick trip to Pennsylvania and New York, and we had the best time visiting with friends & family there. This was Grace’s first plane ride, and she did so great! Lotte was slightly antsy for about the last half hour of both rides there and back, but I guess that’s to be expected from an almost-two-year old, right? All-in-all I’d say they both did amazingly well.

We mostly flew back so that we could attend the second annual MS fundraiser that my sister and I threw in honor of our mom, which was a yoga session we held at Stone Wave Yoga in Gardner, NY. That event was amazing—with about $1,500 raised and counting!—but we also tacked on visits with my dad and stepmom, Jen & Kev and the boys, my grandma and aunt and uncle and cousins. It was a lot of driving back and forth for the girls, but they are true travel champs, and I honestly think they had the best time. I know I did.

Here are some of the highlights from our five-day, quick trip back east.

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^^ This was Lotte’s 7th flight (14th, if you count back and forth!). Quite the little traveler for only almost-two 😉

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^^ We picked up some kids’ pieces from the Love Taza Luggage Collection at Target for the trip, and while Lotte wasn’t sure about the headphones prior to the trip, she really seemed to enjoy them on the actual flight. The activity set was clutch, too!

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^^Mommom & Papa’s house has allllll the toys, so Lotte was one happy girl once we got there!

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^^ Saturday morning we had breakfast at my parents, then we packed up their car and headed to New York to stay at Steph and Brian’s for Saturday and Sunday.

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^^ This was the first time Grace met my Grandmother (along with most of my other extended family!), and it really was such a special day for me.

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^^ My grandmother with my children. I mean … it doesn’t get much more special than that <3

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^^ My grandmother with all three of her great-grandchildren!

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^^ Lotte is pretty obsessed with dogs lately, so getting to meet and hang out with Linus, my sister’s pup, was pretty fun for her, too.

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^^ A friend of mine from college brought her son, Jacob, to the fundraiser on Sunday, and he was born exactly one month after Grace. How cute are these two together?!

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^^ My girls, all dressed up for their grandma’s fundraiser.

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^^ We had such a beautiful day for our event on Sunday, and Stone Wave Yoga provided such an amazing backdrop.

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^^ Back at Mommom & Papa’s on Monday, we got to hang with Jen & Kev and the boys for dinner and a mini birthday celebration for me <3

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^^ These two! Jude was born about two months before Lotte, and he was the first baby Lotte met when Jen flew out to Colorado when Lotte was first born. I hope they are always bonded.

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^^ Can you even with these four?!

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^^ And just like that, we were back on the plane Tuesday morning heading back to Colorado. Lotte was not into turning away from the window for this family shot 😉

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My little Weary Wanderers! Traveling with kids is never not an ordeal, with all the stuff you have to bring and (occasionally!) all the whining you have to endure, but to me, it’s also never not worth it. There hasn’t been one trip that I’ve been on with the family that I have regretted. I hope that even though the girls are too young to likely remember these trips, having these photos will mean the world to them as they get older.

And that was our trip in a nutshell, friends! I hope everyone else is having a great start to the spring season, as well <3 Bis bald!

Life Recently: The Gratitude Edition

Welcome to Friday, friends. My sister and stepdad will be coming into town for a few days next week because, unbelievably, it is already the anniversary of my Mom’s death. One whole year has absolutely flown by, and I can’t believe it. As I prepare myself for that day, I can’t help but realize how many amazing things I have in my life, in stark contrast to the sadness that thinking of this dreaded anniversary brings.

To honor my Mom — and to help cheer things up a bit, at least for the time being — I thought I’d dedicate this Life Recently post to being grateful for all the amazing things I have. There’s a lot I’m thankful for, friends, so sometimes it helps to take a second to remember that …

So without further adieu, I’m grateful for …

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^^ A sister and stepdad who love my daughter (and me, I guess ;)) unconditionally, and who basically will drop everything and fly out to Colorado because that’s where I think we need to be together on the anniversary of my Mom’s passing.

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^^ These two together, all day, every day.

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^^ All the trips we’ve been able to make with Lotte so far … may the ease of travel always remain the same!

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^^ Lotte’s hair in this picture!

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^^ This adorable decorative ladybug, gifted to me (and my sister and stepdad) by my best friend, who knows how ladybugs have come to symbolize my Mom and her continued presence in our lives.

06ColoradoSky
^^ The Colorado sky.

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^^ Speaking of signs, my Mom has been giving me plenty in these days leading up to my birthday and the anniversary of her passing. The biggest, I think, when when I accidentally clicked on the “credit” folder in my Gmail instead of the “coupons” one, and an email between myself and my Mom — a lovely one, too — showed up at the top. There was no reason for an email from my Mom to have been archived in “credit”, and clicking on it was completely accidental. It was just what I needed on the Friday heading into my birthday weekend. Later in the week the above ad showed up in my Instagram feed. The bottom left elephant journal was something my Mom was able to purchase for Lotte before she died, and I so treasure filling it out for Lotte now. Signs are not something I necessarily thought much about before, but I do have to say, they are everywhere.

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^^ This hat and baby sunglasses, which were both gifts and which Lotte hates, but which I continue to put her in because come on how adorable?!

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^^ This insanely gorgeous tree in our backyard. This is the first April we’ve been here, so we had never seen it in bloom before. It truly is magnificent.

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^^ All the other glorious trees Lotte and I come across on our daily walks.

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^^ And all their glorious details.

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^^ The prairie dogs at Standley Lake, which simply do not care about humans and will not run away from you!

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^^ And Standley Lake views, of course.

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^^ This hygge lamp, which I became obsessed with after reading “The Little Book of Hygge.” Chris bought it for me as a birthday present and installed it in our hallway. I love it … and him, of course.

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^^ A husband who continues to make the most fabulous, personalized birthday wrapping paper for me each and every year. This was only one version of this years’ …the other featured Lotte prominently, of course.

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^^ The beautiful birthday hike we went on to Gem Lake in Estes Park last weekend.

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^^ Old friends and new. After we got home from Estes Park last weekend we had a little barbecue back at our place with two other couples — all four of whom had gone to college with Chris — and their kids. I love Lotte’s cheeky face in this picture, as well as how many pictures we actually had to take to get one decent one.

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^^ Squint really hard and look at the top right of our deck. Can you see the two baby bunnies?! A couple months back Chris and I were pretty sure the main bunny in our yard had picked up a Mrs., and she appeared to be with child, as well. Now we know we were right! (Also repurposing the indoor/outdoor rug from our NYC apartment to use on our back deck … that makes me happy, too ;))

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^^ This awesome tree wallpaper in our basement bathroom — I love the way it looks!

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^^ Friends who buy Lotte the cutest clothes and hats!

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^^ All these goodies, which make it much easier for me to work. (Of course checking on Lotte frequently while she’s “napping” — which she clearly isn’t doing here! — is just good for my soul .. not necessarily my work.)

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^^ And lastly, this little girl, all by her lonesome, day in and day out. I could never have imagined what it would be like to be a mother, but it’s something special. She’s my heart and soul, that’s for sure … even when she’s screaming her head off 😉

Bis bald, friends. I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

From New York to Philly to Virginia & Back — a Trip East With My Little

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^^ The most amazing turnout — with the most amazing group of women — for the MS fundraiser in honor of my Mom.

Heya friends,

So we’re back from our monster trip east, and Lotte & I had an amazing time. We saw so much family and so many friends, we covered miles & miles & miles in the car together (one of these days I’ll have to actually sit down and see how many miles we really drove), Lotte saw her first monuments in D.C., she spent tons of quality time with her Philly cousins, she was the hit of the MS fundraiser my sister & I held in honor of Mom at Wine & Design in Warwick, she attended her great-grandma and great-aunt’s 95th birthday party … and oh-so-many more important and amazing things.

Before we actually had Lotte, we weren’t exactly sure how much traveling we’d do with her. Traveling with kids is hard and at times very stressful, and let’s be honest, it’s not like she’s making lasting memories here. But you know what … we are. And I’ve come to realize as Lotte grows and goes through babyhood that that is just as important. These trips we take with her are some of my fondest memories, and I will never forget them. (Neither, luckily, will she, since I take extensive notes to put in her baby travel diary — complete with pictures! — and of course she’ll always have this blog to refer to, as well.)

The point is – yes, traveling with kids can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out, but so far, I am never sorry for the trips we’ve done with Lotte, and I only hope that continues.

Here’s a look at what we got up to over the past 10 days in photos. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give another BIG shout-out to my husband for flying out and surprising us last Friday to be there for my Mom’s fundraiser, my Grandma’s 95th birthday party and, of course, to help on the flight back home with Lotte. Funny how four hands are so much better than two when it comes to flying with Littles 😉

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^^ All prepped and ready for our first solo flight as Mom & baby! In all seriousness, though, I know how lucky Chris & I got with Lotte. She’s a pretty solid, amazing little traveler, so things might be a tad different is she were more difficult …

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^^ We don’t have a dog at home, so Lotte’s only real interaction with them so far has been at my stepdad’s house with Ranger. Honestly I wasn’t sure how Ranger would react to Lotte at first — he can be a bit of a loose cannon — but especially in his older age, he tolerates her quite nicely, which is nice, because she is obsessed!

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^^ Quick pit stop at Aunt Steph’s & Uncle Brian’s on Saturday to pick them up on our way into Pennsylvania for Rory’s 4th birthday party.

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^^ These two together = major cuteness! Peyton, on the right, is actually three months younger than Lotte, but she’s almost the same size. It’s really only when she gets with other babies that I’m reminded of what a tiny nugget Lotte is!

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^^ Dad’s fancy omelette bar on Sunday morning.

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^^ Jude!

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^^ Rory seriously loves Lotte, and it’s pretty much the sweetest.

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^^ Cuddles with my babe on our first day in Arlington, Virginia, to visit Lisa. I think I honestly was just so relieved the car ride from Pennsylvania went well!

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^^ This bear was pretty amazing to use as a backdrop in many-a-Lotte photo!

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^^ Driving into D.C. to take in the sites — don’t let this innocent face fool you, she screamed the entire way in and the entire way out! Those two car rides — which must have amounted to about 20 minutes total — and the one back to Newark airport to head home were the only ones she fussed (or should I say threw a tantrum) for. I guess that was … lucky?!

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^^ Patriotic Baby.

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^^ In front of the Reflecting Pool … not impressed!

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^^ At the World War II Memorial … not impressed!

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^^ Heading to the Lincoln Memorial … not impressed!

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^^ At the Washington Monument … not impressed!

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^^ Visiting good ole’ Abe … not impressed!

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^^ I mean … you get it. Lotte was not impressed! But it was a gorgeous day, and I hadn’t been back to these places myself in many, many years, so overall it was a pretty fun day!

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^^ Tuckered out from all her touristing. Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping baby??

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^^ We were back in the car on Wednesday and back with Rory and Jude in no time (well, in about three hours, to be exact).

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^^ I particularly love this photo from our trip. I took this after I opened up the back door of the car after our ride from PA back to New York (our FOURTH long car ride, mind you), and Lotte was just chillin’ in her car seat, giving me the BIGGEST smile when she saw me. Oh Lotte … how I love you.

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^^ Deep conversations back at Aunt Stephie’s house.

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^^ When your husband surprises you and flies to New York for the weekend and you can breathe because you finally have full-time help again. Single parents … I have never had more respect for you than I do after this trip! Oh and Lisa also got into town this day, too, so it was almost more than my little heart could handle, all my lovies surrounding me 😉

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^^ Delicious crinkle cookies Lisa made for the MS fundraiser.

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^^ Making sangria for the party!

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^^ I seriously love this photo of Lisa, after we picked up balloons for the party.

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^^ Lotte was a tad grumps during the fundraiser — girlfriend deserved to be! — even when seeing her future boyfriend Miles again.

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^^ Between the paint & sip fundraiser and online donations, we raised more than $2,000 for MS research. Speechless. And oh-so thankful.

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^^ After the fundraiser it was on to my Grandma and Great-Aunt Vicki’s 95th birthday party, which my aunt did a fabulous job setting up.

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^^ Ugh these two cuties!!!! Can you imagine knowing — and liking! — someone for 95 years?!

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^^ Lotte frequently gets this look on her face when she’s around her Great-Grams. I can’t help but feel like she honestly understands what this woman means to our family, and to her.

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^^ Kisses after a little speech I made. I love my Aunt Vicki wasting no time before she downs her Prosecco!

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^^ Not pictured: Aunt Stephie cracking Lotte up by blowing into a party noisemaker. It. Was. Amazing.

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^^ As if that weren’t enough partying for you, everyone surprised me with an early birthday cake back at Steph’s house that night. Sigh. The love.

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^^ Headed to the airport on Sunday.

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^^ These two.

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^^ So many toys to keep her occupied, and all she wanted to do was play with the free airplane cracker packet. 

IMG_8113IMG_8122^^ Home. That makes six plane rides for this little 8-month-old.

And those were the highlights, my friends. Usually trips like these tend to feel like a whirlwind (I feel like I use that word a lot when describing my trips!), but this one actually didn’t. Sure it was busy and hectic and hard at times, but overall I felt really good about everything we did, and so happy about everyone we got to see. It was a trip I’d repeat over and over again, with my Little by my side.

Bis bald, friends! Till next time …

We’re Home From Our Trip Back East!

 

Well friends, Lotte & I are home from our epic trip back east, and while it will likely take me at least a couple of days to go through all my photos, here’s just the slightest of tastes of what we got up to:

1. Lotte attended her first birthday party — it was for my nephew Rory’s 4th.
2. We traveled in the car a lot! Trips included from NY to PA, from PA to VA, back from VA to PA and finally from PA back to NY … not to mention to and from Newark Airport ;).
3. Lotte took her first trip into D.C.! We visited quite a few sites with Lisa (see above photo), but I’ll have more on that later.
4. CHRIS SURPRISED ME AND FLEW BACK TO NEW YORK ON FRIDAY TO HELP ME OUT WITH LOTTE & ATTEND THE BELOW EVENTS!!! If that’s not an awesome husband, I just don’t know what is.
5. My sister and I hosted an MS fundraiser this past Saturday in honor of our Mom, and it was awesome. We raised over $2,000 in total, and I think it’s safe to say everyone had a great time and our Mom would have been (is) proud.
6. After the MS fundraiser we went to celebrate my Grandma and her twin’s 95th birthday … how utterly amazing is that?!

I’m sure there is more I’m forgetting, but hopefully going through all my photos will jog my memory. For now, check out my one photo from the sad cherry blossoms in D.C. (a recent frost killed them all!), and a pic of Lotte checking out our landing back in Denver. That girl loves herself an airplane landing <3

Bis bald friends! And happy Spring!

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My First Solo Flight With the Little

 

Well friends, Lotte and I were meant to leave today for our little east coast adventure, but because of the snow they got I decided to change our flight to Friday to avoid any potential delays or other issues. The main reason I did that was because this is my first flight solo with my babe, and to be honest, I’m a little nervous! I just hope all goes well – and if anyone has any tips on traveling with littles (even though I’ve written my fair share of articles on the topic, I feel like you can never have enough advice!), please do feel free to share in the comments.

For now though, I’m allowing myself to bask in the extra two days of packing, which perhaps is a bad thing! (See below.) We have quite the itinerary for this trip — Lotte and I — including cousin Rory’s 4th birthday party in Pennsylvania, a trip to D.C. (Lotte’s first!) to visit Lisa, and a fundraiser for my mom next Saturday that my sister and I are hosting, among other things.

So I guess all of this is to say … pray it goes well for me, friends!

Bis bald!

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Thanksgiving 2016 – Part II

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^^ These little cuties all together … it’s almost too much to handle.

Last Friday after Thanksgiving we packed up the car and headed to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with my dad and stepmom, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews. We had another Thanksgiving and my parents threw a little party for family to meet Lotte, so it was hectic, but a whole lot of fun.

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^^ Starting second Thanksgiving morning with donuts and coffee is pretty amazing in my books.

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^^ These two had a bit of a love affair going on, and it made my heart so, so happy!

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^^ Watching football with Papa. Hey it was a holiday, why not 😉

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^^ This cute little family …

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^^ Both Jude and Lotte’s faces crack me up in this picture!

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^^ Party food!

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^^ Back at my mom and stepdad’s on Sunday night we had a couple people over to meet Lotte, as well. One of my best friends from junior high just had her first baby, too — baby Miles — so Lotte got to meet him. That’s auntie Moe in the middle. I’ve known these ladies for oh-so-many years, and I’m just really grateful for their friendship.

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^^ Miles is only about 2-months-old, so I love that Lotte is his older, wiser friend 😉

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^^ This picture cracks me up! Look at my little Lotte makin’ moves on Miles!

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^^ Fell asleep in Aunt Stephie’s arms on Sunday night. She was totally exhausted after all her meet and greets, but it was just about the best time ever.

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^^ Grandpa Robert sure knows how to multi-task 😉

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^^ And suddenly, before we knew it, we were back at Newark for our flight home. Amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun.

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^^ This little angel mostly slept and ate on the way back home, which was so nice!

And that was it — our incredibly hectic, fun and full-of-love Thanksgiving break. I hope you guys had just as much fun.

Now … on to December!

Bis bald, friends!

A First Plane Ride in the Books

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Well friends, someone had her first plane ride last Tuesday (and her second one back home to Denver yesterday), and I’m happy to report she did very well! It’s going to take me a couple days at least to go through all my photos of our trip, but for now I wanted to share this pic of Lotte looking out the window as we touched down back home in Denver yesterday. Whether you were old enough when you took your first flight to remember it or not, there’s just something so magical about it.

Bis bald, friends – I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving.

To Tokyo, With Love

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Hi friends,

So last Thursday we left for Japan, knowing full well that we would have quite the journey ahead of us. With Chris running a marathon on Sunday that he was not prepared for (an injury caused him to cease training almost as soon as he began), and with me and my preggers self, the 13-hour flight alone could have been problematic.

Luckily for us, it turned out to be okay. With my trusty pair of compression socks and tons of snacks packed away in our bags, we were ready! That’s not to say that the flight time just flew by, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as my worst-case scenario mind was imagining it to be. I will take a hot sec to complain about one thing regarding the flight, though, which was American Airlines’ inability to get me a vegetarian meal. Chris had signed me up for that option when we first booked our flight, and heading out to Tokyo they didn’t have any set aside for me (luckily for the first meal there was an extra laying around, but for the second there wasn’t, which meant I went without dinner, and preggers me does not like going without meals!), and for the flight home we called to double check about that and were told we had to sign up for it within a 24-hour timeframe of the flight leaving? What kind of craziness is that? So I didn’t have the veggie meal heading home, either. Major bummer.

Anyway, once we arrived (around 5 p.m. Tokyo time), we set off to find the apartment where we would staying with Chris’s parents, which was this cute little place in Shibuya, which really turned out to be a great location not only for the race (Chris said it was a short warm-up jog to the start line), but also for our general touristing later in the week, since it was close to two major subway lines.

About the subway. Chris had purchased our PASMO cards (for the subway) and our Japan Rail Pass tickets (for the bullet train to and from Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as between Kyoto and Hiroshima) ahead of time, so we had those in the mail to bring with us to Japan, and it was amazing having them. We even opted to upgrade to first class for the JRAIL Passes, and I’m so glad we did. The bullet trains travel at about 200 MPH, but we were still on the train from Tokyo to Kyoto for about 2 hours and 40 minutes and for 1 hour and 40 minutes from Kyoto to Hiroshima, so it was nice to have that extra leg room, a foot rest, and a nice quiet ride. Another note about transportation in and around Japan — subway is definitely the way to go. We took cabs a few times (and they are super fancy cabs, at that! The doors even open automatically for you!), but they are expensive, so it’s not really economically feasible to use them for all your transportation if you’re in town for a while, like we were.

Anyway, moving on! It was late when we arrived at our apartment on Friday, but we ventured out with the Connors for our first (of many!) noodle dinners in the cute little surrounding neighborhood. A town that loves noodles? I can get behind that 😉

Saturday and Sunday of our trip were marathon-themed, as we went to the Expo Saturday for Chris to register and get his race bib, and Sunday was the actual race.

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^^^ Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, and they dispense mostly (if not all) drinks, even HOT coffee and hot chocolate! They’re pretty amazing.

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^^^ At the expo, gettin’ geared up!

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^^^ Signing his name into history on the Abbott World Marathon Majors sign. As we would come to find out later, Chris is one of only about 600 or so runners to have completed all six world marathons in the World Marathon Series so far. Ummmm … you’re pretty impressive, my dear.

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^^^ Honestly, all credit for getting around during our trip goes to this guy. The Connors and I were all too happy to give up transportation control to Chris, and we were well taken care of in his hands.

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^^^ Our little family of three was ready on race day!

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^^^ Chris will tell you this wasn’t his best race (because it wasn’t a PR, and it was a struggle to finish since he wasn’t able to train at all), but he finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes, which for any normal person would still be an insanely fast time. He’s now a six-time World Marathon Series Marathon F.I.N.I.S.H.E.R! Way to go, Chris Connor!

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^^^ Unfortunately a lot of the restaurants we ended up eating at had Japanese names (obviously), so I don’t envision that my posts will be a lot of help in the food department. However, I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with food in Japan, and we ended up using Foursquare a lot to find places to eat, which is fast becoming my food app of choice when traveling. It has yet to let us down! So for dinner after the marathon, we found this adorable hole-in-wall (thanks Foursquare!) noodle shop that sits about 15 people max and had the most insanely delicious noodles I probably ate the entire trip. We waited about 40 minutes to get seated, but they take your order while you wait, so pretty much as soon as you sit down the food was at the table. Pretty genius, if you ask me!

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^^^ One of the things I loved most about restaurants in Japan was that at pretty much all of them the chefs making the food — and particularly the fresh noodles — were on display to watch. So. Much. Fun!

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^^^ And … the delicious meal. Yum!

And that was our 2-day marathon experience in a nutshell, folks! It was perhaps the final time that the Connors and I will be marathon spectators for Chris (another reason the trip was emotional for me!) — although I would never say never with that one!

I’ll be back tomorrow to start chatting about Monday and beyond, when we got really down and dirty with the touristy part of our trip 😉

‘Til then – bis bald, friends!

Should You Fly a Budget Airline? (Like Spirit Air)

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Hi friends. So back in the day when we flew out to Denver for spring break, we flew this little airline called Spirit. You may have heard of it, since it’s been in the news a lot lately for its horrible, terrible, no good very bad customer service. And for its fees. And for its delay record. And just about every other complaint you can throw at an airline.

Anyway, me and Chris, my sister and her boyfriend, we all flew Spirit for the first time when we flew out to Denver, and with all the uproar lately surrounding the airline, I decided to throw my own two cents in. You can read the whole post over here, but here’s a bit of an excerpt:

I fly a lot.

In the past seven months I’ve flown Qantas to Australia, Icelandair to Iceland, JetBlue to Florida and … drum roll, please …Spirit to Denver.

In case you’ve missed the news recently, Spirit isn’t exactly a luxury airliner – nor are they No. 1 in customer service. In fact, they’re dead last – drawing complaint rates that were more than three times higher than the second-place airlines from 2009 to 2013

Here’s the thing though: The price was right. The available times worked out … and I had yet to read all the awful reviews the company consistently racks up. (And, for the record, has chalked up to simple misunderstandings.)

So, was it worth it? In my own personal opinion — yes, and here’s why. “

Love ’em or hate ’em, take ’em or leave ’em, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the budget airline?

Bis bald, friends!

 

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

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Hey friends,

As you all know by now, Chris and I returned home from our (awesome. amazing. unreal. fantastic. insert-fabulous-adjective here) trip to Iceland late last night, and I’ve been busting to share the info and photos with you. Alas, a full day of work has kept me from doing so until now.

Anyway, moving on. Coming home from a trip like this. just. plain. sucks! But going through all the photos and writing down the memories here to keep forever … well that’s just really fun.

Here we go! Day 1 in Iceland began last Friday, at around 6 a.m., Icelandic time ….

After a quick (and somewhat cramped) overnight flight from JFK, we landed at Keflavik Airport a little before our expected arrival time of 6 a.m. Which was actually 1 a.m. NY time.

Who needs sleep when you’re young?!

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly, highly  recommend since it was so easy and cheap (approximately $15), and you do not want to get to Iceland and have to worry about how you’re getting to your hotel, since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Like I said, we stayed at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik (Trip Advisor reviews can be found here), which was a tad off the beaten track from downtown Reykjavik (about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the city center, I’d say) — but the front desk ladies were always completely lovely and extremely helpful, and a decent breakfast was included, and the price was right … so really, I’d say if you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the really hopping part of town, it’s worth staying at the Best Western.

Of course getting in at 6 a.m. and arriving to our hotel around 7 a.m. meant we couldn’t check right in. Instead we stored our bags and hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going (and it stayed that way for about a good 20 minutes, I’d say. Why didn’t we just ask for directions?!), and the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered — we were on an adventure! We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi (also read about it here), stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.

Photo 1^^ The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!

Photo 2^^ Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??

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photo 4^^ One of these things is not like the other …

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During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.

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Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)

By the time we made it back outside it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! We made our way slowly back to the hotel (not before picking up some wine at the local store for later) to finally check in and take a nap before heading back out into the day. (As a side note, I’ve already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30ish in the winter in Iceland, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight. As it turns out, I didn’t mind it even one tiny little bit.)

After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.

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After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. (Also check it out in this list of the 11 coolest bars in Reykjavik, which I really wish I had seen before we left for our trip. But that’s okay … I think we did just fine. The trick is to just ask the locals … but more on that later!) This funky little place is actually a microbrewery, and we were able to sample four of their most delicious beers for the low, low price of $20.

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I think here might actually be a good place to mention prices in Iceland. Ummmm …. they be expensive!!! And we live in Manhattan, friends, so when someone from Manhattan calls another place expensive? Well, you just know it must be true. I’ll get a bit more into the finances of Iceland (or lack thereof) in day three, though, because that’s when we learned all about it. For the purpose of today’s blog post, let’s just put it out there that if you travel to Reykjavik, be prepared to drop some cash, friends. It’s one of the best places I’ve been in the world (What?! Did she really just say that?!), but it’s no cheap place to visit.

All of this detracts, however, from the awesomeness that is Micro Bar. It has such a homey, low-key vibe, with subdued lighting and tasty snacks and lovely bartenders, and the most adorable paintings of mountains (each with something tiny and surprising to find that makes it different) on the walls — this is a must while in Iceland.

I guess here is also a good place to tell you about what our original plans were for Friday night. As anyone who has ever read anything about Reykjavik or has been there will know — on the weekends, these people know how to party! They party hard and loud and long into the night. Like, they start the bar hopping around 12:30 or 1, friends. This is no joke. So knowing this was a Reykjavik ritual that we would most definitely be partaking in, we thought we’d grab a quick drink and dinner early, then head back to the hotel with some wine from the local liquor store (conveniently located near Micro Bar), some snacks from the grocery and take a quick power nap before heading out again around 12:30 or 1.

For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places list I linked out to above), but they were pretty booked when we tried there as well. (Don’t worry, we did make it to Snaps, eventually.) We instead stumbled on Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there. So that’s where we ate our first night, and it was spectacular, friends. To be fair, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we didn’t eat anything bad, per se, at all on this trip. (You can pretty much assume this means we didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic food — like whale, or Puffin. Ummm…needless to say I’m okay with that, and so is Chris.) So the Noodle Station on Friday night was delicious, but it wasn’t our best meal. Still, it’s worth a shot for lunch or if you’re in need of a quick nighttime meal, for sure.

On the way back to our hotel for some wine and our (what was meant to be a) power nap, we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese and crackers. We were also hoping to find some playing cards (which we without fail always forget to bring on trips), and when they didn’t have any for sale, the lovely man behind the counter who rang us up actually ended up pulling out a pack from behind the register and just giving them to us completely for free. I mean … how lovely! It was really a small act of kindness that made our night.

So that was pretty much our first day in Iceland, friends! I’m going to spare you the expense and just say we never made it out Friday night (100% my fault), but did get out with the crazy crowd on Saturday night … and it was every bit as much fun as everything I had read.

But more on that tomorrow. (That and a little thing called the Northern Lights!)

Bis bald, friends!

 

Travel Alert — Our South American Trip is Planned, People!

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So after much, much, much planning, research, debate, blood, sweat and tears on our part, Chris and I have finally locked down a South America itinerary that we’re — well let’s just say it — absolutely ecstatic with! Here’s how it goes:

We’ll arrive in Cusco, Peru a couple days ahead of our 5-day tour of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu with Cusi Travel. That tour looks a little something like this:

Day 1 – Cusco City Tour
Day 2 – Sacred Valley Tour
Day 3-4- Inca Trail/Machu Picchu 2D/1N
Day 5 – flight to Quito

In Quito we’ll connect with our second tour group, Southern Explorations, for our 12-day tour of the Galapagos Islands (I can’t breathe when I type that I’m so excited) and the Amazon Rainforest. That tour includes jungle walks, butterfly sanctuaries, canoe rides, bird watching, canopy walks and zip lines in the Amazon, as well as walks along Darwin’s Way, snorkeling with Galapagos penguins, sea lion, giant tortoise and Blue-footed Booby meetings, and so much more, in the Galapagos.

We’ll end the trip with a little over a week at an all-inclusive beach resort in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

I don’t think I really need to tell you guys just how excited we are for this trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime, and we feel more than a little lucky to be able to go on it.

Oh, and in other news … we leave Thursday for our trip to Iceland. That snuck up on us! Can’t wait to share all that info and the photos here with you guys when we’re back. As a heads up, we’ll be taking a Northern Lights tour, as well as a Gulfoss and Geysir Express Afternoon tour and a trip to the Blue Lagoon.

Bis bald, friends! Here’s to really livin’ it up in 2014!

Photo courtesy of Cusi Travel

 

 

 

Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!

Hi friends,

So we’re back home safe and sound (booo!), and things here have been a bit hectic since we landed. (You can thank our cat and her terrible lungs, which have now been fixed, thanks to the surgical team at the Animal Medical Hospital and our dwindling bank account!)

Anyway, I finally have some time to blog today, so I’ve upgraded to a better photo package which hopefully should keep me blogging for the next couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Back to our epic adventure, this trip really was separated into three parts:

  1. Our time spent in Bathurst with all of our amazing friends and family for our (fourth!) wedding celebration and the baptism of our niece/Goddaughter
  2. Our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef
  3. Our last weekend in Sydney before we left, which just so happened to coincide with the International Fleet Review where over 20 ships from around the world docked in Sydney Harbour. (Plus they had the largest fireworks show Australia has ever seen … and Prince Harry was there!)

As I like to do (to keep the trip lasting longer, and to stop your eyes from glazing over at one ginormous post), I’m going to break my blogging about this trip into the three sections accordingly.

So back to last Tuesday, we had boarded a Qantas flight to Australia …

Continue reading “Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!”

A Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip for the Man!

^^ I did it! I pulled off a secret!
^^ I did it! I pulled off a secret!

Hi friends!

So tomorrow is the big day — the day Chris and I fly out for his Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip! And yes, I somehow DID manage to keep the secret! (Well not the whole secret, I accidentally forwarded our flight information to him thinking it was information about a different flight. That was stupid.)

I put together these three envelopes for Chris to open when he got home tonight. Step 1 contained our boarding passes for our flight tomorrow. Step 2 contained our rental car information, becauseeeeeeee … Step 3 were our tickets to the Gentlemen of the Road St. Augustine Stopover Tour!

I’m totally excited for this. Not only will we be seeing Mumford & Sons, fun., Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and tons of other great acts, but I’ll finally get to show Chris St. Augustine, the town where I lived for a year and 1/2 after graduating from college. It means a lot to me to be able to share that with him.

I also booked a boat tour with Mike’s Yacht of Fun — so I can’t wait to report back on that!

Bis bald, friends! Pray for us to have good weather!

July 4 2013: Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona

View from our hike on our last day.
View from our hike on our last day.

Hi friends!

The few days since Chris and I got back from our trip have been a bit crazy, but I really wanted to take some time to post thoughts from our trip as soon as possible. So without further adieu, last Wednesday Chris and I were in a cab and off to La Guardia to catch our flight …

Continue reading “July 4 2013: Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona”

Arizona In Instagram Pics

Hi friends!

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend! For reasons that I will go into in more detail in my full trip post, I ended up taking the majority of my photos on this trip with my iPhone … which of course meant posting them directly to Instagram.

So I figured I’d just post a quick preview of things to come in my full-on post by uploading all of the Instagram pics here. But before I do that, just some highlights from our trip:

  • We spent 12 hours in Charlotte after missing our connecting flight to Phoenix because of rain delays, but that’s okay because we got to eat a wonderful brunch and check out the downtown area because of it.
  • We went on amazing hikes, ate delicious food and drank lots of tequila.
  • I experienced a slight case of heat exhaustion … not fun, my friends! And after all that research I did to avoid it!
  • We did lots of swimming in my friend’s pool.
  • We were randomly, and for reasons still unknown to us, upgraded to first class seats on our flight back from Phoenix. Not too shabby!

Here’s a taste of what’s to come …

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.
^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.
^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.
^^Bloody Mary’s in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.
^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.
^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.
^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.
^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.
^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.
^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.
^^Welcome to Sedona!!
^^Welcome to Sedona!!
^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.
^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.
^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.
^^Sedona hike–unbelievable.
^^Man and wilderness.
^^Man and wilderness.
^^Downtown Sedona.
^^Downtown Sedona.
^^Canyon Breeze views.
^^Canyon Breeze views.
^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.
^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.
^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.
^^Bye-bye Sedona. It’s been real.
^^Gilbert Farmer's Market.
^^Gilbert Farmer’s Market.
^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.
^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.
^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play... duh duh duhhhh!)
^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play… duh duh duhhhh!)
^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.
^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.
^^Cheers to you, Arizona!
^^Cheers to you, Arizona!
^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)
^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

So that’s it for now, my friends! I’ll be back soon with the full details of our (amazing and very hot!) trip.

Bis bald!

London 2013 and Chris’s 5th World Marathon Complete!

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Oh hey there, London.

Hi friends!

Oh. My. Goodness. What a whirlwind! So Chris and I just said farewell to his parents who, luckily, we’ll be seeing again for our wedding celebration in Australia in just five months. This apartment always feels so sad and lonely when they leave.

While they were here we took a trip to London, Chris ran the marathon and we headed upstate for a little Magnanini Winery wedding celebration with my mom’s side of the family.

It was a fast and furious two weeks, to say the least!

And that’s why I’m a tad late on my London posting. Of course it’s nowhere near faded from memory yet, but I do like to get my thoughts down on the blog as soon as possible, so I don’t leave any details out.

So about that, it was late last Thursday when we left for our little journey ….

Continue reading “London 2013 and Chris’s 5th World Marathon Complete!”

In the News: New Travel Site, GetGoing.com, Launches Today

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Can this new site make leisure travel cheaper?

Hey friends,

So I know I owe you a D.C. post (don’t say I didn’t warn you that we do a lot of hangin’ around when we’re together), but I wanted to jump on a press release that I received in my email this morning about a new travel site that, I think, has a lot of potential.

So the site, called GetGoing, works on what they’re calling a ‘pick two, get one’ process. What that essentially means is that users design two different trips (including dates, flight times, number of stops they want, etc.), and GetGoing works to get you the best discounts so you can actually purchase whichever trip turns out to be cheaper.

The system works because airlines often offer up to 40% off airfare for leisure travelers in order to fill up their empty seats. “Nearly one in five seats on all flights worldwide are empty, and we view that as a huge opportunity for more people to get out and see the world,” Alek Vernitsky, co-founder and CEO of GetGoing said in their press release. “So we decided to help flexible leisure travelers get great deals on those open seats by proving that they are actually traveling for leisure.” (Hence the reason users are prompted to pick two destinations.)

GetGoing is currently flying to hundreds of major airports in over 50 countries.

Check out the full video explanation of how the site works here:

What do you guys think? Would you try out GetGoing?

Tips for International Travel

While Chris and I get ready to head out to Palm Springs tomorrow (ummm…yay!), I have my head quasi in our trip this upcoming Fall to Berlin, Munich, Rome and Cinque Terre (which is a new destination for us, taking the place of what was formerly going to be Venice. Thanks for the heads up Libby and Allison!).

Don’t worry–once we’re in Palm Springs tomorrow I will officially have my head in the game!

Anyway, back to our Euro-trip. We have our hotels booked in Berlin, Munich and Rome, and our flights booked from NYC to Berlin, and back from Rome to NYC. Then, yesterday, we booked our flights from Berlin to Munich (turns out, that’s probably cheaper than training it…)

I came across this little diddy in the New York Times today about money tips for globe-trotters, and I’m finding it very useful. Some helpful advice includes:

  • Get a credit card with a chip
  • Tell your bank where you’re traveling
  • Learn the exchange rate before you land

Etc., etc. Anyway, just thought I’d share.

Okay, wish us luck! Tomorrow is moving day at my office, and then I’m off to catch the plane to California!

Too. Much. Fun.

New DOT Rules Change the Deals That Make It Into Our Inboxes

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I thought I would just share the interesting news I just got in an email from Travelzoo. According to the email, today new government regulations went into effect requiring all airlines and travel companies to include taxes and fees in published airfare, making the pricing more transparent for consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE THIS. The tone of Travelzoo’s email was worried at best. For example, in the second graph they write:

“When we tell you about fare deals from airlines or online travel agents, now we are also including these taxes, so prices will initially appear to be higher. But we’re still finding great prices, including some of the best fares we’ve seen in months.”

Fear not, Travelzoo—at least on my part, I will continue to eagerly read your travel updates in search of cheap flights. I do, however, look forward to this new transparency. Gone are the days of booking a flight advertised at $79 each way, only to find I am meant to pay $139 in taxes.

Because that seriously used to blow.

A Trip With My Girls in the Keys

So like I was saying yesterday, I just recently got back from a trip to Key West with my sisters. This was a gift trip from my dad which included:

As you can see, there were oh so many things to love about this trip. We came to the decision to go to Key West in the first place because we all wanted some place we hadn’t been before, some place that would be warm in January (but not too far away), and my BFF Lisa has always talked about spending time in the Keys with her fam. According to her, it was an amazing place…and she wasn’t lying.

So we three girls headed out at 4:15 a.m. Friday morning to catch our 6:30 a.m. flight.

Why is it that every single flight I take seems to leave at the crack of dawn.

Anyway, turns out leaving at 6:30 isn’t half bad when you’re flying first class. Free Bloody Mary’s, tons of leg room, a plethora of movies to choose from, warm towels….

The good stuff is just never-ending.

Anyway, after our first flight landed us in Tampa we caught our connecting flight to Key West, which just happened to be a teeny, tiny, 17-seater:

My sisters were less than impressed, to say the least.

I, however, saw it as an adventure 🙂

Anyway, after a quick hop, skip and 1 hour flight, we were finally in the Keys, where we picked up our awesome Mustang convertible!

Then, after only about 15 minutes of tinkering around, we were finally able to figure out how to get the top down:

So that was the first exciting thing to happen.

Our hotel was only about a 10 minute ride from the airport—but when you’re riding in a convertible every trip seems so much cooler.

At the hotel check-in the first day we were confronted with what would be our first clue into the festivities set to take place at the hotel that weekend. Despite his repeated check-ins to make sure that the three of us would have two rooms near each other, when we checked in we were told the hotel was so full, the best they could do was get us a room right above the other room.

Weird, right?

But whatever. We were nonplussed. That’s how you are on vacation, right? Things happen, and you just roll with the punches.

Our first order of business (or Steph’s first order of business, at least), was to check out the beach. Lisa had warned me ahead of time (and I had passed the word on), that the Keys don’t have beaches quite like other beaches. Our hotel just happened to have its own beachfront area, so that was nice, but even so, we ended up spending the majority of our time in the hot tub (where we met a medium, a 15-year-old bull herder, a CIA agent and a retired school teacher, to name a few).

That first night, at the recommendation of our new “medium” friend, we headed to Duval Street for dinner and to hit up Willie T’s, where bar-goers staple signed dollar bills to … well, pretty much anything they can find to staple it on:

After returning to the hotel Friday night we received our second clue as to the festivities of the weekend. Or should I say the festivities themselves made us aware of the festivities. Basically, at around 4 a.m. this incessant blasting of music started, and after about a half hour of listening to it, Steph and I decided to call down to the front desk. Turns out Jen had called as well, and they sent security up to stop it.

The next day we were told a wedding would be taking place at the hotel that night.

Oh, and it was someone local.

Oh, and there were about 500 people invited.

It wouldn’t be until later that day (well technically it was Sunday morning, to be exact), that we would find out it was actually the owner’s daughter who was getting married there.

But more on that to come later.

So after having very little sleep on Friday night, we nonetheless decided to head out to a few other places. First up was the Southernmost point in the U.S. (which is only 90 miles to Cuba), and to get some coconut water (Literally. A man with a drill was drilling holes into actual coconuts and selling them for $3.)

Then it was on to Mallory Square. Unfortunately we weren’t there at sunset, which is supposed to be the most beautiful (and most eclectic) time there. Oh well, that’ll just have to be for another trip.

After Mallory Square we headed over to this local seafood festival we had seen advertised in a park near the hotel. I’m really glad we ended up doing that. It was all local people and local restaurants with tons of booths filled with beer, seafood, artwork and live music. We ended up trying out lobster, conch fritters (Fried conch, basically. Whatever that is!), and shrimp.

After the festival (in which we all bought artwork by a local artist that was framed with used lobster traps! At the time it was cool…and it looks a lot cooler than it sounds, trust me) we went back to the hotel and the hot tub, before heading back out to Duval St. for dinner and—something I had been excited for the entire trip—Key Lime Pie!!

Now, what I forgot to mention before was that earlier in the day we stopped to pick up some provisions in preparation for the upcoming night:

Yup. Those, my dear friends, are ear plugs. But despite that fact that our sister Jen swears by them, Steph and I just could not seem to get used to them. It’s the oddest sensation to have those things in your ears, and try as we might, at around 3 a.m., when it seemed like we were perhaps in the clear and had avoided any ruckus for the evening, I removed the buds.

Bad move.

Turns out the partying wasn’t going to start until 4 a.m. that morning.

From 4 to 7:30 a.m. we sat up listening to the thump, thump, thumping of the base to the terrible music the party-goers were blasting (in, of course, what turned out to be the room right next to where Steph and I were bunked).

Despite my two phone calls, Jen’s two phone calls, and what I’m sure were any number of phone calls from whatever other rooms in that hotel turned out to not be guests of the wedding, there was nothing the poor manager on duty could do. What was she supposed to do, after all? Ask her boss to kindly turn it down?

I don’t think so.

Anyway, lesson learned. Next time you think something might be up…ask. You’re probably right.

It wasn’t a total loss, though. My dad got comped his miles back for the room that night, and on Sunday night Jen and Steph and I were upgraded to an amazing 3-bedroom, 3-bath suite with a kitchen, dining room, porch and roof access.

Not that we actually needed all that, but it just went so nicely with the rest of our indulgent trip, we had to accept 🙂

Our new view!

On Sunday we ended up spending most of the day lounging, but we did head out to breakfast at Blue Heaven where I had shrimp and grits (which brought me right back to my JMU days. Sad!)

And there was live music (as there is most places in Key West), and ping-pong and art work (as there is most places in Key West):

After brekkie it was back to the hotel for more sun and hot tub. We ordered room service (beer and pizza. Dinner of champions!) and spent our last night soaking up our awesome suite and sharing some last-minute sister gossip.

All in all, it was an unforgettable trip. We spent most of Monday traveling, where we had a five-hour layover in Tampa and spent the entire time in the elite travelers lounge (I told you. This was a fancy trip all the way!), drinking free wine and eating cheese, crackers and salsa (oh, and taking over the TV, much to the chagrin of anyone else in the TV room).

A few more notes on The Keys and its awesomeness:

1) There were a group of feral cats at our hotel, which my sisters weren’t quite too fond of, and, as per usual, I was obsessed with:

2) There are also tons of roosters (or hens? Not sure I’d be able to tell the difference) around Key West, which cock-a-doodle-doo at all hours of the day (seriously, not just at dawn):

3) And lastly, if you go to Key West you must ride a bike. Sadly, I do not have a photo of me and my sis’ riding around on a bike, because we didn’t rent any, but it seems that when in Key West, this is the thing to do, so I would recommend it.

And that’s about it friends! My sisters and I were so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip together. And I would suggest that if you ever get the opportunity to head over to Key West, I’d jump on it. I haven’t been anywhere else quite like it.

Bis bald, friends!