Adventures

Girls’ Weekend: Phoenix

I was aching for some time with my bestie, who lives far, far away, so when we had the idea to meet up in the desert for a weekend of relaxation, it seemed to be the perfect plan. Because her daughter and my oldest daughter have birthdays within two days of each other, it also seemed like a great idea to take them along to celebrate their seventh and fourth birthdays, respectfully. The weekend was divine.

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Yes, it was Phoenix in July. Yes, it was more than 100 degrees out the entire time we were there, but since pool time was the number one item on the agenda, the heat was fine with us. We stayed at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass. The resort caters to families, but also has plenty for the adults, including great food and yummy margaritas. S’mores night was also a hit among all four of us.

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We took a jewelry-making class, a canvas-painting class, and a class on dream catchers, all included in our resort fee. Another major highlight for all four of us was movie night in the pool. The service was impeccable and every time we turned around the girls were being treated to free smoothies or a decadent slice of birthday cake. We dined at Ko’Sin several times and the chipotle beignets and quinoa breakfast bowl were absolutely stellar.

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The best thing about the resort was that everything we needed to enjoy a relaxing and fun-filled weekend was right on-site. Aside from a morning at a local mall for a Build-a-Bear and ear-piercing outing, we stayed put and enjoyed everything the resort had to offer. The quality time and watching our daughters get to know one another was so special and I can’t wait to do it all again!

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Adventures

All 50 by 40: Texas

My quest to visit all 50 states by the time I turn 40 has the self-imposed rule that airport layovers don’t count. This is why Texas remained on the to-visit list despite the fact that I have been to airports in various Texan cities several times. My husband and I decided to make this one a family trip and chose San Antonio for the history, River Walk, and abundance of kid-friendly activities.

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My three-year-old has flown several times and is a pro as well as a lover of all things vacation-related.

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This was my one-year-old’s first time flying and she didn’t take too kindly to it despite the happy photo below. I’m not giving up that easily, however.

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The grounds of the Alamo are beautiful and made for a great place for the girls to run around and experience some fresh air while my husband and I got our history fix.

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We explored all five San Antonio Missions, which were fascinating.

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We stayed at The Hotel Contessa on San Antonio’s beautiful River Walk. I’m working on a separate post just about the hotel, which was elegant, yet kid-friendly. This was a great location close to shops, restaurants, and, of course, a pink horse-drawn carriage.

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The below photo pretty much sums up the highs and lows of traveling with small children. There are smiles, fun, happy memories, mixed with occasional inevitable meltdowns.

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Sea World was a must and the whole family enjoyed our day spent there.

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The little one sampled the duck food. Gross.

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San Antonio is somewhere we’ll definitely revisit in the future. We will also continue to take family vacations at least once a year, despite the hiccups that accompany traveling with small children. In the end, the memories of their laughter while splashing in the pool and watching them experience something new will always overshadow the screeching, spilled milk, and flights with a squirmy, nap-fighting one-year-old.

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I have six states left to visit and tomorrow marks exactly five years to visit them all before age 40. I can’t wait to book my next trip!

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

Our Maui Top 10 List

When it comes to Maui, I probably would have been completely satisfied spending the week on the beach or poolside reading, but after that long plane ride it seemed only right to do a little exploring.

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My husband helped me come up with our 10 favorite experiences in Maui. Yes, three of them involve food. No judgment, please. Full disclosure: The list originally featured four food-related faves.

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10: Hike at ‘Iao Valley State Park. This hike is beautiful and since our bodies were still on Mountain Time and we were up before dawn, we had the trail all to ourselves.

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9: Fish tacos at The Fish Market, Lahaina. I had the most amazing grilled fish tacos served in a basket with macaroni salad. Casual. Quick. Divine.

8: Trivia night at The Pour House. For two nerds who haven’t missed an episode of Jeopardy since we started dating (even counting the nights our two daughters were born), we jumped at the opportunity to play trivia on the island. We ended up winning a $20 bar tab and were embarrassingly proud of our efforts.

7: Hawaiian sweet bread at The Banyan Tree. This stuff. I can’t even explain how delicious.

6: Pools at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. We stayed at the villas near the Ritz-Carlton, but our villa had an agreement with them for guests to use the pool. There is a wonderful kids’ area our daughters would have adored, and an adults-only area where we could read in pure peace. The pools overlook the ocean, which is a plus.

5: Spa day and couples’ massage at The Grand Waleia. Our flight home didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m., which left us one last day to soak in some relaxation. This spa is absolutely amazing. We spent the afternoon in the sauna, steam room, and healing pools, then got a couples’ massage. The only thing left to do was have a glass of wine at the airport and completely zonk out for the long overnight flight home.

4: Twin Falls hike. The waterfalls on this hike are stunning exactly the kind of thing I imagined I’d see in Maui and they didn’t disappoint. I was also intrigued by the amazing flowers on this hike. Many were like nothing I had ever seen before.

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3: Sushi at Sansei. We are both sushi fans and agreed this was the best we’d ever had. The service was also excellent. Make a reservation. We tried to get a table our first night in Maui and had to make a reservation for the next night.

2: Whale watching with Ultimate Whale Watch. Our small boat made it easy to get close to the whales. We saw at least a dozen whales breaching, slapping the water, and even swimming right under our boat! We went on the 4 p.m. tour, which meant we caught a stunning Maui sunset during the ride. Our captain and the marine biologist onboard were knowledgeable and clearly very excited about their jobs.

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1: Helicopter ride with Sunshine Helicopters. I was a little apprehensive about getting on a helicopter for the first time, but just moments into the ride I experienced complete relaxation as we flew over the Maui countryside. This is truly the best way to see the island and worth every penny.

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Adventures

All 50 by 40: Hawaii

I just finished visiting my 43rd state on my quest to visit all 50 by age 40, and this last trip left me with one question: Why did I leave Hawaii until number 43?! Silly.

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My husband and I stayed on Maui. It was absolutely gorgeous. We chose not to island-hop on this trip because we really wanted to absorb as much of Maui as we could while still having time to relax.

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I am currently working on my Maui Top 10 list, which will definitely include whale watching and eating my weight in fish tacos.

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There was relaxing pool time.

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The Banyan Tree, which gets creepily loaded with noisy birds at sundown.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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The fantastic hiking trails were one of our favorite parts of the island, and, in my mind, an excuse to eat more fish tacos.

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I took my first helicopter tour. It was awesome!

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We left our three-year-old and eight-month-old daughters home with my very generous and caring parents. We missed them so much, but the time away was good for us. Thank you, dear friends, for reminding me of that, and squelching that mommy guilt before it had a chance to take hold.

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Stay tuned for my favorite parts of Maui. What state should I visit next? Here are the remaining seven.

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

All 50 by 40

I love traveling and lists, so it seemed only natural to set a goal of visiting all 50 states before I turn 40. I have a six short years left to visit the remainder of my list, which you’ll see below. I have detailed the rules, essentials, and list below. After hitting Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky later this month and Hawaii in January, seven states remain. If you have been to these states, what are your pointers? If you live in one of them, do you have a couch I can sleep on? (Kidding, not kidding).

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The Rules

I must set foot in each state for them to count.

Airports don’t count (sorry, Texas and Michigan)

Extra credit for eating local fare.

The Essentials

Enablers: These are the people who are willing to hop on a plane with me, stay home with the kids, or drive me five hours out of the way so I can cross Idaho off the list (my mom, husband, and bestie, respectively).

A plan: I have a full-time job, two kids, and have to stay within budget. Having a game-plan is important.

Willingness to explore the boring ones: People keep asking “why Ohio?” We’ll make it fun!

The List

Alaska

Arkansas

Hawaii (scheduled for January 2018)

Indiana (scheduled for August 2017)

Kentucky (scheduled for August 2017)

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Ohio (scheduled for August 2017)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures

Omaha Children’s Museum and Henry Doorly Zoo

Last weekend when my husband drove eight hours to Omaha for a work conference, my daughters and I decided to join him. It seemed the perfect opportunity to have a little family vacation, if you can call road-tripping with a near-three-year-old and a six-week old a vacation.

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The girls did great, and since my husband was only in the conference during the morning, we had plenty of family time. The two main highlights were the Omaha Children’s Museum and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

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We actually ended up going to the museum, which was downtown and very close to our hotel, both mornings while my husband was in meetings.

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It offered a lot of fun activities like a water table, a grocery store and dress-up area, and an entire room full of pneumatic tubes sucking in a spitting out plastic balls.

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There was a room for treating injured dolls.

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The carousel was my two-year-old’s favorite, and, I will confess, mine, too.

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The zoo was hot and crowded, but also full of amazing exhibits. The elephants, zebras, penguins, and giraffes were favorites among our little family.

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My younger daughter spent most of her vacation sacked out in her car seat or stroller, but, hey, whatever you do to relax.

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My older daughter used any and every excuse to ride Daddy’s shoulders like here…

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and here.

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I love family vacations. It’s so rejuvenating and special to make memories with my children and husband, and get away from the distractions of home, even if it’s just a simple road trip this year. Cheers to summer!

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Adventures

Beignets and Battleships: Mississippi and Alabama

I have been thinking about baby stuff so much lately I almost forgot to share the rest of the photos from our anniversary trip. We started the trip with one day and night in Mississippi and Alabama, mainly because I had never been to those states and I’m attempting to visit all 50.

Le Cafe’ Beignet is in a quirky old house full of southern charm. The made-to-order beignets are to die for. I had devoured most of mine before I remembered to take a picture of them. That’s how amazing they are.

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And because we like to pack a little something educational in with our relaxation and gluttony, we visited the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile.

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The ship is docked in Mobile Bay, but visitors can walk right up on it and explore.

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Climbing the many decks was also a good way to work off all the shrimp and grits we had just consumed prior to visiting the ship.

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We really enjoyed weaving a little history lesson into our trip.