Spring Breakers in New York City

central parkThis year for Spring Break, Andrew and I took separate vacations. He has been dying to do an alpine touring trip through France and Switzerland with his brother for years, so I got over my fear of him going to Europe without me and gave him the go ahead. But with one caveat, I was not going to stay at home alone with my girls during spring break. We decided that we would take our airline miles and see the Big Apple. Nadia has been enamored by the city because all the shows she watches on Disney are set in NYC, so why not. My sister, who lives in Virginia was able to take time off from work and take the train up with her daughter. We also got to hang out with other friends visiting the city too. It was great seeing familiar faces in the big city, it could have been a long, tiring trip without some other adult support.

We got in to town on a Sunday evening, instead of a hotel room, my sister and I decided we would be more comfortable with our daughters in an apartment (not to mention the prices of hotels are ridiculous and they would not take more than 4 people). We rented an adorable apartment on the Upper West Side through AirBnB. It was perfect, plenty of space for all of us to spread out, bathroom and laundry and a kitchen so we could have tea and breakfast in the morning before heading out. Most mornings our first stop was the Juice Press across the street, where we filled up on smoothies to get us started on our day.

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Cake Boss Cafe

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Fire Station at Ground Zero

On our first full day we did an awesome Hop On/Hop off Bus tour through the city. Our first stop we got off at was the 9/11 memorial. We did not go into the Memorial because it was packed and we didn’t have passes. Also, the large sign before heading in reminds visitors to be quiet and respectful. This seemed like it would be challenging for our group of 8 (3 adults, 5 kids). It was still a very surreal experience. Seeing how many people were down there, and going by the fire stations that were most likely the first responders was very intense. I was not ready to go in with my kids and try and process everything that happen, while also trying to tell a 7 year old why a plane would fly into a building. From here we toured around Battery Park and got our tickets to see Lady Liberty for the next day. After Battery Park we got back on the bus and headed uptown, we went by the United Nations, and saw were tons of celebrities lived and where tons of movies and TV shows were filmed. It was fun seeing all these cool places in real life! We finally got off the bus at Rockefeller Center and spent some time in the amazing Lego Store. After our shopping, we decided to have an early dinner so we could make our Night Time Tour of the City and Brooklyn. We ate a quiet little restaurant called Nino’s 46. I imagine it was quiet because most New Yorkers don’t eat dinner at 5:30, but it worked perfect for our crew. We were even able to stop by the Cake Boss Café after dinner for some cupcakes to bring on our tour.

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NYC Skyline from Brooklyn

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Empire State Building at night

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NYC Library

The night tour was awesome despite the wind and my amateur photography skills, it is pretty hard taking photos at night on a moving bus, but I tried and got a couple good ones.

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Lady Liberty

The next day we took our bus tour back downtown and visited the Statue of Liberty. The boat trip and touring the grounds were beautiful. There is so much history here it is truly amazing. I was sad we didn’t make reservations to get into the pedestal or to do Ellis Island, we will have to do that on our next trip. But just seeing the outside of the statue and taking the audio tour, you learn a lot about what went in to erecting the statue and how powerful of a symbol it is and was to people coming to the United States for the first time. We heard this poem on the audio tour, it’s called “The New Colossus” and was written in 1883 by poet Emma Lazarus, who was born in New York City. The poem lines appear on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

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Alexandre Gustave Eiffel – second designer of the internal structural elements of the Statue of Liberty

After our visit to the Statue of Liberty we had to get back quickly to our apartment so that we could change and get ready for our night on Broadway. Before the show we had dinner at Sardi’s, which has been the toast of Broadway for 90 years. The dinner was excellent and the service was great, we were in and out with plenty of time to get to our show (without feeling rushed). We ended up seeing Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theater. The show was awesome, we had great seats so it was perfect for the girls. Plus it was funny and the music was great. Side note: the guy that played Jafar also did the voice for Jafar in the Disney animated movie, so that was exciting! That night it also snowed! Lots of crazy weather for our week. Sun, rain and snow – all in the first 3 days. The next day the girls, my sister and I, had an impromptu “spa treatment”. This was not our favorite part of the trip, but we are dealing with it. This might be a topic of an upcoming blog, once we are completely over it. I won’t go into the details. After we were done at the spa, the girls got rewarded for being such troopers, so by their request, our next stops were M&M World and American Girl Doll.

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Horse Drawn Carriage in the park

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Friends Fountain

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Promenade in the park

After this crazy day we headed back to our apartment and chilled out for a bit and ended up eating at little place that was around the corner called Pomodoro Rosso and were in bed early. For our last day in the city we decided we were done shopping and fighting the crowds so we spent the day in Central Park. We took a horse drawn carriage tour around the park and saw more sights of movies and shows like, Sex in the City, Elf, Home Alone, Enchanted and Ghost Busters. This was a fun way to see the park and it was a beautiful day too. After lunch, we had to say goodbye to my sister and niece since they had to get to Penn Station to catch their train to DC. We thought we might check out the Museum of Natural History since it was just around the corner from our apartment, great idea – except, everyone else on spring break had that idea and once we walked in apparently all the ticket terminals went down. There was a huge line of people waiting and we were not 100% certain we would get in if we waited in the line. Instead of waiting in line we decided to make our way to the other side of the park to check out the Central Park Zoo. Although it wasn’t exactly like the zoo in Madagascar (high expectations) we did have fun checking out the cool birds, snow leopards and seals. After the zoo we made our way back to our apartment, by way of a super cool playground (one of the 21 playgrounds in Central Park) and Strawberry Fields, where we visited the John Lennon Memorial. We had our last meal in the city at little sushi place called Raku – It’s Japanese 2! (that really is the actual name) and went to bed early to get ready for our 6am car that would take us to the airport.

Strawberry Fields - John Lennon Memorial

Strawberry Fields – John Lennon Memorial

Overall it was great trip! We had a lot of fun seeing the sites, shopping and fighting the crowds. We ate some great food and the girls loved eating giant pretzels and hot dogs from the street vendors (one of Daddy’s favorites from the city too!). It really was comical how many people were packed into the city. But on the flip side, when we hung out in Central Park or in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, it didn’t feel too crowded. I think it will be a few more years before we go back, maybe when the girls are a little older and can appreciate the museums a bit more and their taste in shopping becomes a little more in line with mine.

Until Next Time, thank for reading.

Winter Weekends

A short little poem about our winter camping weekends…

20140203-142042.jpgWe come to the snow to get away from the busy city. We relax in our cozy cabin on wheels. Love is all around, it is peaceful, serene and fun, all at the same time.

20140203-142153.jpgSki lessons, tailgate lunch, skiing down the mountain, learning to skin up the mountain, spaghetti feed, meeting new friends and chatting on a chilly evening. We come to the mountain, to the snow, to winter, to really be part of the world we are in.

il dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing

beach2I need to start this blog off by saying I am blessed, truly blessed, and I will never take that for granted! Anyone that reads my blog has realized that most of my posts are about vacations and trip recaps. That is for a few reasons, first, because I like to keep a journal or record of all our trips and second because I love to travel. It brings me joy, peace and calmness.

In front of the John Rutledge House Inn - getting ready to start our scavenger hunt.

In front of the John Rutledge House Inn – getting ready to start our scavenger hunt.

We recently got back from a lovely ten-day trip to South Carolina and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My family of four headed out to South Carolina on Fourth of July (red-eye flight that went surprisingly well), we stayed in an adorable and quaint Bed & Breakfast called the John Rutledge House Inn. This was a cool treat for our family, because Andrew’s family has Rutledge heritage on his mom’s side, so we felt like we were at a distant relative’s home. We signed up for the Family Fourth of July Package, which included picnic dinner with chairs to watch the fireworks over the harbor, scavenger hunt fun and dinner out with babysitting for the kids. The fancy dinner out, with rickshaw transportation and babysitting for the girls was really what sealed the deal for us. We ate at an amazing restaurant, Circa 1886 and the girls had tons of fun with the hotel staff and other kids staying in the Inn, playing games, watching movies and eating pizza. The one thing I loved about Charleston was the Southern hospitality from everyone, and the city has tons of cool history that we learned about in our scavenger hunt. We also visited Fort Sumter (where the civil war started – which reminds me I know very little about the Civil War), the USS Yorktown Battleship and Charleston’s super cool aquarium.

OBXtasy - view of house from the beach

OBXtasy – view of house from the beach

After 3 nights in Charleston we packed up and headed North for the main reason we were on the East coast. For the next leg of the vacation we were meeting up with my family (my parents, sisters, brother and all their families – total of 16 of us). We rented an amazing beach house in Corolla, NC on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We found this great house, OBXtasy, four years ago when my sister, Debbie, was pregnant with her son. We usually made Deb and her family travel to meet us, but since she was 8 months pregnant we came to her, since the Outer Banks is just a 2-hour drive from her house in Virginia. After spending a week there we all fell in love, so we had to go back. We arrived on Sunday night after an 8+ hour drive from Charleston, and immediately fell into the groove of beach life: dinner with the whole family around the giant table, cocktails on the deck listening to the waves, playing games and catching up with family.

Hanging out on the deck

Hanging out on the deck

And the kids were as happy as they could be, hanging with ALL their cousins, sleeping in the bunkroom and staying up later than usual! The next day (and really all the following days) we did a whole lot of nothing; swimming, sitting on the beach, boogie boarding, taking walks and runs on the beach, eating great meals, taking photos, reading and just hanging out.

There was one day we felt like we should get out of the house and each family did their own little adventure. Our family, plus my brother, decided to rent Jet Skis/Wave Runners, our 30 minute adventure was super fun times, zooming around on the water, wind in our hair and just being crazy. The girls loved it and we were happy we did something a little different. We found these Jet Skis because they were conveniently located next to the crab shack in Duck, that we ordered our dinner from, a bushel of crabs, which was now a tradition from the last trip. This is such a fun way to eat dinner, pour out crabs all over the table and dig in!

Storm rolling in

Storm rolling in

Dinner!

Dinner!

Despite a few thunderstorms (which were pretty cool to watch roll in) and a few hours of rain, we had tons of sunny, warm weather where we all enjoyed “il dolce far niente”, which in Italian means, “the sweetness of doing nothing” – and isn’t that what vacation is all about.

My Family

My Family

Thanks to my whole family for allowing me to share our awesome experience! – Until Next Time my friends!

**This video pretty much sums up the whole trip, my amazing husband made this video with a combo of his GoPro POV Underwater camera and time lapsed camera images using an IKEA egg timer:

Moms’ Weekends Away – Good For The Whole Family!

There is no doubt that moms work hard. They spend the majority of their time making sure everyone in the family is taken care of, yet a lot of moms forget to take care of themselves. That’s why I think it is important for moms to get a weekend away every so often to have some time off and get a break from reality. Recently, I was lucky enough to get a little weekend away with some friends. I love traveling with my family, but every now and then it is nice to do something on your own or with your friends. For this recent trip, a group of girl friends from high school decided we needed to have a reunion in Vegas, after graduating over 20 years ago, it is nice to reconnect in “real life” with friends that you a haven’t heard from in years – other than on Facebook.

Ladies at Dinner in Vegas

Ladies at Dinner in Vegas

The ladies and I stayed in lovely suites at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, and it felt like a little slice of paradise. We sat by the pool in our rented cabana and did a lot of catching up, laughing and people watching! We enjoyed the nightlife (until 3 in the morning, which is pretty late for this mom!) and had a wonderful dinner at Valentino Las Vegas, sister restaurant to multiple James Beard Award-winner Piero Selvaggio’s world-renowned Valentino in Santa Monica

In the morning, I got up early and headed out to check out the fitness center and spa at the Canyon Ranch. For just $20 I was able to enjoy a 90-minute yoga class and all-day access to the amazing Aquavana spa, I was able to relax in the hot pools, steam rooms, herbal steam rooms, igloo and experiential rains. And because I got an all-day pass, I was able to head back in after sitting by the pool all day to recharge and get ready for our night out.

Las Vegas has a special place in my heart; when I turned 21, my mom, sisters, aunts, cousins and grandma all went down to celebrate and started a tradition that has lasted over 17 years with trips to Vegas and Palm Springs. Our family truly values our Girls’ Weekends! I know Vegas might not be everyone’s style; sometimes it might be nice to get away and have some quiet time and really reconnect with yourself.  There are so many resorts and spas to choose from and all will provide you with relaxation, balance, healthy food and activities. This list will give you an idea of the top rated spas all over America, from the folks at Travel & Leisure.

Pool at Miraval

Pool at Miraval

Two spas that have been recommended by friends of mine are Miraval and The Sanctuary, both are in Arizona, so the weather will be wonderful and both will leave you feeling relaxed, recharged and renewed. This type of weekend away will send you home as a new and enhanced woman.  When practicing yoga, meditation and other self-healing treatments and activities, you will learn skills that you can take home to your real life and help you get through the rough patches with ease. I have yet to visit a resort/spa like this but it is on my list, the big 4-0 is coming up pretty soon and I think this might be the perfect birthday gift to myself!

If you are more of an active Mom and want to move and laugh and really challenge yourself, you might be more interested in a weekend of surfing, hiking or learning a new skill. Last summer, some girl friends and I headed south to Oregon for Northwest Women’s Surf Camp – now I am hooked. The ladies and I are going back again this summer to learn some new skills. The camp includes all equipment (surfboard, wetsuit, boots, gloves, hood and helmet), nutritious organic catered lunch, beverages and snacks, morning Beach Yoga session, water-board-beach safety instruction, in-depth surf instruction both on land and two sessions in the water with coaches, a NWWSC T-shirt and our Camp Partners bag of gifts and info! And it’s not just for ladies; they have couples camps, family lessons and more.

Our Group with Northwest Women's Surf Camp

Our Group with Northwest Women’s Surf Camp

Yes, these weekends will take time to plan, a financial investment and some juggling of schedules with your partner, but in the end no matter what type of weekend you choose or even if you just take a day in your own city to recharge and escape, it will be worth it in the end to restore your well-being and keep you balanced throughout your days and beyond.

Spring Break 2013 – Oregon Coast – Camper Style

dsc_1167Now that we have the camper we have been making a point to use it.  A lot of people say they know people that have campers or RVs but they never get used. Well, we are not going to be those people, yes it does get me a little exhausted getting ready to head out for the trip, but once we are on the road, I never really want to go back to our stable home, I really prefer our mobile home! 

For Spring Break this year we decided that since we have spent the majority of the winter in the snow, it was time to play in water and try some surfing, so we headed down the Oregon Coast. This was going to be our first chance to explore the state beaches and see what they had to offer so we can decide where to go back.dsc_1245

Our first stop was Cape Look Out State Park. It is a just South of Tillamook, Oregon. It is a really big area with lots of hiking trails, plenty of hook ups, and a lovely beach. One of the (small) drawbacks was that you had to cross the main road (where traffic comes to the different camping areas) to get to the beach. Which made me a tiny bit nervous so I wouldn’t let the girls head to the beach alone. But again, it was only about a minute walk to the beach, we had hook ups and were very close to the bathroom.

dsc_0050We did not surf at this beach but we did take a long walk in the misty rain. We had the beach to ourselves and found a number of treasures, including shells, sand dollars, kelp jump ropes and a swing made out rope and driftwood. The lovely thing about the camper is that after this long walk in the rain, we have a nice, warm place to change clothes, eat lunch and regroup, so that when the sun came out we were all ready for more beach time and sand castle building. We also love being able to bring our own food and make our own fresh dinners.

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After two nights it was time to head south for our next destination, Beachside State Park – just South of Newport, Oregon.  One thing I loved during this trip was my morning walk on the beach, just a short outing, a little me time to say hello to the beach and the waves. When I got back from my walk, we started out mornings like we do at home: a little coffee, breakfast and reading the news, etc. Since it was Monday, we knew we might have some work emails to tend to, this Monday, Tax Day, Boston Marathon Day, I was checking the news/Facebook and was excited to hear about the US runners that had finished in record time. But sadly, shortly after hearing that news, the tragic news of two bombs exploding at the finish also came in.  My feelings for this could go on and on – my shock and confusion of why someone would do something like this to such a strong willed, amazing community still gives me chills. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families.  But this is about our trip, so I will continue. After Andrew and I tried to comprehend the news, we squeezed and hugged our girls a little tighter and we got ready to enjoy our beautiful day with our family. We had lovely weather and took our time heading down the coast, stopping at multiple waysides/rest stops to take in the views.  We arrived in the afternoon at Beachside State Park, a camping spot right on the beach! Our spot was literally next to the beach access walkway, which for some might be a draw back, in the height of the summer I imagine there would be a lot of foot traffic but for us in April it was not a problem. The highlight for me was again the proximity of the beach. We could hear the waves when we went to sleep, we could see the beach from our bed and the girls could happily run to the beach to build castles while we made lunch or got dinner ready.  The first night we had an amazing dinner, fresh caught salmon, veggies and rice. Not too fancy, but delicious. A lot of times I get ideas in my head and it’s hard for me to get them out until I act on it. One of my fantasies for the trip was to find a local fish market where we could get fresh caught fish to bring back to camp and grill. It’s not a lot to ask, but what we found was so great, a little fish market in Newport, right off the docks on the Bayfront, called Local Ocean Seafoods. It was a fresh fish market and restaurant. The first night we picked up salmon and the next day we headed back for lunch for more fresh caught fish.

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Since Beachside had such a great proximity to the beach, this is where we did most our surfing/playing in the water. Once we were all suited up in our wet suits we headed out! The sun was shining and it was warm, we played in the waves and in the surf and wore ourselves out. None of us really stood up on the board and the waves were not very big, but we were playing in the water and we were warm and it was April!

After two nights here we had to say good-bye, for this trip we decided two nights at each spot would be enough. I could have stayed at Beachside longer, but there was more to see and of course, we don’t have unlimited time. The next destination was Nehalem State Park, just outside of Manzanita, OR. This park is also amazing and gigantic. It wasn’t packed in April, but you can imagine the place filling up throughout the summer. There was a playground next to our site and we were just steps away from the beach access, again a little too far for the girls to go alone, but the park wasn’t and they enjoyed playing there, even in the rain! The first night we got there we took a nice long walk on the beach into Manzanita for dinner and a few groceries and then the next day we took the camper to Seaside where we did a little surfing at The Cove. Thanks to our friend and surf coach Lexie, we knew when and where the waves would be best for the family. Another perk of the camper was when we parked for surfing – we had ALL our stuff with us, we could have lunch, change, etc and then just step out the door and surf. I’m telling you, taking your house everywhere you go is really convenient!  Although it was a bit cloudy, we were still able to catch some fun waves and play in the water.

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After a couple nights in Nehalem we pack up and headed north for the trip back to Washington. On our way home, we planned some crazy fun for the girls, gave ourselves a little extra space and clean showers by booking one night at the Great Wolf Lodge. We had a great day and night playing at GWL, we had friends meet us there and that was especially fun and a great change of pace after being just the four of us for the week.  It was also a bit of a culture shock after 6 days of quiet beach time, we jumped into pretend waves and tons of people, but it was still fun. The Howling Tornado got us screaming and the girls loved playing in the arcade. And the next day we were all ready to get home, which was perfect, we had a short drive back to Seattle and had the rest of the day and weekend to clean up and get ready to transition into reality.

dsc_1283Although the camper is going to stay parked for a few weeks now, we are always thinking about our next trip and when we can get back on the road. It’s too bad that work and school thing gets in the way of all our fun plans! Until Next Time! – kg

Weekend Redeemed!

photo (21)It has been awhile since I have had a chance to write a recap of our last ski/camping weekend. I have been busy with some other exciting projects. As I had reported in a previous post, we have had our share of challenges when camping at the ski area. Luckily, our past camping weekend has been redeemed! When we headed up for our last weekend of ski lessons, my husband and I gave our girls plenty of advance notice of what the weekend would entail and we made sure that we all had the same expectations. We found out that by talking about what we wanted to get out of the weekend ahead of time and what we wanted to avoid, we all knew what to expect and we all ended up happy. Not to mention, there was a great festival going on at the ski area the day we were there, the sun was shining and we had friends and family enjoying the day with us.image (4)

The weekend was fun and relaxing and we even had some fun conversations about our next camping adventure, which will be a trip down the Oregon Coast over Spring Break. More to come on that… until next time!

Family Time In Vancouver

In years past, Andrew and I have agreed with his brother Alex & his wife Anna that we really don’t need to buy gifts for Christmas and instead we should give experiences. Last year we took a trip to Victoria, and we had a lovely time exploring the city. This year we decided to extend the gift giving to Andrew & Alex’s parents. Instead of buying a book on history or something for the kitchen we decided we would plan a train trip for the WHOLE FAMILY! This past weekend, all 10 of us loaded the Amtrak Train and headed north to Vancouver. I am  really bummed we didn’t get one photo of the whole crew, considering we were all taking photos, but this is us at a holiday brunch this past Christmas, so it all ties together. family_xmas

On Friday morning, we took advantage of the mid-winter break for Seattle schools and loaded the train around 7:45am. The train ride is a great way to travel with family and kids, you can spread out and explore the train, the girls were able to run back and forth to the lounge car, I got to have some uninterupted reading time with my nephew Ollie, I watched over him while he napped, while the grown ups got to enjoy a beverage in the lounge car with the girls.

Once we got to Vancouver, we had a tasty lunch and explored Robson Street and did a little shopping. The girls also loved the hotel pool – swimming is one of their favorite activities, so while some of the others napped we did some swimming before dinner.

The second day our adventures took us to Grandville Island, this little island has an amazing public market and a super cool kids market. And when I say kids market, I really mean: crazy, insane building with tons of stuff for kids. After walking to the ferry dock (about one mile), walking around the island, these girls still had energy to burn in the crazy ball pit and tube mazes. We made sure to fully sanitize and, of course, swim and shower after this little outing.

ball pitgrandvilleisland

We had dinner at two different Joe restaurants that probably couldn’t be more different from each other. The first night was Joey – which was in the bottom of a building what seemed like the financial district. This was a recommendation from the cocierge at the Sutton Place Hotel, it was nice because we got to eat early, but it was not the best atmosphere for chatting with each other. The dinner was tasty and the service was fairly quick, which is a nice perk with kids. The second night dinner was at a restaurant called Joe Fortes, also a recommendation from the cocierge but a different style all together, still loud so our kids didn’t stand out, but this was a bit more of an upscale seafood and chop house, dinner was fabulous, but not as speedy as the night before and for some diners its hard to sit still for too long. But our waiter took great care of us and we all had a great dinner.

Sunday morning it was time to head home, and in order to have a day to regroup, we opted to take the earlier train home, which meant leaving our cozy hotel at 5:30am. Needless to say we tried to rest and sleep on the train, but that’s easier said then done with 2 little girls looking for attention. In the end we were very happy to be on the early  train home, considering the train that left later that afternoon was cancelled due to mudslides, passengers on the second train between Everett to Seattle had to be bussed to their location. Overall, it was great trip, there was quite a bit of planning, coralling and coordinating to get everyone in the same place at the same time, but it is fun to have these types of family adventures to look back on.

So, until next time, who knows were next year’s Christmas presents will take us!