Holidays In Australia Part 3: New Zealand

The excitement began before we even got off the plane, friends … look at that view!

After spending Christmas and the next few days at Chris’ parents’ house in Bathurst, we loaded up the car and headed off to Sydney, where the girls would be staying with their grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins, while Chris and I headed off to New Zealand — BY OURSELVES — to celebrate our 15-year meet-a-versary, our 10-year anniversary of being married, New Years Eve (which just happens to be the anniversary of both of those aforementioned things) and the upcoming year of our 40th bdays.

But really, you don’t understand. We never leave our kids, and we especially don’t leave them overnight. In fact, we’ve only left Lotte & Grace overnight once, and that was the last time we were in Australia.

In other words, this was long overdue!

Despite knowing how much we’d enjoy the trip, we definitely waffled. Leaving three kids with any number of adults is bound to be a lot, and flights and accommodation during the holidays are astronomical. After going back and forth on it, we finally decided to JUST GO FOR IT, and we settled on spending our three-night getaway in Queenstown.

I’m so glad we did.

The Details

With so much to celebrate on this trip, we decided to just really go for it. All of that is to say — we splurged in a way we don’t normally … and I don’t feel badly about it one little bit 😉

The largest expenses by far were the flights ($2,515) and the lodging ($2,243).

Even the airport had stunning views!
QT Queenstown lobby views.

We stayed at the QT Queenstown and would highly recommend it! Besides the fact that they treated us royally (with the sweetest welcome/happy anniversary package of champagne, chocolate, bath bombs and free drink tickets at their hotel bar), the (absolutely spectacular) breakfast was complimentary and in a gorgeous dining room, the location was perfect, and the views were out of this world.

We also went all-out with our meals (besides breakfast, which was always free and always at our amazing hotel). Because hey, you only have a 10-year-anniversary and you only turn 40 once!

Day One: Arriving

Here’s a little pro tip from me to you — when you’re an American traveling from Australia to New Zealand (ie. me), you do need a travel Visa, and it’s best to get this sorted before you head to the airport. Also, Quantas and Jetstar both have weight limits for carry-ons (not sure about other airlines, but these are the two that we traveled). Both of these are fun things we learned the hard way.

After our initial hiccups, we landed in gorgeous Queenstown, checked into our hotel, then set out to take in the town at twilight and have dinner at The Bunker, a romantic hidden gem offering a prefix menu and wine pairing situation that we were all too happy to enjoy.

Also delightful was the fact that Queenstown was still all dolled up for the holidays.
This place is a must if you’re looking for a romantic and low-key dining experience!
I mean … yum.
This view was a short walk from our hotel.
Queenstown is probably one of the cleanest, most picturesque places I have ever been, and it certainly has some of the nicest people I’ve met.
Cute when kidless!
Delight.
Stunning water ….

Day 2: Biking Around Queenstown

Renting bikes has become a little tradition for us while traveling (see Japan, Iceland, London, Rome, New Orleans and Manhattan, to name a few), so we knew we wanted to do that in New Zealand if we could, as well.

Of course, I’m never one to let a little biking come between me and a cute outfit. (Please also refer to Munich.)

Anyway, we woke up whenever we wanted to on our first full day in New Zealand, had the breakfast of our dreams at our gorgeous hotel restaurant, then rented our bikes and hit the dusty (and sometimes very narrow and very close to the side of a cliff) trail. We traveled 18 miles out to the Queenstown Golf Club for a drink, then back via a stop at Altitude Brewing.

I basically had to re-learn how to use the gears properly — as well as remind myself to ride on the other side of the road — but it all worked out in the end!
More than worth it for these views!
Plus my riding partner was cute <3
Quick beers at the gold club before turning around!
It was even prettier on the ride back!
See?!
Altitude Brewing was a delightful highlight.
As was the jack fruit bao bun from the food truck!

After our ride we were more than ready for our dinner/adventure with Skyline Queenstown. This included a ride up the mountain in a gondola, dinner at the Stratosfare and three Luge rides (which I was incredibly nervous about but which turned out to be basically adult go-karts down a hill and incredibly fun!).

Again with the views!
My very chill Luge face 😉
Stratosfare dinner views.
Happy.
I kept saying that I felt like Frank Costanza on this trip, wearing my travel resort gear!

Day 3: Burgers, Gardens, & New Years Eve

After a fairly intense Day 2, we were happy to lay low on Day 3 and do some more relaxed activities. We tried out the famous Fergburger (my mushroom sandwich was to die for, but Chris said his actual burger was only okay), took a stroll around the Queenstown Gardens, HAD TWO NAPS and had dinner and watched the fireworks/welcomed 2023 from the restaurant in our hotel.

I did eventually dip my feet in, just to say that I had 😉

And that was our short-but-sweet New Zealand trip. It was absolutely everything we had hoped for and more. Thanks for being awesome, Queenstown. You’ll have a special place in our hearts forever.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the final part of our trip — a visit to the beach where Chris and his family grew up vacationing.

Until then … bis bald!

Holidays In Australia Part 1: A 24-Hour Layover In San Francisco

Happy New Year, friends! I hope everyone had a fabulous and fantastic holiday season filled with all the fun things.

We sure did.

We arrived back LAST NIGHT from our holiday trip. It included Christmas in Australia, our anniversary and New Years Eve in New Zealand, and a visit to the beach that Chris visited every year growing up! We saw friends and family that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic (I blogged about our first trip out with Lotte & Grace in 2019, including here), and friends and family got to meet Emilia for the very first time. Emotions were high (in both the best and saddest of ways … traveling, and especially traveling with children, is never not fraught), but while I sit here typing this up, I honestly can’t believe it’s over. So very much planning and buying and packing (and stressing, if I’m being completely honest! I was SO SURE someone would get sick! Spoiler alert: WE DID NOT!) went into this trip, and it was definitely one for the books, friends.

But first, we had to get there.

Things started optimistically enough! We knew that weird weather was rolling into Denver, and our flight out to San Francisco was scheduled for early evening, with a layover of only about an hour to make our connecting flight to Sydney.

Needless to say, that didn’t end up happening.

We sat for about 2.5 hours on the tarmac before finally taking off and landing in San Francisco around 1 a.m. United Airlines, to their credit, gave us two hotel rooms for two nights, since the next flight out they could get us on didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m.

Instead of looking at it as a lost day in Australia, we decided to find the silver lining and consider it a free (Kind of. Well, the hotel rooms were free, at least) and unexpected day in San Francisco.

Here’s what we got up to.

In a nutshell we:

  1. Took the Caltrain into the city
  2. Walked to get lunch at the Ferry Building Marketplace
  3. Ate lunch at Gott’s Roadside
  4. Took a water taxi to Pier 39
  5. Checked out the sea lions
  6. Caught the metro back to the Caltrain
  7. Ordered in pizza to our hotel room/showered/repacked
  8. Headed back to the airport around 8 p.m.

You know what’s great about catching a 14.5-hour flight at 10:45 at night after spending the day running your kids ragged around San Francisco?

They. Are. Zonked.

Seriously, the flight from San Francisco to Sydney was probably one of the best we’ve ever had, courtesy of exhausted children who slept seven to eight hours and then watched tv/snacked/did crafts the whole rest of the time. I was BEYOND impressed with my kids’ travel abilities and their willingness to go with the flow and find adventure in every little thing (even the snags) … but more on that later.

For now … bis bald, friends! See ya when we’re in Sydney!

Birthday Bashin’ for Chris in Colorado Springs – Part One

Say cheese, it’s almost your birthday!

Happy Monday, friends! We just got back from spending Chris’ birthday weekend in Colorado Springs, where we stayed at this Airbnb in Old Colorado City, to be exact.

Even though we’ve been to Colorado Springs a number of times (like this special trip, for example), we had never stayed in this part of town, or done the activities that we came to do this past weekend.

Let me start by saying, our Airbnb was magnificent. The place itself was very nice, newly remodeled, etc., but really, it’s the location that sets this place apart. It’s right across the street from a great park (which just happened to be the main stage of the town’s adorable fall fest on Saturday afternoon with live music, face painting, plant potting and more), and is right on the main street, making it walking distance to tons of restaurants, bars and activities. The places that we visited on our stay included:

This is a long list for having only been there for two nights and one full day, but even so, there were so many other fun places we wanted to try! (And hopefully will, sans kids, one day.)

Grace is me when it comes time to pick treats … GIVE ME THEM ALL, PLEASE!
Even Emilia got a vegan chocolate treat to devour 😉
Air throws are all the rage these days <3
We grabbed breakfast early on Saturday and took a quick walk in town before heading for the main attraction of the day. These sweetest little farm owners were setting up their stand for the fall festival later in the day and gave the girls each a free pumpkin — what a fun way to start the day!
My favorite pictures are the ones that girls request, like Lotte, with this one 😉

The main reason we picked this particular Airbnb, though — even though all the other perks were top-notch once we arrived — was its proximity (about seven minutes) to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. These ancestral Puebloan Ruins date back 800 to 1000 years, and they’re so well preserved that you can walk and explore in them which, naturally, the girls were obsessed with. It was so fascinating learning about their way of life, and it really makes you realize how smart they were, especially given the fact that their habitats are still standing today despite having so little to work with.

I mean … incredible.
These cuties LOVED exploring! (Chris, too .. hah.)
Hi!
Never goes anywhere without her tiger these days <3
The surrounding area is so picturesque, too.
These two.
The museum did a great job explaining more about the daily lives these people led. Not entirely sure Lotte should have put her tiger inside the fake fire pit, but sometimes ya gotta pick your battles.
Emilia loved it, too!
Love a good stranger pic!

After spending a few hours at the cliff dwellings, we headed back to our Airbnb and spent some time on our front porch listening to the live music of the fall festival before heading over to partake in the festivities.

It was Emilia’s first “concert,” and she was HERE. FOR. IT!

After a couple hours at the festival, some down time, some snackin’, and a partial viewing of The Addams Family (for me and Chris, not the girls, although I do think they would actually find it hilarious), we hit the streets again to check out The Michael Garman museum, which turned out to be even more fun than I imagined. Michael Garman was a sculptor who created Magic Town, a square-foot miniaturized neighborhood with hand-made buildings and sidewalk scenes, which became The Michael Garman Gallery and Magic Town Museum with more than 500 of his sculptures.

Emilia was fascinated!
The older girls were enraptured.
Chris and I were pretty impressed, too!

After the museum we hit up Westside Cantina for Chris’ birthday dinner, complete with multiple tacos and multiple margh’s …

One of everything please …
Emilia also approved 😉

And that was the gist of our Saturday, the day of Chris’ birth. It was so much fun, and the girls had a blast. Sunday was another adventure, but I’ll get into more on that tomorrow. For now … bis bald, friends! I hope the fall is treating you well <3

Some NYC Action, a Surprise Sprinkle, And So Much More

This weekend we celebrated my baby sis and her TWINS, arriving this December!

Happy fall, ya’ll! With the arrival of cooler weather and all things pumpkin related, my mood is uplifted. The fall signals new beginnings, in my mind, so I was thrilled to be able to add “throw baby sister a baby sprinkle” to my fall to-do list!

To that end, I have been in New York for the past NINE DAYS while Chris held down the fort with the kiddos at home. (Kuddos to you, my love!) I spent five blissful days in the city, visiting with friends and old co-workers and just generally traipsing around and eating all the things.

Prospect Park
I stayed at my friend’s Brooklyn townhome while I was in the city, and spent no small amount of time in these comfy chairs, with this adorable dog, reading my book and people watching the passers-by on the street below.
Dinner at Chela on Saturday night included a lot of laughs and a lot of margaritas 😉
The delight of walking around the city, listening to music and in your own little world, is pretty unmatched for me.
Got to meet up with these cuties — my friend’s kids — at J.J. Byrne Playground in BK, which is a must-know spot if you have kids in the area.
Took the subway in Manhattan on Monday and spent some time wandering around my old fave haunts, including, obviously, Bryant Park.
She is SUCH a delight.
From there I walked over to the High Line, which I hadn’t visited in years! It was such a pretty day for it!
My walk from the High Line to meet a friend for lunch took me through the flower district, which was so fun at this time of year.
A delight of flowers in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Lunch was pizza at Posto near Union Square. Could you not just reach in and eat this picture??

I spent Friday through Tuesday in the city, and then grabbed the train from Grand Central Tuesday morning to head upstate for the second half of my trip, including surprising my sister with my visit and, on Saturday, her baby sprinkle 😉

These statues outside of GC are new … and delightful.
It doesn’t matter how many times I have been here. (Chris and I even took wedding photos here!) Grand Central is always magic.
The views along the Hudson Line are spectacular, too.

I got off in Beacon for a night with my stepdad who is absolutely rocking his recent heart surgery!

We got breakfast at Beacon Bread Company in Beacon, and were lucky enough to spot a glute-free cafe, Kitchen & Coffee, down the road to pick up THE MOST DELICIOUS gluten-free treats for my sister’s shower! (The theme was ‘Twin Buns in the Oven’ and we had all the sweets and treats you could possibly want!)

After spending the night in Newburgh, I hopped in my stepdad’s Mini Cooper and drove to Middletown to surprise my sister. Even though she says she had an inkling of the sprinkle to come after I showed up, it was still so. much. fun. keeping things a surprise! I even got to go to an ultrasound my sister had scheduled for Friday and see my newest little niece and nephew 😉 😉

Greeting committee for my arrival.
Surprises — and sisters — are the best <3
After the ultrasound on Friday, Steph & I stopped at Hudson Taco in Newburgh for lunch. I had never been, but it did NOT disappoint!
More margaritas! (For me, obviously not for the preggs …)

Saturday was the day of the sprinkle, and when I tell you that I was stressed out trying to find a venue, believe that to be true. Luckily, a little deep dive Googling came in handy, because I was able to find the cutest little venue — a vintage barn with the sweetest owner you’ve ever met — in Wallkill. It’s called R&W Farms, and it was exactly the set-up I would have wanted for my sister’s sprinkle. We brought in treats from The Bakery in New Paltz and decorated the Thursday ahead of time (while my sister was at work!), and it turned out so beautifully.

And that, as they say, was that, my friends. It was the sweetest of trips with the best of people and I had a grand time, but really ….

There’s no place like home 😉

Bis bald friends — AND HAPPY FALL!

Short & Sweet Trip Back East (the Mommy/One Daughter Version)

Fresh off an awesome visit to see our lovies!

Happy Friday, friends! Lotte & I just got back from the sweetest little trip back east where we got to do so many fun things! Some of these fun things included visiting Lake Wallenpaupack, pool lounging with family and meeting more family out for dinner … Steph & I even snuck into the city where we met up with some of my friends for brunch before seeing Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in Plaza Suite.

It’s been a rough couple of …. years?! Honestly. With our last trip back to New York being the roaring success that it was (ahem…it was not), it was nice to head back this time, even with just the two of us, to see our beloved friends and fam.

Ignoring the news for a few days provided a much-needed reprieve, as well.

Anyway, friends, here’s some of what we got up to …

Me and my oldest, ready for adventure!
Cutest cousins <3
We met up with my friends at Valerie, which was the perfect location for seeing Plaza Suite after, and very tasty, too.
Just a couple of tourists.
The play was so cute! The tickets are pricey (we sat at the very tippitty top!), but even just to see those two act together was totally worth it!
It rained Monday morning, so we headed to Billy Beez (similar to our Urban Air) to let the girls get their jiggles out 😉
Tuesday was gorgeous, so we hit up the pool at my bro-in-law’s parents’ house … the girls had a blast!
Couldn’t let the girls have all the fun …
Dinner Tuesday night was with family we didn’t get to see over Christmas because of Covid, so this was pure delight.
Wednesday was also gorgeous, so we headed to Lake Wallenpaupack in the town where Steph & I hope to find a family lake house we can buy together. Until then, frequenting the area to get to know it better is lots of fun!
Because my sis is the cutest, she even planned an early surprise birthday celebration for Lotte, who of course was floored.
And that was our trip in a nutshell, friends! I’m so glad I got to spend this time with my little love, who ….
… is the best dang travel companion around <3

Bis bald, friends — I hope you’re all hangin’ in there this summer and finding yourselves some happiness 😉

Seattle With Three Littles Day Three — Ferris Wheel, Space Needle, Pikes Place & More

Happy Wednesday, my friends!

Last Saturday was our final full day in Seattle, and we sure did make the most of it! We shopped and ate and wandered around with the best of ’em. Highlights included:

The ferris wheel was the perfect way to end our trip, because the girls (and especially Grace) were OBSESSED. Seriously, you’ve never seen more excited kiddos! Here’s a bit of what we saw on our last day …

Just SO MUCH gum.

And that was our trip in a nutshell, friends. Our car service picked us up at 5:30 the next morning to head to the airport.

Phew.

It was a whirlwind, but a wonderful one. One of our main objectives when we moved out to Colorado was to explore this side of the country more. So glad we are finally able to tick Washington State and Olympic National Park off the list.

Have a great week, friends — and happy summer, for those of you who are in it already, like we are. I hope yours is safe and super fun <3

Seattle With Three Littles Day Two — Olympic National Park

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Back to our second day in Seattle, where we rented a car and hopped on a ferry (with our car!) to head on over to Olympic National Park.

If you’ve been a visitor of this blog for a while, you already know that we’re big fans of National Parks! (See Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain National Park, Moab, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Sequoia!) It’s always a goal of ours to introduce our kids to these beautiful places in America, and to help them gain an appreciation for nature and their surroundings.

We sure are lucky to have these things available to us.

Anyway, back to Day Two. It’s a trek to head to Olympic National Park from Seattle. We caught a 30-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island and then drove another 90 minutes to the visitor center and then to do the Moments in Time Interpretive Trail. That’s a lot to do with three littles, but the car we got was comfy and they snacked and watched videos (and, shockingly, napped on the ride back to the ferry at the end of the day) and all was good. We almost bailed on the trip when the weather looked iffy (it turned out perfect!) and seemed like too much effort, but I’m so glad we didn’t!

Chris and I were discussing how, in most cases, the things we almost bail on usually turn out to be some of our favorite memories. It’s a life lesson, for sure.

Anyway, here’s a bit of what we saw!

Back on the ferry!
And back in the car!
And a short two hours later, we arrived!
Grace’s love of insects is contagious, so these slugs on the way to the visitor center were obviously a highlight!
The visitor center at Olympic National Park is so kid friendly and amazing — it’s a must-hit!

After the visitor center it was about a 30-minute ride to the Moments in Time Interpretive Trail, which was unbelievably gorgeous. (And, by the way, FREE! Entry into the park was totally free, too, but you can — and should — make a donation online!) The bluest water, the mossiest rainforest, and all the bird chirping you could ever want in life.

So incredibly serene.