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

On the road again!

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

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

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

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

The Long Road Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

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

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

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

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

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

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

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

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

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

The Details

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

The Finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sweetest Farm Wedding in Upstate New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That wasn’t going to happen here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Details

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

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

Brigantine Beach and a Big Reunion

A kind stranger offered to take this photo of our whole family after she saw me snapping away, and it’s one of the cutest photos from our trip!

Do you know that amazing feeling you get after you’ve accomplished something that you’ve been planning for a long, long time? And on top of accomplishing it, it actually went well?!

Well that was me and Chris the Friday we arrived in Brigantine!

The beach was about two blocks from our Airbnb in Brigantine, which was amazing since we were eager and tired after our travels!

After our monster road trip across the U.S., we were ready to relax on the beach, eat some good seafood and, more importantly, reunite with some family members that we hadn’t seen since early 2020. It was an emotional trip, to be sure, but I was prepared, and seeing my sister, brother-in-law and niece in person for the first time in 1.5 years was everything I thought it would be and more.

SISTER! YOU’RE ACTUALLY HERE!
Sweetest beach kiddos!
This collapsable Radio Flyer has been amazing ever since we bought, even on the beach. Would highly recommend!
Em was clearly very excited to meet her Aunt Stephie for the first time πŸ˜‰
Our cute crew. Yes, it took forever for us to all get out the door, but it was very worth it when we finally did.
Steph’s house was close to a beach that had more relaxed waves, and a glorious view of Atlantic City right across the water.
Two men and three ladies.
Grandpa came to visit one day, too!
So naturally we dressed all four girls in matching outfits for a photo opp <3
Cutest cousins!
We had a big ole’ seafood night for dinner the day grandpa came to visit, and it was everything I had dreamed of and more. (Em was thrilled by it, as well !)
Delight!
Rosalie’s love for Em was too much for my heart to handle.
Of course it went by way too quickly, but we managed to make the BEST memories.
Beachcombers … in theory.
Rosalie was just turning one the last time I saw her, and now she is a tiny human, running and talking. Seeing her this way, after so long, was just the best.
We sure do love Aunt Stephie <3
Ladies in yellow.
Don’t ask how long it took to get this picture!
The bunk beds are our Airbnb were a big hit!
These two snuck away one night for some gambling in Atlantic City which, we didn’t realize, was only a few minutes away from Brigantine. They really played up the part, wouldn’t ya say?
Ro and Grace have a dueling Boss Baby thing going on, but at the end of the day, they sure do love each other.
Family <3

Besides the awesomeness of seeing family, this was also our first family trip to the beach since we were in Australia, and Em’s first trip to the beach in general. The two older girls loved it so much, I have a feeling we might need to make regular beach trips a thing in our future, as well.

Always leading the way on adventures.
But really, what’s not to love about the beach?
This one slept most of the time, but when she was awake, she loved to take it all in.
Many-a-shell made it back home with us.
In his element.
Our traditional in-the-air photo with Lotte, the beach version.
Sand castles for the win.
Everything about this one is 100%.
Em wasn’t quite sure how she felt about the actual water, but she was happy to partake from the shore.
My sister and I even managed to get away for a solo lunch, just the two of us. This was my first of many lobster rolls, and it was everything I want in life.
Food just tastes better at the beach, am I right?
Especially ice cream!
And watermelon!
Sweetest little ray of light.

The Details

This was the Airbnb where we stayed which, like I mentioned, was about two blocks from the beach. It had two rooms, and the girls loved staying in bunk beds together. There wasn’t a pack and play, so we did have to bring our own. That was fine, since we were planning on doing that anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are traveling with your own little ones.

Some food spots I would recommend include:

β€” Brigantine Bagels: A MUST for bagels and coffee, if you want my opinion

β€” Laguna Grill & Rum Bar: Steph and I ate here for lunch when we escaped, and it was just the delightful beach scene we were looking for. There were places to eat both inside and outside, live music and lots of delicious seafood to pick from.

β€” Crab Shack Seafood: We picked up the seafood for our seafood night from here β€” lobster rolls, crab legs, muscles, clams, corn and Caesar salad β€” and it was all so good!

β€” Aunt B’s: Stop here for ice cream at some point in your trip … it’s delish!

The last time I was in Brigantine I was in high school, and while it was a great trip then, this visit really topped the charts. We stayed until Tuesday, so for three full days, and it was the perfect way to start our whirlwind trip. It was so nice to have some time with just Steph and her family, and to start off with a relaxing (is anything relaxing with kids?) first leg.

And that was our beach trip, friends! Until next time … bis bald!

Life Recently: The 2020 Edition

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Oh, friends, where to begin. I certainly hope this blog post finds you … well?? Who even knows what to say anymore. I hope this blog post finds you … sane? The answer to that probably depends on a number of factors, including where you live. Who you live with. What your work situation is. And any number of other things that we could have never known would have such an impact on us for such an extended period of time.

For my own part, 2020 has been, like most people, a series of highs and lows. (But, let’s be honest, mostly lows.) My last trip was in February, and while I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to take that trip β€” and with Lotte, no less β€” I sure do miss travel. And my family. And regular life. We had to postpone indefinitely a trip to Spain with Chris’ parents that we had all really been looking forward to, not to mention all the other little trips throughout the year that we likely would have taken, back to New York to see friends and family, to the mountains, to other states. Who knows. What 2020Β could have been isn’t worth contemplating. In the meantime, besides travel, my grandmother passed away from Covid, and because I live in Colorado, I had to miss her memorial. I missed my nieces baptism. I missed my Mom’s annual MS fundraiser. We’ve missed holidays (and probably will continue to miss holidays) with friends and family. We’ve had low moments at home, moments of exhaustion and frustration and sadness. We’ve cried. Lotte has missed out on a year’s worth of preschool experiences, learning and making friends. My heart broke the other day when she leaned in before bed and whispered, “Mom, I’m lonely.”

Amidst the sadness, we’ve managed to have some of the most amazing moments, as well. With Chris working from home, he’s spent way more time with the girls than he ever was able to in the past, and he’s home for dinner every single night. (Hell, heΒ makes dinner every single night πŸ˜‰ We’ve gone out of our way to find new, fun, hopefully empty places to explore. I met two big career milestones (you can read them here and here), all while trying to keep my kids entertained and ignore a worldwide pandemic. Plus, above all else, I’m pregnant. Pregnant with our third and final child, in a world that has forced me to attend every doctor’s appointment by myself (with Chris on Facetime) and in a mask. Throughout the lows and highs, we’ve tried hard to keep breathing, and to focus on the here and now, the things that we can control, whatever little that might be. The girls are healthy. We are healthy. We are incredibly lucky to be in a position where Chris and I can both work from home, and keep the girls home until we feel safe enough to send them back to school.

And for now, that’s all that really matters. I’m thinking of all of you, and livin’ on a prayer that this will all be a memory in the near future.

Bis bald, friends.

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^^Pretending to be ballerinas and dancing to scenes from the Nutcracker have become a pandemic activity favorite.

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^^Β So incredibly thankful that we moved before the pandemic, and that we have this amazing play area in the backyard for the girls to get their energy out on!

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^^Β Also thankful for all of the wide open spaces that Colorado provides.

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^^Β Not gonna lie β€” we haven’t minded having Chris around more to cook, either …

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^^Β We are such huge fans of the zoo, so we were so happy when they finally opened back up, allowing only small groups of people in at once, all of whom must be wearing masks.

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^^Β We’ve met up twice with friends and their kids, which was glorious for the kids, and only somewhat nerve-rackingΒ for the adults.

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^^Β Lotte has really missed flying, so I took the girls out to the airport one morning, parked in a nearby parking lot, and we watched the planes take off. It was gloriously delightful.Β 

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^^Β So far we’ve had my birthday, both Mother’s and Father’s Day, and Lotte’s birthday during quarantine. Chris is next in October, then G in December. I’m most proud about the fact that Lotte had a great birthday, complete with a masked-up trip to The Wild Animal Sanctuary.Β 

IMG_8841IMG_8842IMG_9166IMG_9327IMG_9400IMG_9401IMG_9494IMG_9495IMG_9535IMG_9599IMG_9600IMG_9602IMG_9628^^ Lotte started her virtual preschool classes today, which is this final picture. I’m so incredibly sad that she won’t be in-class making actual, face-to-face friends, but I’m so incredibly grateful for a school that even offers virtual preschool, a teacher who is trying her darnedest to make it fun, and for the fact that she’ll be able to connect with other littles her age, albeit virtually, at least until the new year.Β 

Solo Mother-Daughter Dates Back to New York

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Welcome to mid-February, friends! This year, as expected, is already breezing by. And this year, as expected, has already been filled with its fair share of ups and downs, highs and lows. Sadness and happiness. This is life, am I right?

On one of the happier notes, Lotte and I just returned from a solo mom/daughter trip back east to celebrate my niece Rosalie’s first birthday. I can’t believe how quickly that year flew by, so I can only imagine how her parents must feel. This trip was super quick β€” just Thursday night through Sunday β€” but it was so amazing. We got to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the fam, I got to visit my grandmother, we celebrated Ro at her first birthday party and saw so many friends and family<3 Going back east is always a whirlwind, but it’s never not worth it. And this solo trip with Lotte β€” our first since Grace was born, our third in total β€” was so much fun. At 3.5, Lotte is at, I believe, the perfect travel age. Despite the fact that she’s traveled quite a bit, flying on an airplane is still magical to her (as it should be!), and she has the best time eating snacks, watching shows, coloring, reading … basically all of her every day activities are made that much more fun when they’re done mid-air.

Continue reading “Solo Mother-Daughter Dates Back to New York”

2019: A Year in Review

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A very merry, bright and happy holiday season to all of you! It has been super quiet on here lately because, to be honest, the final few months of this year have been the busiest of our lives. Selling a house, buying a house, having two small children and jobs has basically consumed all of our time. We are very happy to be spending some down time at the end of this year with Chris’s brother and his wife (visiting from Australia!), as well as with my sister and her husband and their baby. It’s a quieter holiday than we’re used to, and we are very happy about it! Before the clock strikes New Year, I wanted to take a second to round up a year that included our daughters’ first-ever international trips, my first-ever girlfriend getaway since having kids, Chris & my first-ever overnight trip away from the girls, my first-ever Mom-daughter trip with G, a lot of fun press trips, the happiest amount of trips back to New York, and a bunch of other fun mountain getaways sprinkled in, as well.

Hope you are all having fabulous, relaxing holidays with your loved ones – and cheers to a fabulous 2020!

January
The beginning of this year β€” which feels like decades ago β€” started out with our little family having the time of our lives visiting friends and family in Australia (here, here and here). We had about a week back in the states before Grace and I turned around and took our first-ever solo Mom-daughter trip out to New York for my sister’s baby shower. It truly was amazing to be able to start our year off in such a spectacular fashion …

February
In February we welcomed Auntie Kate into our home for a three-month visit, which included a trip out to Granby Ranch for some snowboarding, hikes in Golden and day dates in Evergreen.