Summer Weekends in the Mountains Part III: C Lazy U Ranch

Ever since we moved to Colorado I have wanted to drive through one of these ranch gates, which are located throughout the state. The second weekend in August was my time to make that dream a reality πŸ˜‰

Welcome back to press trip summer, friends! I already talked about Breckenridge and Beaver Creek, and today’s post is about our third and final trip out to C Lazy U Ranch.

Believe it or not, a trip out here is not about being lazy. (As I learned on our ranger ride tour, a “lazy” U is a U that’s turned on its side). Being at C Lazy U Ranch actually means doing all the things. The girls attended camps in the mornings and afternoons where they made friends, played on the playground, did crafts and rode ponies (G) and horses (Lotte). We had Emilia with us, of course, but for parents with kids over three (the age when they can join the camps), being here means attending summer camps with your kids. Sending them off for large chunks of the day (plus dinner!) to have the time of their lives while you do the same, and reconvening for an evening activity (plus breakfast and lunch). It’s really the best of both worlds.

Here’s a bit of what we got up to in our Thursday to Saturday visit.

For the girls, dressing the part was half the fun!
Anywhere that Lotte can practice the monkey bars is amazing in her book.
On our very first night there the girls had dinner with complete strangers (who they became great friends with) and performed “Let It Go”, again in front of complete strangers, to much amusement and obsession. It’s safe to say that we have never had a more fun first night on a trip.
Friday was our first full day, and we started off wit a short tractor ride up the mountain where we were met with fresh homemade donuts, coffee and a full breakfast with the most amazing view.
Enjoying her view with a side of hot chocolate.
Too stinkin.
We had the most glorious morning for it, too.
The best.
After breakfast Chris had to work, but the girls and I got a ranger ride β€” which is basically a ride in a humongous and very powerful four-wheeler β€” all around the ranch. Grace even found this horseshoe! (Lotte was not thrilled to have not found one, hah.)
There were just gorgeous views everywhere we looked!
A little bird watching.
Emilia was too young for the camps β€” they start at three β€” but we had the best time anyway!
The driver let Grace and Lotte sit in the front on the last 10 minutes of the ride, so we obliged Emilia with a quick tour of the front seat, as well <3
The girls really fell in love with horses on this trip (and have since asked to get one), and to be honest, so did I.
I EVEN went on my first ride! Look at me up there, all calm, cool and collected!
That night Chris escorted the girls to a Barn Dance, where they listened to live music, ate ice cream, rode a mechanical bull and just generally had a blast.
Emilia had a grand time at the morning Cowboy coffee <3
On Saturday morning the girls set off for their morning camp session …
And it was Chris’ turn to ride!
Grace rode a pony that she and her campmates decorated to look like a unicorn!
Can you even? She had the best time! Emilia and I were on the playground nearby so I happened to catch her ride, and she kept calling out, “Hi Emilia! See me riding a pony, Emilia!”
And Lotte rode a horse ALL BY HERSELF! I was so proud of her!
In the afternoon, the “Showdeo” allowed the kids to show off the skills they learned all week. For Grace’s group, that was how to hone their cuteness.
Lotte was in a horse/cherry eating race, and she came in 2nd and had a blast!
Maximum cuteness.

And that was that, my friends. I would HIGLY recommend this place to anyone who has kids over the age of three (and a lot of money. It was … quite pricey!)

Anyway, I’m so incredibly grateful for having had all these adventures with my family this summer, and for my editor who continues to have faith in my travel testing abilities πŸ˜‰ Keep ’em coming, Karen … I think we can handle them πŸ˜‰

Until next time … bis bald, friends!

Early October in Disneyland!

Happy October, loves! This month is the best kind of chaos for us, beginning with a solo trip for me back to New York for my cousin’s wedding at the end of September/first weekend in October, followed a few days later by …. drum roll, please …. OUR TRIP TO DISNEYLAND!

I’ve only been to Disney World, and the girls had never been to anything Disney related, so this was very special. Sadly Chris couldn’t get away from work to join, but we did manage to drag Grandpa Robert along, so that was very lovely, as well.

We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and splurged for the Genie+ passes, so this was not a cheap trip. Still, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. With a 7-, 5- and 2-year-old, I wanted to do as much as I could to make this trip as “easy” as possible for myself and Grandpa. Staying in a hotel that was walking distance to everything we needed and paying to skip the lines whenever possible was absolutely worth it. Even though we all stayed together in one room, Grandpa and I each got a Queen bed, Emilia slept in a travel crib that the resort had, and the girls slept on a (very large) hide-away bed. It was delightfully comfortable. I also booked the majority of our meals prior to the trip. This turned out to be a smart move, as well. As you can imagine it was insanely busy, so knowing where and when we were eating was an essential step in avoiding hangriness (myself included) all around.

Here’s a bit of what we got up to πŸ˜‰

Day 1: Arrival & Downtown Disney!

We were so lucky that we got to visit during the 100th anniversary of Disney and during the height of their Halloween festivities. I LOVE Halloween, so seeing all the decorations and visiting the special attractions was so much fun!

There was direct access to Adventure Park from our hotel (which we didn’t visit on this trip), as well as to the Downtown Disney District, which is steps to the Disney entrance. Be prepared to open all your bags and walk through a metal detector to get into Downtown Disney. Part of the Disney experience is knowing you’re safe from weapons. Because that’s the world we live in.

Halloween decor at the Disney entrance!
The Disney attention to detail is SO REAL. No stone is left unturned when it comes to delight.
The Storytellers Cafe β€” where characters hang out with you during breakfast and lunch services β€” was in our hotel. Sadly breakfast and lunches were booked out while we were there, but we did do dinner one night. The girls wore their princess best πŸ˜‰
The buffet was great! Honestly the food everywhere was amazing, which is a good thing because that ish is EXPENSIVE πŸ˜‰

Day 2: Our First Disney Experience!

Hello, Disneyland!

One of the best things about this trip was the fact that the girls had no idea what to expect. Yes, they knew we were going to Disney, and they obviously know who most of the Disney characters are, but outside of that, they couldn’t grasp the experience. How could they?

It’s safe to say they were blown away.

Guests of any Disney resort get early access to the park at 7:30 a.m. (it opens to the general public at 8), so we were there bright and early both days, and had good spots to check out Mickey & Minnie’s opening act. Not too shabby πŸ˜‰
Grandpa hadn’t been to Disneyland since he was a little kid, so this was basically all new to him, as well!
The Disney app is AMAZING, including the photo feature. They had professional photographers located around the park who would take photos that got loaded automatically to your app. Genius.
The girls’ first ride was DUMBO … a very solid choice! Emilia in particular was IN LOVE.
It’s a Small World was another hit. We went on it twice!
We hung with so many characters! Goofy was our first <3
I obviously bought special Disney shirts for our trip, and Grace was disappointed in mine because she said it wasn’t “Disney” enough. So I was very happy when we came across this statue with the same phrase!
Captain Hook!
Aladdin!
Mickey’s Toontown was so cute! The girls and I got to walk through Minnie’s house and then meet her, and then Grandpa did Mickey’s house with them. (All this while Emilia slept through the chaos around her!) We also rode the Runaway Railway, which was so fun, although a bit more roller coaster-ey than I expected! Emilia seemed to enjoy it all the same!
Grace was right at home at Minnie’s House <3
How cute is Minnie’s kitchen?
Minnie was a delight!
And Mickey, of course!
We even managed to catch the ending of the parade on Main St., which was so much fun! It was the perfect topper to the perfect first day in the park <3

Day 3: Finding Our Disney Mojo

By Day 2 in the park I figured out how to use the Disney app and Genie service a bit better, so we were able to take advantage of shorter lines more frequently. Our first stop was Pirates of the Caribbean! It was a dark and “scary” ride, but I was so proud of Grace for challenging herself to do rides that scared her! She ended up enjoying (most of!) them.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh <3
The Jungle Cruise was so cute, and the guide was hilarious!
Peter Pan’s Flight had one of the longer lines we waited in (about 30 minutes), and the ride itself was fairly short, but it was definitely cute and worth doing.
Lunch at Jazz Kitchen Costal Grill & Patio was back in Downtown Disney β€” so about a 20 minute walk from Fantasyland in the park, where we were β€” but I enjoyed having lunch in a more laidback setting, away from the insanity of the park. Plus, it was SO GOOD!
Our first ride after lunch was the Haunted Mansion from The Nightmare Before Christmas. We scored a Lightning Lane entrance from the Genie + app for this, which got us in at about a 15 minute wait, as opposed to about an hour. SCORE!
After the mansion we booked it back over to Fantasyland to meet some princesses, and on the way we ran into Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh!
Mulan!
My heart <3
Cinderella!
Ariel!
We had tried to do the Snow White ride our first day in the park and the ride broke down. Oops. We caught it after the princesses, though, and it was worth going back!
The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was so much cuter than I expected! Totally worth a visit.
Before heading back to the hotel after an insane day, we managed to snag this photo at the pumpkin in the main square, as well as see the Disney Band play as they lowered the flag for the day.
Back at the hotel we took advantage of the pool and hot tub, which the girls are thoroughly obsessed with.

Day 4: Headed Home

Our final breakfast was Mickey waffles β€” obviously β€” at the GCH Craftsman Bar in our hotel. A fitting final meal for a simply delightful trip.

And that was it, friends! As I type this we are back home, awaiting our next adventure β€” Aussie Nan & Poppa coming to visit in four days! They head in for Chris’ Big Birthday next week, and we cannot wait! Until next time, bis bald, friends! Hope your fall is off to a fabulous start!

Celebrating Birthdays and Friendship in Savannah, Georgia

Happy Tuesday, friends! I just arrived back from the best trip down South β€” to Savannah, Georgia, to be exact β€” with three of my closet friends that I’ve known since our 2nd grade Balmville Elementary School Days in Newburgh, New York. 2023 marks 40 years on earth for all of us, meaning 30-plus years of friendship.

If that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

We stayed at this Airbnb, which was the perfect location for us. We were walking distance to so many restaurants, bars and shops, not to mention the water and the Savannah and ghost tours, both of which we took full advantage.

Since I knew I’d be mostly catching up with my friends, I didn’t spend too much time researching what I might want to do while in town. Seeing my friends, checking out some gorgeous trees and eating delicious food was about all I had on my list. Luckily, my friend Laura did do her research, and she guided us through the most magical and perfect couple of days in (holy crap it was hot!) Savannah. Some of our highlights included:

  • Vic’s River Grill for dinner on the Friday we arrived.
  • Visiting the Love Lock Bridge.
  • Treylor Park Restaurant for breakfast on both Saturday and Monday … that’s how good it was!
  • Our tour of the city was hop-on/hop-off, and we hopped off at Forsyth Park to take in some of the gorgeous Spanish Moss (neither Spanish nor moss, mind you) trees.
  • Lunch in the beer garden at Moon River Brewing Company.
  • Dinner at The Olde Pink House. This place was SO. STINKIN. COOL! It’s actually an old house that turned naturally pink when the sun baked through the white paint to expose the brick underneath. You can check out the entire house β€” which is gorgeous β€” after you eat and, of course, they say it’s haunted.
  • On Sunday we drove out to Tybee Island, which was about 20 minutes and totally worth the drive. It was the cutest little beach town.
  • Chamacos Tacos and Surf for lunch on the way back was so fun, especially when combined with Rita’s Ice after.
  • Dinner at Huey’s On the River before our ghost tour was so tasty.
  • Arco Lounge had the yummiest (and prettiest!) craft cocktails.
  • The breakfast at Little Duck Diner was so good (even if the service was so incredibly slow).

Besides all the eating, drinking and site seeing β€” which was an integral part of the trip, don’t get me wrong β€” it was so amazing to catch up with these lovelies. We live in Colorado, upstate New York, Florida and Arizona, respectively, so as you can imagine we don’t get together that frequently. Upon leaving this trip we made a pact to do this every five years.

I surely hope we can keep that promise.

Here’s a bit of what we saw, friends!

Even the Savannah airport was adorable! Look at these cute rocking chairs outside!
Love Lock Bridge was something else <3
Savannah, you sure are cute.
So many treats! Such amazing pralines! This place is a gold mine for candy/sweets lovers.
Look at this Treylor Park breakfast insanity! I ate more grits on this trip than I did probably the entire time I was in college in Virginia. And I’m not in the least bit sad about it.
Touring around Forsyth Park.
Look at these trees!!! (Don’t touch ’em, though! Tiny little bugs called chiggers live in them. They used to be used to make pillows, though, which is where the phrase “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” comes from!)
Look at this gorgeous room at the Olde Pink House!
And this creepy cellar that was actually incredibly cool.
Tybee Island was such a tucked away gem of a spot!
I hadn’t been in the ocean since we were in Australia, so this day was long overdue.
And to be there with these besties was even better.
A little Chamacos humor πŸ˜‰
Dinner at Huey’s.
Drinks at Arco.
And a super cute ghost tour to round out our last night.

I sure do love these muffins. Best friends are hard to come by. People who stick by you through thick and thin are hard to come by. Finding people who have been with you from the beginning is a nearly impossible feat. My luck to have been found these friends is off the charts.

Bis bald, my friends. I hope you’re soaking in the last days of summer, too!

Kicking Off the Summer in NYC: Part II

Welcome back, friends! After our first day of welcoming summer by galavanting around New York City, we really kicked it up a notch for Memorial Day. Adventures included:

It was the sweetest of days with some of our besties <3

American Museum of Natural History

With so many amazing museums in NYC it can be hard to pick just one for kiddos, but I’m sure glad we went with this one. We only had time for our two extra experiences, the dinosaur exhibit and the Room With the Whale, but gosh was it worth it.
This Invisible Worlds exhibit was giving Meow Wolf vibes, but with a much better story and on a much more tame scale.
How small do your problems seem in an exhibit like this, though. I mean, really.
The girls LOVED it!
Dinosaurs were a huge hit too, obviously.
Rawwwwwring like dinosaurs!
Even Em was intrigued <3
I wasn’t sure how the 30-minute planetarium show would go over, but the girls loved it! And Carla, Fiona & Jake were able to join us, too.
The whale room never disappoints.
Cuties.

Alice’s Tea Cup

After the museum we walked over to Alice’s which, while thoroughly expensive (it was a full tea service that, let’s be honest, mostly got thrown out) was a true NY experience, as well. I’m really glad we did it!

“What’s this stuff?!”
The whole gang. And how gorgeous is this room?!

Central Park

We left Alice’s around 2:30 and had reservations at 4 for Top of the Rock, so we took our time wandering through Central Park to get there.

Good ole’ Uncle Brizz.
Enjoying live music at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Top of the Rock

This is one of Chris’ favorite spots in the city, so it was fun to take the girls there to experience the city the way that birds do <3

Walking through the Rockefeller Center area is always a joy, too.
Chris had some extra help pulling the baggage.
Gotta love a girl who only loves her snacks, no matter where she may be!
More cuteness <3
So much love for this girl of mine <3
And this one <3
And all of them!
Plus this one. Carla. My freshman year roommate at JMU, whom I’ve known for 22 years (yikes!). We’ve been to Germany & Salzburg & Nashville together, survived college and our first years as babies living in NYC. She’s a doll and I love her immensely <3

After a very long day, it was back on the subway to head to our home away from home.

Seeing the sites is one thing, but catching up with your loves … that’s everything.

Until next time, friends … bis bald!

40th Birthday Bucket List Trips

Glacier National Park, in all her beautiful glory … plus my little bubs <3

I feel like I should start this post by writing: β€œAnd just like that, I was 40.”

It’s what almost everyone says about turning 40, but it doesn’t actually feel that way. On the one hand yes, I feel like I turned 21 just yesterday. But on the other hand … holy hell a lot of work has gone into reaching this decade!

Between 30 and 40 I became a whole new person. I entered into my first year of marriage, started my business and moved across the country. I added countries and states and continents to my travels, bought a house, sold a house, bought another one. I had two miscarriages and three babies. I lost and gained friends. I lost my Mom.

It’s been a ride, friends!

Anyway, all of this is to say, entering my 40s does feel like a milestone, but not in a “oh my God I’m so old!” way. More in a, “Wow, that was a whirlwind. I wonder what’s next?!” kind of way.

So to kick off this new and exciting decade, I thought it would be nice to celebrate in a place that’s been on my Bucket List since I wrote a geography report about it in 8th grade: Glacier National Park.

And I was right β€” she did not disappoint.

Although traveling at the end of March/early April meant that most things (restaurants, hotels, sections of the main road) would be either closed or covered in snow, it also meant that we literally had the entire place to ourselves. It was magical, friends. When I tell you the park was our playground, what I mean is that we probably saw about a dozen people the entire time we were there, and the majority of those were on the final day when we visited one of the most popular lakes in the entire park.

We’ve already made plans to go back when the weather is nicer, now that we got to have our initial trip all to ourselves.

Here’s a little bit of what we got up to on my 40th birthday trip.

Day 1: Arrival

We didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon on our first day, which was a nice way to ease into the trip.

These little muffins are becoming quite the travelers πŸ˜‰
Bluey for the win!
When we landed we had time to kill before we could check in, so we headed to The Montana Club in Kalispell (about 20 minutes from the airport) for lunch. It was the perfect Montana introduction.
And the perfect way to toast an introduction to my birthday weekend!
At 4, we checked into our tiny cabin. While this place was fine, there ended up being a few quirks (spider! broken fireplace! hot water that doesn’t last for very long!) that would make me not recommend it for big families like ours. Still, it was a fantastic location β€” at about 15 minutes to the West entrance of Glacier β€” AND had one of our favorite features ….
A hot tub!
Em couldn’t go in for long, but she did get a dip, which she was VERY happy about πŸ˜‰

We knew we wanted to get up early on Friday to start the exploring, so after dinner we hit the hay (the girls did enjoy their loft beds in this Airbnb, that’s for sure!) and called it a night!

Day 2: East Glacier

On our first full day in the park, we hit the road! We were staying near the West Glacier entrance, but we wanted to head over to the East side to check out Two Medicine Grill for breakfast on our way to St. Mary Lake.

Hard not to take picture of EVERYTHING you see in Montana.
Driving over the continental divide!
Only one child was awake for the event.
Breakfast at Two Medicine Grill was everything we could have ever hoped for in a diner.
See what I mean πŸ˜‰
Chris took this photo of me from the car, because ….
I will always stop on the side of the road for horse photos. Always.
The park entrance photo of my dreams, on the way into the St. Mary Lake area!
It was definitely chilly on Friday, so we didn’t actually do any hiking. But driving around and stopping for photo opps was just as good, in my mind.
See what I mean πŸ˜‰
There were a lot of road closure on this trip, but we definitely got the gist, and definitely plan to come back when we can see the whole thing!
All told, we drove about four or five hours on Friday around the park, and the girls were ROCK STARS. I love my little crew…
We stopped at the Glacier Distilling Company on the way home, which happened to be about five minutes from our Airbnb and AMAZING.
Delightful tasting flight!
Delightful cocktails!
Then it was back to our Airbnb for more HOT TUB TIME!

Day 3: Polebridge Mercantile

On our second day in the park we traveled over dirt roads and through rivers (basically) for … HUCKLEBERRY BEAR CLAWS!

The Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery is a Glacier institution, and we were so lucky that it just happened to open for the season on April 1st!

Chris didn’t let on how nervous he was driving to Polebridge until we got home β€” but he did an awesome job and we arrived in one piece!
While Chris fretted the drive, I took photos πŸ˜‰
About an hour later, we arrived!
I mean … HOW CUTE IS THIS PLACE?!
AND THEY HAD PUPPIES!!!!! (that were actually for bear control …. yikes!)
And so many treats! And a coffee that I loved so much I got two of. PLUS …
Don’t ask me how many Huckleberry Bear Claws we purchased …
How adorable is this Lego version of the store?!
Running from a family of Sasquatches. Naturally.
We tried to drive into the park from the store, but our car got stuck in a trench of water. So, we nixed that idea in favor of ….
More hot tub time!
Hot tubbin’ in the cold and snow really can’t be beat <3
It was the PERFECT last day of my 30s, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way <3

Day 4: WELCOME TO 40!

And then there was the One Where I Turned 40 …

Yikes!

It was honestly a good day, friends, filled with Facetimes and family and fun and Huckleberry things. I felt very loved and special on this day, and there wasn’t anything else I could have possibly wanted.

Starting your birthday off with waffles covered in Huckleberry jam and ice cream is ALWAYS a good idea!
For my birthday, we decided to head over to the famous Lake McDonald, which afforded us some glorious views along the way.
Plus this picture-perfect park entrance sign <3
It was a cloudy morning, but look at this splendor …
So incredibly gorgeous.
AND WE BASICALLY HAD THE PLACE TO OURSELVES!
It was a special moment.
How Mom throws …
How Dad throws.
Gorgeous.
Serene.
For dinner that night we headed into Whitefish (about 30 minutes away) and ate at The Firebrand Hotel, which was magnificent.
After dinner the skies had cleared and it was nearing sunset, and Chris had the idea to head back to Lake McDonald. I’m so incredibly glad we did …
Because these views …
Are breathtaking.
We have no fun πŸ˜‰
Thank you, Glacier, for putting on a show.
Birthday pie that night was … you guessed it! … HUCKLEBERRY!
Plus one more hot tub/star gazing soak.

Oh, Montana, you stole my heart. This was the trip of a lifetime, and I’m so happy I got to spend it with my crew.

On Monday it was …

One final hot tub soak and …
One final Huckleberry cocktail, then home.

That was my 40th birthday adventure in a nutshell, friends. I hope you enjoyed following along.

I can’t wait to see where my 40s take me in this crazy beautiful world, and I can’t wait to bring you along.

Bis bald, loves!

Holidays In Australia Part 4: Forster Beach

What’s a trip to Australia without a proper visit to the beach?!

The final leg of our Australian holiday journey was a trip to Forster, the beach where Chris almost every post-Christmas holiday with his family and two groups of family friends growing up.

But before we headed to the beach, we flew from New Zealand to Sydney and hopped right quick on a train to catch up with the kids in Circular Quay and take some necessary touristy shots of the quintessential Aussie sites:

The cutest twins!
We have a similar photo of these two from our trip back in 2019. Time. Sigh.
Emilia obviously had no idea what she was seeing, but I wanted her to see it, nonetheless.
Just a couple of cuties πŸ˜‰
Also cute <3
The girls did surprisingly well with all the photo taking, considering ….
Train rides are fun.

I also forgot to mention that while Chris and I were livin’ that kid-free life in New Zealand, the girls did some pretty fun things with their fam back in Sydney, including a visit to the Simbio Wildlife Park where they got to SEE KOALAS AND PET KANGAROOS!

So incredibly grateful to this crew for watching our own little zoo for a couple days, allowing us a very much appreciated solo getaway!
While getting away by ourselves was the main objective of our New Zealand trip, obviously, Chris and I were both so incredibly grateful that the girls got to spend some one-on-one time with this delightful family of theirs that they don’t get to see very much.
They unsurprisingly had a blast, plus …
FED KANGAROOS! An experience that at least Lotte and Grace will, I’m sure, always remember <3

We were also finally able to catch up with Chris’ grandmother β€” and all of his other family members on his mom’s side β€” after missing them on Christmas when Nannan got Covid. Thankfully she was doing much better, and getting everyone together before heading off to the beach was absolutely the best.

Absolutely priceless.
The best there is.
The (absolutely incredible) gang <3

We decided to head straight from dinner to Forster to make the most out of our few days left. That meant a three hour drive, but the girls did incredibly well, and Chris and Vince volunteered to take ALL THREE with them so that Cath and I could drive and chat in silence.

I mean, how sweet is that?

We arrived after dark, obviously, but once the morning hit, it wasn’t hard to see why Forster has meant so much Chris and his family. Here’s what we got up to during our few short days there.

Our cute little condo is the same place Chris’ family has been staying for years!
Vacation necessities.
Our girls would have slept in the water if we left them. Other than a few terrifying moments where we lost Grace (which, bright side, afforded us the opportunity to discuss what to do when you get lost!), we had THE BEST TIME at the beach!
Lives here now, thanks.
Beach treasures.
Lotte & Nan <3
They had a blast together in the water!
<3
Chris’ best friend even drove hours from his home to stay at the beach with his own family while we were there. That was so special and sweet!
This was the first time these two had ever had their families together, so that was a lot of fun for us <3
His daughter became fast and adorable friends with Lotte and Grace <3
Too. Stinkin.
We had a cookout on the beach the second night we were there, which is another one of Chris’ families’ traditions.
Another mediocre dining view πŸ˜‰
Having family around was the. best. Chris’ mom took Lotte and Grace for a walk on our second morning, which gave me and Chris a chance to take a walk with just Grace. It was so delightful.
Walks with Nan.
Morning beach walks for the win!
My cutie.
This little beach “pool” was so great. It was a sectioned-off area of water separate from the actual ocean, which meant there were no waves/riptides contend with. The girls did have fun splashing around in the actual ocean for a bit, but we spent most of our time here, which was a nervous parents dream come true!
Fearless.
So much fun with all these adorable people!
Fun and more fun.
Cute and more cute.
See? Adorable!
That beach life.
Emilia wasn’t totally convinced on this trip that she loves water … but I have faith that she’ll get there!
We ordered fish & chips for dinner and went out for ice cream on our last night, which is also a Connor Clan tradition!
Our last day before heading back to Sydney was cloudy and rainy, but that didn’t stop the girls from a beach trip!
Breakfast at a restaurant on the beach was also a highlight!
Some members from one of the other families that used to vacation with Chris while he was growing up also stopped by for lunch and a beach hang, which was yet another amazing highlight of this trip.
Lots and lots of cousin time was the other major perk. (I have no idea what this is, by the way, but I am HERE FOR IT!)

And that was Forster, friends. It was the most amazing beach time, and I’m so glad we were able to make it work.

Then we were back in the car headed to our final night in Sydney before flying out the following morning.

It’s absolutely impossible to sum up what this trip and all of its parts has meant to us. I have 12,000 photos to relive the memories, of course, but I’m hoping to hold on to the feeling for as long as I possibly can.

All the feels.
The best aunties.
Can you even?
The best Nan & Poppa.

Until next time friends … BIS BALD!

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 β€” BY OURSELVES β€” 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 β€” we splurged in a way we don’t normally … and I don’t feel badly about it one little bit πŸ˜‰

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 β€” 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 β€” as well as remind myself to ride on the other side of the road β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
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 πŸ˜‰

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 β€” 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!

YMCA of the Rockies β€” The Estes Park Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post on the Monday after Thanksgiving, as we had just spent the weekend at the second YMCA of the Rockies location. Since the trip was a sponsored press trip, I waited to post this until the story for the publication that sponsored me went live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, loves! Our little family was lucky enough to try out the second YMCA of the Rockies location β€” this time in Estes Park β€” the weekend after the holiday. (You can find information on our stay at the Granby Ranch location here.)

While similar in many ways, and with many of the same amenities as Granby, the Estes Park location did feel slightly different. There is less property at this location, which means the cabins and activities are closer together. This is nice if you’d like to opportunity to walk around more easily, but the vastness of the Granby location also had its perks. Whichever you visit, you honestly can’t go wrong. Grace spent the entire first-day-back-preschool-morning-check-in walking up to her little friends and her teacher and saying, “I went to the YMCA of the Rockies!”

It obviously had a lasting impact. Here’s a little bit why …

Even the check-in area was charming!
We had a real fireplace at this cabin, which you just KNOW Chris loved!
Games were another big part of our stay.
So glad we got to check out the pool on this trip!
The most fun!
Who doesn’t love a good air throw?
Just like in Granby, the cafeteria was a big hit.
Me and my cute little crew πŸ˜‰
We took a cute, short guided nature walk that involved hugging trees!
Borrowed some clubs for some mini-golf!
The library β€” and more specifically the story time at the library β€” is a MUST if you come here!
Grace did some rock climbing on the scrambling wall, while Lotte …
… gave the big wall a go!
Nature Center cuties
We made ice cream!
We explored some trails!
We made art!
We made a mess πŸ˜‰
We tried out the playgrounds!
We got cozy and colored by the fireplace in the lobby!
We made smores in our jammies back in our cabin!
And on Sunday morning, we woke up to gorgeous, snow-dusted vistas.

And that was our action-packed, amazing trip in a nutshell, my friends! Check out the YMCA of the Rockies in the Good Housekeeping travel awards here.

Bis bald, friends!

Colorado Springs Bday Bash Part Two: Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds

Dads work on their birthday weekend trips, don’t get it twisted πŸ˜‰

Happy Monday, friends! Back to yesterday, when we were spending the second part of Chris’ birthday getaway at Garden of the Gods and on a cave tour at Cave of the Winds.

We’ve been to Garden of the Gods a number of times (like here, with my bestie), but yesterday was magnificent. The weather β€” while windy β€” was remarkable in all her fall glory, and we got there basically as the park opened to avoid the (always) crowds.

The girls basically love anywhere they can run unencumbered.
Happiness is …
Fall foliage AND these spectacular rocks <3
YOU try getting a photo of an almost-two-year who is NOT in motion!
Cuties.
Lotte’s new favorite thing is asking me to take specific photos β€” often with specific poses β€” and it is just delightful.
Emilia was over it by this point, but here’s a photo of me and 2/3 of my ladies.

After Garden of the Gods, we hopped back in the car and drove 10 minutes to our Cave of the Winds cave tour. It was about 45 minutes long and the girls were so great during it! I definitely think there were moments that were scary/hard for Grace (like when they turned the lights completely off and we were plunged into darkness β€” to show us what the cave used to be like before they added electricity β€” or some spots that were slick to walk in), but she was such a champ, and I was so proud. They both asked awesome questions (Lotte about stalagmites and G about bats) and, I think, had a really fun time.

It’s hard to take a ton of photos in a dark cave, as you can imagine, but here’s what I did get:

So pretty! Do NOT take this tour if you’re claustrophobic!
Cute little cave dwellers!
Emilia was great throughout, as well!
More formations whose names I forget but that still look beautiful.

And that was that, my friends! A successful birthday trip all around, made all the more fun by the tons of leftover birthday treats we had to bring home πŸ˜‰

Happy fall, everyone … and bis bald!

Seattle With Three Littles Day Two β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” and should β€” make a donation online!) The bluest water, the mossiest rainforest, and all the bird chirping you could ever want in life.

So incredibly serene.