Chicago Trip Snapshots

Last week we got the chance to go to Chicago for my cousin's wedding and to visit family. We also snuck in some time exploring downtown Chicago. We had a great trip and I was wonderful to introduce Caleb to my family and to a very cool city. Here's a few snapshots (okay, a lot of snapshots) from the visit. I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

Uncle Chuck & Aunt Sue

As you can see my Uncle Chuck loves trains. He's got quite the setup in his house and we got to see the trains go choo-choo (video!). Caleb is throuoghly obsessed with trains now. We also enjoyed a lovely brunch with the Merkner crew. 

Wedding and Rehearsal

We were invited to the rehearsal dinner, which was great since we got to play some mini-golf. Caleb's first time and Grandpa John was proud to teach him how to golf.  The wedding was beautiful and took place on a lake. The weather was perfect and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. 

O'Neill Family BBQ

My cousin Erin hosted an awesome family BBQ on Sunday afternoon. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, and little cousins (technically 2nd cousins, I think) got to hang out and catch up. Caleb had A BLAST with all his little cousins. 

Morning with Zerth Cousins

We got to spend one morning at the Morton Arboretum with my cousin Erin's boys, Ethan and Henry. This arboretum was so cool and the kids had some much fun even though it rained! 

Chicago Navy Pier

Grandma Ruth would be pleased as punch to see that we took Caleb to Navy Pier. We didn't go on the "world's tallest ferris wheel" (so says Grandma Ruth), but we did to remote control boats and the merry-go-round. As you can see, Caleb was pooped by the end of the day.

First Train Rides and More Downtown Chicago

Caleb had his first train ride from Downers Grove to downtown Chicago (video!). He thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then we grabbed coffee and breakfast and walked to Millennium Park. We ran around Maggie Daley Park, walked by the bean, and then enjoyed lunch at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. 

Flight and Downers Grove

We stayed at a trendy Home Away (similar to AirBnB) in Downers Grove, which is near my cousin Erin's house. There were some great parks to play in and we also checked out the Saturday Farmer's Market. And the flights...well, we survived. 

Sunshine with Grandparents

It seems I rarely get around to sharing my visits down to San Diego with you. With Caleb under two years old, he flies free on my lap so we've taken advantage and tried to make several visits this year. This past trip down, at the beginning of November, was our last trip with him under two. Next time we have to pay! Although, having that seat will be really nice. We've gotten an empty seat next to us every so often and it makes a world of difference. So even though we will have to pay, at least it'll make for a more pleasant trip (and let me tell you, you need all the odds in your favor when traveling with a toddler).

Lucky for us, we visited San Diego when the beautiful fall weather in Tacoma switched to more wintery weather. They had cold temperatures, snow, and rain. Perfect timing (sorry Josh - he had to stay for work). So we got to extend our intake of Vitamin D for an extra week. And had a bunch of fun with my parents, or should I say Grandma Jan and Grandpa John.

You can't beat palm trees, ocean, and sunsets...

After seeing Caleb have so much fun in Kauai at the beach, we made an effort to go in San Diego. We didn't go in the water (brrrr!), but we had a ton of fun playing in the sand. Moonlight Beach is so great and it's fun to take Caleb there since it was a beach I went to as a kid.

What's a visit with grandparents without a little ice cream? A new favorite on our past few visits has been Handel's Ice Cream. Oh man, it's good. Of course, I have to go to Golden Spoon frozen yogurt. I used to go there for froyo when I was younger, too!

Caleb definitely takes after me in his love for frozen desserts!

I used to always ensure we made a visit to Honey's for my favorite muffins. However, I found Lofty Coffee which makes dynamite salted caramel lattes, and it has won as my latest "must visit each trip" spots. This time, we found Ironsmith Coffee and it competes with Lofty. It's a family winner as well. You know my dad likes a place if he goes in and stares at the pastry case a second time. 

We had best luck with breakfast at Ironsmith, too. Caleb was still adjusting his schedule (after a cold, flight, and time change) and feel asleep on the drive to the coffee shop. We found a parking spot right in front, opened the car door, and placed our table next to the car. We enjoyed a toddler-free coffee and breakfast. Score!

We made a trip over to UTC, one of our family favorite malls. They recently did some changes and updates to the mall and it was totally different. It's quite the hip mall now. There was a Nespresso store so we got some pods for our machine back home. And Caleb enjoyed walking around outdoors. 

Nothing beats just staying at home and playing with Grandma and Grandpa, though.

We're so blessed to get to spend time with grandparents and go on these trips! This was another great time in San Diego!

Our Aloha Vacation

Aloha! 

Ahhhhhh, Kauai. I wish I could go back and it's been less than a week since we were there. Such a magical island and so many good memories for our family. Our first visit was in November 2006. We were with Don and Nada on that trip and apparently it was also the trip where Josh decided he wanted to marry me. Fast forward and we went again in October 2011 for our Honeymoon. Finally, here we are in 2017 and with Don and Nada again...and...Caleb! 

We had a wonderful week in Kauai. We were pretty lucky since we were able to stay with Don and Nada who really helped get everything ready for our visit - even a pack and play for Caleb. We stayed in Princeville, which is a perfectly situated on the North shore. The week was fun and relaxing and awesome for a toddler. 

As you can see, we had lots of fun together...

It was so wonderful for us to spend quality time with Grandpa Don and Grandma Nada. Caleb adores them, and I think the feeling is mutual. And Josh and I appreciated the help (wink wink).

Fun times with Grandma Nada and Grandpa Don

One of my favorite afternoons was at the secret, hidden beach of Molaa Beach. Let's keep this beach just between you and me, okay? There was nobody else there except for the paddler boarder that passed by in the lagoon. We didn't bring Caleb's swimwear, so we just pulled off the shorts and let him go crazy. Isn't it nice to be a toddler, just pull off your pants and it's considered cute. 

Afternoon at Molaa Beach

Of course, there are coconuts in Kauai and Caleb had a grand time playing with one on Molaa Beach. Who knew a coconut was not just something to eat/drink, but also to play with.

Caleb discovers coconuts at Molaa Beach

Oh, Hanalei. You can't beat the sites from this beach. And the pier is quite cool. Caleb had a blast watching the water under the pier. 

Hanalei Pier

I really had no idea how much Caleb would love the beach. He LOVED it. Every time we arrived, he'd run and then stop and have a huge smile and eyes full of wonder and excitement. The sand was a big hit. Wide spaces to run without limits (mostly), you're able to dig your feet and hands into the sand, and you can play with it - what's not to like for a toddler? 

Caleb loves the Beach

Not only did he love the sand, but the water! He surmised us with loving the boggie board out on the water. He'd lie on it and we'd hold him as he floated around. He even tried to stand up like a surfer. Ha! Then he thought we could do the same thing on the sand...without much luck. He insisted that I pull him, and then insisted on trying to pull me. This kid, I tell ya. 

Caleb and the Boogie Board

Kauai Coffee Company was a fun visit as well. Of course, Caleb wanted to run around everywhere in the coffee fields. If you can run, he'll run. If you can pick it up, he'll pick it up. If you can grab it, he'll grab it.  

Visiting the Kauai Coffee Company

In Kapaa, we found a hip and delicious (and expensive!) coffee shop called Java Kai and juice/kombucha shop called Kauai Juice Co. But the building was even more fun with the pineapple art. Pictures were taken.

Cool Art in Kapaa

We also make a visit down to Koloa where we enjoyed some coffee at Aloha Roastery. Back in Kapaa, we had the best shaved ice at Wailua Shaved Ice. Caleb tried apple bananas, while I had avocado toast at Hanalei Bread Co (which was quite delicious). Also, below you'll see a window from Josh and my meal at Kileaua Fish Market, Caleb reading the menu at the Fehring Farm Fruit Stand (we had pineapple frosties, yum), and Caleb and Grandpa Don enjoying breakfast at the condo rental.

Kauai food experiences 

With grandma and grandpa around, you better believe Josh and I got some time to be a couple again. We celebrated our anniversary a week early and enjoyed a delicious meal (for us, and the mosquitos!) at Bar Acuda. Also, we enjoyed cocktails while watching the sunset over "Bali Hai." 

Heather & Josh go on some date nights!

We just had a great time chilling, laughing, and having fun. Caleb enjoyed playing with his sunglasses more than wearing them. We watched a few sunsets, which are the best off the North Shore. And just kicking it back, Hawaii style. 

Kauai spirit

I mean, look at the beauty...can't beat it. Pair that with warm water, sunsets full of color, palm trees, and tropical weather. Bam...paradise!

Beautiful Kauai

And I have to share a chicken photo...because you can't go to Kauai and not experience the chickens. Josh was a super dad with the beach equipment as was Don (not pictured). It rained (hello, tropical) so Josh felt it necessary to use an umbrella. Caleb became a beach bum, too. Oh, and how do you like my sunglasses...they saw a lot of beautiful things.

Cool and Goofy

And I'm not going to lie, the flight was rough especially the trip to Kauai. But it was worth it. 

Traveling with a Tot

Can I go back now? I think our next trip will be sooner rather than later. 

Aloha!

70th Celebrations and SD Sunshine

Ahh, sunny San Diego. Look at that: the sun, the ocean, the palm trees...but most importantly it's where my parents live. If you didn't know already, I grew up in Encinitas, CA and still get to visit since my parents live in San Marcos. Last week we headed down to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday. We had a great time and I especially appreciate the extra help with the little guy. 

Of course we went to the beach, but the main event was the birthday party. You don't turn 70 years old everyday (well, you could say that about any age, but you get the point).

I had the honor of making the German Chocolate Cake this year. My dad requests it every year for his birthday. It was a Grandma Ruth speciality. Shed used to make it for him every year (and every time she came out to visit), but now it's up to my sister, mom, and/or me to make the cake. Everyone seemed to like it, so I think I did a pretty good job. It's a lot to live up to with it being "mom's cake" (or in my case, "grandma's cake").

The big party was on Saturday night. We got the outdoor patio at Bentley's to ourselves and all our family friends came to celebrate...and drink wine. We got to tell fun stories about my dad like how he loves to listen to the cockpit when on flights or take notes when he reads. My dad is pretty awesome and I so glad we got to have such a great party for him.

With my dad, there was wine. Definitely wine. It wouldn't be my dad's party without wine. And prime rib. I have to say the wine was excellent. The wine was some of the finest I've ever tasted. I'm happy to say I like wine now, too. Somewhere between being pregnant and having a kid, I developed a taste for red wine. The three wines served were Keever, Altamura, and 7&8. If you ever get a chance to taste one, do it.

It was so wonderful to see my parents with Caleb. You can see the love! Caleb will run up and give them big hugs. I love it! Of course, they spoiled him (exhibit A: see my dad eating cookies and ice cream with Caleb). It's so great to see them together.

When you visit home (yup, I still call it home. I call Tacoma home as well. So I have two homes), there is always a crowd. We saw all our friends and Aunt Lindsay and Damon came down to visit, too. Monkey and Max, our friend's dogs, even stayed with us a couple of days.

Daddy (Josh) also got to spend some good, quality time with Caleb.

No, they didn't really ride the motorcycle. 

I think Caleb's favorite part of the trip, though, was this Little Tikes car. It's an understatement to say he loved it. I think it's a blessing and a curse - good he loves it and keeps him preoccupied, but he doesn't want to stop playing. But when you see the joy on his face, you know it's a blessing. ;) 

Caleb got his first taste of the Pacific Ocean. He's been before, but only in a carrier. This time he walked up to the water on his own...and then fell. Watch the video, it's hilarious. There was lots of time at the park, in the sand, or roaming around Caleb-style. 

Unfortunately, I got a sinus infection while we were down there. I got some delicious pho, so that helped. And we had to get Lofty Coffee because I love it. Plus, the food is killer. The salted caramel latte, ahhhh so good. The eggs so freaking good. I die in food happiness.

We also went to Bellows for an early birthday dinner for me. I had a cauliflower steak, which was surprisingly super delicious. 

And when in SD, you gotta get Mexican food. We got some delicious tacos at Oscars Mexican Seafood.

Everything nom nom nom.

And to get there involved some flying. Caleb and I went down early, so we flew on our own. It was exhausting, but we did it. He wanted to do all the things he's not supposed to, and when I stopped him from doing them we got a bit of a tantrum. Blueberries helped for maybe five minutes...it's the small things. 

Luckily, Josh was with for the return flight. Still exhausting, but the help was nice. He was in a better mood, but it's non-stop wiggling the whole flight. And he was tired, so in normal toddler fashion he thought the best time to nap was when we landed in SeaTac. Figures.

Oh, and we survived our first flight delay. It wasn't too bad, maybe even for the best, because it gave us time to eat breakfast and stretch our legs. You can see Josh entertaining Caleb with the McDonald's neon sign. 

I love getting to visit SD and my parents. Can't wait until our next trip (except for the flight part, that's not something I really look forward to, hehe).

Portland Mini-Trip: Adventure Edition

The food on our recent trip to Portland was stellar. I'm still drooling over it. But, food isn't everything. Right? It's actually the combination of food and experiences that make a trip fantastic. Good Food + Fun Times = Great Trip. Lucky for us, our PDX trip had both!

Where we Stayed.

We stayed at at AirBnB, which we decided it best if you're traveling with a baby/toddler/kid. You can a kitchen, get more space (multiple rooms, even), and more privacy (no worrying about the people next door hearing a crying baby at 2am). We loved our experience on our babymoon, and loved this experience as well. I think we're regular AirBnB-ers now. 

Our AirBnB was in a great location on Nob Hill and just a few blocks from NW 23rd Street, which has tons of restaurants and cute shops. This turned out very convenient on the first morning when it snowed. We just walked down the street for our coffee and donuts. I also managed to getaway during one of Caleb's naps to go through the shops. It felt so great to get out and just browse without worrying if Caleb was fussing. 

I think the AirBnB may have been Caleb's favorite part of the trip. We loved the stairs. If you set him down, he would immediately head to the stairs and banister. It was pretty hilarious. 

We thought the place was great. Josh thought it would make the perfect bachelor pad. HA!

Here's a video tour of the place! (a video brought to you by me)

What we Did.

Oblations Paper Press

There was so much we wanted to do and such limited time. On the must list was revisiting the site of our engagement. Josh did the cutest proposal at Oblation Paper Press in the Pearl District. It was a walk down memory lane as we strolled the Pearl District and headed to Oblations. Sadly, the brunch place we ate at before he proposed is gone now as is the red couch in the store itself. But, it was fun to go back and relive our proposal day - such happy memories, such a happy day! Don't we look so young? And blond hair - haha.

Powell Books

What's a trip to Portland without a visit to Powell's Books? We got lost in there the last time we visited, and then our cell phones didn't have any service so we wondered around trying to find each other for a good while. Luckily, we stayed together this time so no getting lost. We mostly checked out the children’s section. There were tons of children's books and we had a awesome time checking out the books. Caleb enjoyed some of the books as well, but mostly he enjoyed pushing his stroller through the aisles. We ended up getting the Opposites book and the Children’s Book of Virtues for Caleb's library collection. 

Downtown & Ace Hotel

The lobby of the Ace Hotel is a great place for photos. As you can see from the Then & Now photos below, we've made this stop before...many years ago. We haven't changed much...right??!! 

We didn't spend much time downtown. We didn't even go to the main square where Nordstrom and stores are located. We walked by the food truck area, and the Ace Hotel on our way to Powell's and the Pearl District from our parking spot. I guess we'll have to spend more time downtown next visit (and get some shopping on - especially with the no sales tax!).

Pearl District

As I mentioned above, we went to Oblations and Powell's which are both in the Pearl District. We have always enjoyed this area of Portland - trendy, hip, and cool buildings. We didn't spend much time going into shops or anything, but we did enjoy walking around a bit. If we had more time, we would have spend more time walking around and probably grabbing a bite to eat in this 'hood. But alas, time beckoned us to be quick (and so did Caleb's nap time). 

NW 23rd Street

This was just a few blocks from our AirBnB. There are such cute shops along NW 23rd. I could have done a lot of damage if I let myself do some serious shopping. But I have restraint...a little. I did get a cute hat at Goorin Bros. We also grabbed some treats at The Meadow. This was also the street where Salt and Straw, Barista, and Blue Star Donuts was located. 

Waterfront 

When we pulled up to the Waterfront it was practically hailing. Then, after about 10 minutes the sun came out. That's the Pacific Northwest for you. Josh likes to say, "if you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes." It's pretty true. Anyway, before grabbing dinner, we did a stroll along the waterfront. It was quick beautiful with the sun coming through just after the rain. There was even a rainbow! This is such a lovely place for a stroll in the early evenings. 

Pine Street Market

Pine Street Market is a relatively new addition to Portland - it just opened in the spring of 2016. Josh and I alway seem to find ourselves at these type of marketplaces. We love the concept, find the buildings they are in super cool (usually they are historic buildings), and think it's fun to see a few different restaurants of a city all in one space. Pine Street Market was originally a Carriage & Baggage Building that was used as a livery and horse-drawn carriage storage facility until the early 1900s (read more about it here), which we found interesting. Deciding where to eat was tough, but with the rainy day we opted for ramen. Afterwards we just had to buy some bread and pastries for later. Definitely a fun place to have a meal and check out. It worked especially well for bringing a noisy toddler to as well. 

Portland Children’s Museum

Wow! This is a GREAT children's museum. It's much bigger than the Children's Museum of Tacoma will all different rooms and activities. It was perfect for the rainy day, too. Caleb has a blast even though he did get bird poop on his head as we walked into the museum! I think his favorite activity was the mega bright lite board. He also enjoyed the grocery store, vet, construction site, and campsite. Oh, and there was a room with African instruments, and he learned to play the drums. Definitely a place to take your kiddo, and we will be back for sure!

That was quite a lot to do in just a day and a half! We had tons of fun and are so glad we were able to get down to Portland for a quick, last-minute getaway. 

Portland Mini-Trip: Foodie Edition

I confess...I am a foodie.

I know this might sound good, but I have always have felt slightly embarrassed to admit to being a foodie. Which got me thinking...why? After some thought, I guess it comes down to my need for everyone to like me and that as a foodie someone might think I'm a food snob. But really, it just means I like food. I like eating it, cooking it, baking it, reading about it, researching it, talking about it, photographing it...just like a hobby. Nothing to be ashamed of, right? I hope you agree. 

Great, and now that the foodie confession is off my chest, I want to talk about food. Surprise! Josh is transitioning jobs right now and got a few days off between work. We seized the opportunity to go on a family mini-trip down to Portland. We haven't been to Portland since we moved to Seattle in 2010. Crazy, huh? I mean we just live three hours away. I chalk it up to: life. 

Portland has really grown since the last time we were there, especially in the restaurant scene. It's become a real foodie town. As soon as I knew we were headed down, I started to compile a list of lists of where to dine. I looked at my Pinterest board, asked Facebook friends, and read some of my bloggers Portland must-eats. You know, foodie research.

I know we wouldn't be able to do it all - not just because it was just a day and half long trip, but because bringing a baby along changes everything. Oh, and my list was way over 50 restaurants/cafes long (heh!), but that's neither here or there.

We did get to some pretty awesome places. Also, I snuck some food photos for you (again, slightly embarrassed to be taking photos of food. Apparently not enough to not take them, though). 

Okay, enough of the talk. Here's where we went and what we ate...

Breakfast  

Barista {Day 1 - Coffee} There is a picture of me with the Barista sign from our last visit (see photos below). I am pointing at my head because it was when I was working as a Starbucks barista in Eugene. Wow, that seems like a long time ago. Back then, I'm pretty sure that was the only Barista location, but this time we found there were several locations.

Lucky for us, Barista was just a nice walk away from the AirBnB we were staying at. It snowed that morning, so we walked down and got ourselves some delicious coffee. I ordered the hazelnut latte and Josh got the Valhorna Mocha. I normally don't go for hazelnut lattes, but it was housemate syrup and I saw someone rave about it on Yelp. It was delicious - slightly sweet, nutty, and smooth. The mocha was a winner, too. The chocolate was rich, but not too much - it was just right. 

Blue Star Donuts {Day 1 - Food} Honestly, I don't have a huge want to go to Voodoo Donuts. Most of them look like they are covered in cereal. They might be delicious, and if I get the chance, I'll try one. Mostly, though, I look for a classic donut with a fun twist. And that is what Blue Star delivered. They were so freaking good. 

The gal was late to open the store, but she let us hang out inside (snow in the PNW always slows things down!). So we had time to debate what flavors to get...it was so tough. We ended up with the Raspberry Rosemary, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Smoked Grapefruit, Bourbon Blueberry Basil, and Breakfast fritter (bacon potato goodness). I think my favorite was the Raspberry Rosemary donut, and Josh couldn't decide but mentioned the Smoked Grapefruit being a favorite because it was just so different. I think I have to say it: this was the best donut I've ever had. 

Sterling Coffee Roasters {Day 2 - Coffee}  I always have a dilemma when traveling. You find something you really enjoy one day, but should you return to it knowing you really liked it or should you try something new? What if the something new isn't quite as good? #firstworldproblems. I usually end up forcing Josh to make the decision. Generally, Josh is on Team Try Something New, so that usually want we end up doing. And that is the case on our last morning in Portland. Instead of Barista, we walked a little longer to check out Sterling. It's a tiny coffee shop made more for commuters than dwellers. It was swanky and nice inside, though. I ordered a vanilla latte with their homemade vanilla syrup. Josh ordered their house caramel latte. Both were smooth, creamy, and delicious. We also purchased some beans to take home and we are still enjoying their coffee. Their beans are quite good, in fact. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact ones, but I believe they were Ethiopian.

We took our coffees to go and strolled back to our AirBnB for some food to go along with the coffee. Man can't survive off coffee along...or, can he? Naaawww. Food required!

Trifecta Annex - {Day 2 - Food} If you continue to read, you'll know we went to Pine Street Market. When we were there we picked up some bread and pastries. For breakfast, we noshed on sweet citrus morning buns. They were buttery and had a lovely touch of orange zest inside. Take that an dip it in your coffee. Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Lunch

Lardo {Day 1} Our intention was actually to get lunch at Tasty 'n Alder, but it was a 45 minute wait. When you have a baby who's nap is coming in about an hour this just won't do. Instead, we crossed the street and hit up Lardo. This place specializes in meat and sandwiches. If you can do a good sandwich, oh man...

I indulged in the Pork Meatball Banh Mi while Josh got the Philly Joe Jones. Both were terrific. To accompany the sammies, we go the fries which were also great with herbs and such. Josh got some red velvet beer, which was in fact red colored. He thought it was great and refreshing. A great spot for lunch! 

Tasty ’n Alder {Day 2} Basically everyone I asked mentioned we should go here. It's one of John Gorham's restaurants, and he's the hit restaurateur in Portland right now. We ordered the house cottage cheese with pineapple jam for Caleb. Caleb refused it, but don't let him tell you if it was good as he's currently only living off fruit and puffs right now. Anything else gets dropped, hidden, or squished. We ate it instead and our impression of cottage cheese was changed for the better. And now I want to know how to make it!

I enjoyed the Polenta n Sugo, which was basically creamy polenta topped with a chicken and pork ragu sauce with mozzarella and topped of with an egg. Oh man, it hit the spot on the rainy day. Josh took the waiter's advice and ordered the Korean Fried Chicken, which was spot-on spicy and delicious. This place didn't disappoint...even after all the hype. 

Caleb enjoyed this Bamba (peanut puffs). And flirted with the ladies next to us.

Snacks

Salt & Straw Ice Cream {Day 1 & 2} Oh man, oh man, oh man. This ice cream is the BEST. Da Bomb! The creme de la creme. Probably the best ice cream ever. Statement made. Done. 

The flavors are freaking amazing. Different but not so wildly different that you scratch your head in confusion. We opted to share a flight of ice cream. Yup, a flight of ice cream. We found it to be the perfect way to enjoy several flavors. We tried the Chocolate Gooey Brownie, Arbequina Olive Oil, Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars, and Pear & Blue Cheese. We both thought the Pear & Blue Cheese was the best (of the best!). And Caleb liked their spoons. Can you find the missing spoon in the photo below?

Guys, it was so good, we made a pit stop before hitting the road back to Tacoma for a treat to go. Josh got the rootbeer float, which was dynamite. I couldn't resist and got a waffle cone of the pear and blue cheese. 

Dinner

Jo Bar & Rotisserie {Day 1} We arrived late afternoon to Portland, and didn't have much time before Caleb needed to go down for the night. He's an early to bed guy, so we need to eat at 5pm if he's going to join us. We were staying within walking distanced to 23rd Street in the Alphabet district (slash near Nob Hill), so we walked down to see what would work. We landed at Jo Bar, which received good ratings on Yelp (not that Yelp is the end all be all of rankings, but it usually steers us well). The good thing about early dining is happy hour. We both got a drink - Josh a beer, and me a cocktail (blood orange old fashion, my fav!). Our favorite dish was the fondue. Not only fun to eat, but delicious. Then we shared the rotisserie chicken since rotisserie seemed to be their specialty. We ended up having to gulf it down because Caleb started to get tired (that's code for - fussy, flailing arms, shrieks, etc). But it was a solid dish and worked well for that evening. 

Pine Street Market {Day 2} We always love a good market. Like The Ferry Building in SF, Krog Market in Atlanta, Pike Place in Seattle, Granville in Vancouver. If there is a market in the city, you can probably guess Josh and I will check it out. Pine Street Market is fairly new - just opened a year ago (according to some guy that served me some food). It has several little restaurants inside and is very hip/trendy. And we loved it. We ended up with ramen from Marukin Ramen, which was soul warming. Before we left, we bought bread & pastries from the Trifecta Annex to enjoy later. I would definitely want to come back and try more places! I love marketplaces. 

What a great weekend! What a culinary adventure! I'm pretty proud of us for getting to so many places with a baby/toddler. We definitely have to return to PDX soon. So many good places to try still. Have you gone to Portland recently? Foodies Unite! 

To Grandma & Grandpa's house we go...

Over the mountains, and through Las Vegas, to Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house we go... 

Am I the only one out there that puts a song to everything? Well, besides my mom. Just me...well, that's awkward. Let's move on then.

Josh, Caleb, and I headed out to Ivins, UT to visit the Brown Grandparents in early October. They recently moved from Indio, CA (near Palm Springs) to Ivins, UT (near St. George). They have a beautiful new home nestled up against a red mountain (check out Day 5 collage to see it). The area is quite stunning. It's not far from Zion, so use that to help picture it. The weather was fantastic - our last taste of warm, sunny weather until next summer since we're headed into the rainy season here in the Pacific NW. 

We have a wonderful time visiting. It was relaxing and nice to catch-up. Visiting family is always so great. Plus, I got some extra help with little guy, which is always nice. And Caleb just loves his grandma and grandpa. It's so cute to see him with them. 

Here's a quick look at our visit:

Day 1 -

Our first day was mostly travel. We took a flight from SeaTac to Las Vegas. I was so proud of Caleb on the flight. He didn't cry out once. At the end of the flight, people walked by commenting that they didn't even realize there was a baby. SCORE. He even laughed at take-off when the engines roared - it was adorable. Planning it around a nap worked perfectly. Go us! 

Once we arrived, my father-in-law picked us up and we drove to Ivins - about 2 hours. Again Caleb did great and slept most of the time. So the day of travel was very successful. 

Hey look, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Dad (in the photo).

Day 2 -

We got a preview of the Ivins area. We drove by Kayenta Homes, a beautiful development, and got some tasty treats at Nielsen's Frozen Custard. Caleb got spoiled with a taste of custard. Speaking of spoiled, Caleb always got some new fun toys from grandma and grandpa. He absolutely loved the Learning Walker toy. 

Day 3 -

We made a day trip out to Zion National Park. This was Caleb's first National Park visit. Grandma Nada got him a National Parks Passport. I had one of them when I was little (I wish I knew where it was, bummer). Zion is such a beautiful area. It also brought back good memories of our trip in 2012.

Day 4 -

Unfortunately, Grandpa Don got sick and was stuck in bed (poor guy! we later found out it was pneumonia). So, Grandma Nada took us touring around St. George. We walked around the cute shops and grabbed lunch at TwentyFive Main.

That evening, Josh and I went out on a date night - just the two of us! We celebrated our five year anniversary with dinner at Xetava Gardens Cafe. We enjoyed a glass of wine and dinner al fresco. It was a lovely evening and great to get out. 

Day 5 -

We did some shopping around town and then mostly chilled at home. Caleb was a bit fussy with his bottom teeth coming in, but sitting out on the grass really cheered him up. While Josh and I soaked up the good weather. 

Day 6 -

We had a nice, relaxing day. Nada had to take Don to urgent care because he wasn't getting any better. It's a good thing, too, because it turned out to be pneumonia. Poor Grandpa!

Josh and I decided to help out and make dinner. We went to Harmons Groceries, which is an awesome grocery store. We went there a few times during our visit. And that mountain in the photo, that's just us driving home from groceries. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Day 7 -

Lucky me because I got a massage at Red Mountain Resort. It was heavenly. The massage therapist said I was pretty tight - uhh, yea. thanks to lifting a car seat, baby, stroller, chasing baby, etc.

In the afternoon we drove through Snow Canyon State Park. It was a beautiful drive and we'll have to go back for some great hiking (or camping, if Josh can convince me). 

Day 8 -

Happy Birthday to Josh! We celebrated with breakfast at Bear Paw Cafe, delicious shakes from Larsen's (OMG the banana cream pie shake is to die for), and a hearty dinner at Rib & Chop. Otherwise, we enjoyed a nice walk in the neighborhood and just lounging. 

Day 9 - 

Ho hum, we had to head home. Another day of travel from Ivins to Las Vegas, then onto SeaTac. Caleb was quite a handful (to put it nicely) at the start of the flight. By the time we were in the air, he settled down into a nap and the rest was fine (whew!). Luckily the people behind us liked to play peek-a-boo. 

We had such a lovely time. It's so great to spend time with family. I wish we could go back right now! 

Curious Caleb goes on Vacation

Last weekend Caleb had a few firsts. It was his first...

  • Flight
  • Time in California
  • Night away from his own crib
  • Earthquake
  • Stay at a hotel
  • Going to the beach (California style)
  • At a Wedding

With all these firsts in just four days, it's a good thing Caleb is a curious little fellow. He's our little traveler and did such a great job. I was super nervous about the flight, but he did great. We had a 9am flight down to Orange County (SNA). He feed, slept, and then hung out with me in the carrier in the back of the plane with the flight attendants. 

For our return flight, we tried a night flight. He did just what we had hoped: slept the whole flight. Although I felt bad because we had to move him around a bit once landed and home, but he was a trooper. The only problem was then Josh and I didn't get to sleep until about 1am, so we were pretty pooped. 

Sadly, Alaska didn't have any wing stickers, but Caleb definitely earned his wings!

Our trip started at my parents house. We decided to head to Moonlight Beach and take a walk. Caleb had his first California beach experience.  He kept looking all around and I think he was amazed at the vast ocean. His eyes were like the color of the water - I love his eyes so sparkly and blue. 

We also went to lunch and enjoyed the gardens at Stone Brewery. It was so relaxing to sit outside while Caleb napped. It was beautiful outside and I enjoyed some time with my mom while my sister, her boyfriend, and Josh went on a brewery tour. 

By the way, look at Caleb reaching for my sandwich! The pork thief...he wishes, but maybe someday soon he can have some delicious pork. 

Did I mention there was an earthquake? Yup, our first night in Cali and there was an earthquake - a 5.2 quake. My mind immediately went to Caleb and get to safety. It's funny how a baby changes you...my mind went straight to his safety! Luckily, it was not a big one so it was over by the time I was up and going for Caleb. Caleb slept right through it!   

One of the big events of the weekend was our friend Heather Richardson's wedding. It was a beautiful reception at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. We brought Caleb along so he attended his first wedding. Pat, the mother of the bride, announced him as the youngest guest at the end of her toast. He got a round of applause! 

His little outfit was the cutest! We got it from Etsy and it fit him perfectly. Isn't he just the little gentlemen? So dapper in his bowtie! 

Mom and dad got dressed up, too. 

After a few days with the O'Neill family, we headed up to the OC to spend time with the Brown family. Caleb got to spend his first night in a hotel. The hotel had a crib, so we were all set. Caleb loved rolling around on the big bed - it was adorable. 

While in Orange County, we had the chance to see some Brown family friends. We enjoyed lunch with Sy and Mary Ellen at the Sherman Library and Gardens. So beautiful there! 

Caleb was impressed with all the flowers and plants. Look at the picture with his eyes so wide open in wonder. He also liked to reach out and grab the plants. 

We saw Carolyn and Rich for dinner as well. It's so great to see good family friends!

We also got to spend some time just chilling with both families, too. 

It was a wonderful trip and so awesome to see Caleb get to do some more "firsts" in his life. We're so lucky to have a pretty easy-going, happy baby. Hopefully we get to take many more trips together. 

And cheers to many more "first's for the little guy!

8 Perfect Days: Babymoon - St. Augustine

I've told you about Charleston and Savannah, so let me wrap up our babymoon adventure with our final stop: St. Augustine.

We took the A1A Highway down from Savannah, which was longer but more scenic. It was a beautiful drive. We saw the landscape slowly change to a more beachy feel.

We thought St. Augustine had a distinct feel than that of Savannah & Charleston. For instance, it was definitely a more tropical climate. Also, as far as the history goes, Charleston and Savannah had the history integrated into the town, but St. Augustine was more preserved and really honed in on the "we're the oldest city" tourism thing. We still enjoyed it, but if you twisted my arm and forced me to list the cities in order of how much we liked them, I would have to say: Savannah, Charleston, and then St. Augustine. We're glad we went and did enjoy our time there. Let me share...

What we Did

  • Castillo de San Marcos - Being history buffs, we both enjoyed touring the fort and learning it's story. Apparently, it's the oldest fort in the US (also of note: St. Augustine touts itself as the oldest US city as well). I found all the various occupants of the fort/town interesting - first it was the Spanish, then the British came along. Then Spanish returned and then ultimately the Americans settled. Visiting this helped us learn about the city's past and I would recommend a stop when in town.
  • St. George Street - This is the main street in town with stores, restaurants, and some historic sites. It's a nice stroll, but it has some hokey shops so we didn't really buy anything along the way. 
  • Aviles Street - This is the artsy street in town with galleries and shops. It also says it's the oldest street in the US. We walked along this street in the morning, and I enjoyed the quaintness of it. 
  • St Augustine Distillery - Yes, I know, this is a odd (almost cruel, in my opinion) place for a pregnant lady to go but we enjoyed our visit. We got a nice tour - learning about how they make their spirits and also how it went from an ice manufacturing plant to a distillery. At the end of the tour, they did a tasting of some of their spirits (I smelled them). Funny enough, this was our favorite activity in St. Augustine. 

Where we Ate

  • Catch 27 - We really enjoyed our dinner here - it was chill and fresh. I would highly suggest going here if you visit. I had the rustic flounder and Josh had their fish tacos. We finished it off with a yummy key lime pie.
  • Kookaburra Coffee - OMG, I loved this coffee. I had never heard of an Aussie coffeeshop, but that's what it is and they got me hooked on the pumpkin & honey badger lattes (yes, we went more than once). I might return to St. Augustine just for their lattes.
  • The Floridita - Oh sad, Yelp is saying this place has closed. We really enjoyed it, so that's a big bummer. We had a pleasant lunch on the patio before we left (and ended our trip, tear). Check my instagram photo
  • The Bunnery - We had breakfast here and honestly it was alright - nothing to write home about. We got the green chili burrito & egg sandwich, which I where I think we went wrong. I think the thing to get here is the baked goods. Next time, I would totally get something like a biscuit or some pancakes. 
  • The Hyppo - These were perfect on a hot, tropical day. They had some unusual and delicious flavored popsicles. Of course, I got the pumpkin pie flavor (it was October...it makes sense). 

Where we Stayed

This was the only stop on our trip where we didn't use AirBnB. We just couldn't find a good and affordable place on it. Instead we stayed at a traditional hotel - crazy talk, I know. The Casa Monica Hotel was very pretty and fit St. Augustine perfectly. It was very grand feeling and nicely located in the center of town - we could walk everywhere! It was a nice place to say and put our feet up at the end of the day.

And that was our final stop on our babymoon. This was such a memorable trip for us. We often reflect back on it now. And although babymoons sound trendy and silly, I would totally recommend couples take a trip (even if it's a short, nearby trip) before their first kiddo. It was so necessary to have this quality time with Josh before Caleb arrived - and I suggest this even more now that Caleb is here. 

Sigh, good times, good memories...

8 Perfect Days: Babymoon - Savannah

I am majorly behind. I don't know if I told you this, but I was planning on taking the week before my due date off from work. I had grand plans for getting some posts written up and doing some other this-and-that's around the house. Well, surprise, Caleb came early and I didn't get to any of it. But now I realize I have a backlog of things to share - some are pretty old now, but I figured it would still be worth sharing. 

For starters, I never finished sharing our babymoon trip. I wrote an overview of the trip and shared the Charleston part of the trip. However, we also went to Savannah and St. Augustine. Would you like to hear back those places, too? Okay, good! Because I have been thinking about this trip a lot lately. I just finished up the lotion I bought and have been wearing a t-shirt from the trip, which keeps reminding me of our adventures. So many good memories. Let me tell you about Savannah!

Savannah was charming. Compared to Charleston we felt it was more approachable and we loved how it was old meets new. We enjoyed all the squares throughout the town as well. We even meet the major of Savannah, Edna Jackson, as we roamed the city. This was our favorite stop of the trip. I would highly recommend visiting!

What we Did

  • Carolina Cider Company - We made a pit stop here on our way from Charleston to Savannah. We're so glad we stopped! They had yummy cider and local goodies. Worth a stop for sure.
  • Beaufort - This was another stop as we traveled to Savannah. It was a quintessential Southern Lowcountry town with cute shops and a nice waterfront. We found these piers not from from town that went out to the water, which were pretty cool (see top row in photo collage). We didn't stay long, but we enjoy a stroll around town and lunch at Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe. I got a t-shirt at a cute shop, Scout Market, that says Deep South which is great to lounge in right now.
  • Forsyth Park - If you've read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil this park might sound familiar. It's a lovely park in Savannah with moss draped trees, a fountain, and beautiful houses/mansions (see middle row of photo collage). We walked through this several times and really enjoyed it. There was also a wedding one evening that we really wanted to crash!
  • River Street - This is just as it sounds, a street along the river. It had some hokey shops, but it was fun to see the water. Not worth a ton of time, but we enjoyed a quick jaunt through in the morning before everything else was open.
  • City Market and Design District - This is the part of town with cute stores and artsy things. I could have done some serious shopping damage at Terra Cotta, but managed to limit myself to one top. There was an Anthro type store called Paris Market and Savannah Bee Company (buzz yum!).
  • Free Savannah Tours - Josh and I really enjoy tours as it helps you learn the history of the city and see things you may not have found on your own. Daniel took us around town and gave a great introduction to Savannah. We started at Johnson Square and went to a a bunch of places - Oglethorpe Square, Gordon Square, Owens Thomas House, Colonial Cemetery, Lafayette Square, Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Andrew Low House (Juliet Gordon Low) - and then ended at the Chippewa Square which is the bench scene of Forrest Gump.
  • Bonaventure Cemetery - This is a bit outside of the downtown area, but worth a trip. I know it's weird to visit a cemetery, but it was so cool. It's exactly what you think of when you think of a old, mysterious Gothic cemetery in the South. I took a ton of photos - old gravestones with moss draping. 
  • Tybee Island - This is where folks must go to hit up an afternoon at the beach. Too bad for us because we didn't have bathing suits. We were hoping for a bit more of a cute town, but it was more like corny shops with junky souvenirs. We did enjoy a walk on the beach, fun seafood lunch, and seeing some beach houses though.

Where we Ate

  • The Grey - Although it's a tough call, this was probably our favorite meal of the trip. The restaurant ambiance and decor was super neat - it was an old Greyhound Bus Station. We sat next to a lovely couple and chatted for a bit. We got some delicious food including Spicy Roasted Eggplant, Seafood Boudin, Roasted Chicken, Smashed New Potatoes, and ended with an Apple & Pear Fruit Crisp.
  • Foxy Loxy Cafe - This was near our AirBnB and we enjoyed a breakfast and afternoon snack here. They had horchata lattes and kolaches. I bought a t-shirt here and have been wearing it as a PJ top and brings back good memories.
  • Flying Monk Noodle Bar - We were roaming around town, hungry on our first night in Savannah. I did some Yelping and found this awesome place. These noodles were sooooo good. I had the Na Na Noodles and Josh enjoyed the Five Spiced Pork and Rice. It was a nice change of pace from all the Southern food, too.
  • Byrd Cookies - These little gems are worth a stop. They are crunch little cookies and we bough several bags to take home. I can't decide which were my favorite, pumpkin spice or key lime. Hmmm.
  • Leopold’s Ice Cream - We had a nice afternoon pick-me-up here and shared a scoop together (flavors: pumpkin spice & honey almond). It's a classic ice cream parlor with tons of flavors. You could tell it was popular with the non-stop line out the door, but it was worth it.
  • Blue Door - This was another place near our AirBnB and we shared nutella & strawberry waffles and had brown sugar lattes. Good, but if I had know about Back in the Day Bakery I may have skipped this place and gone there twice instead. And yes, it had a blue door.
  • Back in the Day Bakery - This was such a cute bakery. In fact, my notes from the trip say, "cute, cute cute!" And delicious! Great baked goodies like banana muffins and biscuits. The coffee was great as well. 
  • Collins Quarter - We enjoyed a nice afternoon coffee to get a rest from all our walking. The food looked good, but we just enjoyed some tasty beverages.
  • Local 11 Ten - This is where we celebrated Josh's birthday. I tried to get reservations for The Grey for his birthday, but they were closed that day. This place was good for sure, but compared to all the other great food on the trip it wasn't our very favorite. We enjoyed the tasso-rubbed pork loin with creamed carolina rice & bussels sprouts, beef bourguignon, mac n cheese, and then topped it all off with an after dinner drink on roof top porch (Josh did at least, remember I was preggo - sadly no cocktails for this lady, such a shame).
  • Cotton and Rye - And this is where we should have gone for Josh's birthday dinner. We were kicking ourselves afterwards. We decided to get dessert somewhere other then Local 11 Ten for Josh's birthday treat and landed here randomly (thanks Yelp). It had only been opened three months, but we loved the atmosphere and food. We sat outside on the patio and devoured the banana white chocolate bread pudding. Good memories.

Where we Stayed

We stayed in a historic Suite AirBnB, which was quite nice. It had a comfy bed, a spacious bathroom, and a kitchenette. It was pretty walkable to the downtown - although, it wasn't crazy crazy close, but if a pregnant lady can do it then so can you. ;) Check out the video tour...

Savannah Historic Suite Tour

8 Perfect Days: Babymoon - Charleston

I am finally onto the next post of my 8 Perfect Days: Babymoon series. I gave you a prelude to the trip with my first post, but here I am to tell you about the first segment of our trip in more detail: Charleston! 

We wanted to fly into Charleston, but unfortunately with Alaska Airlines we had to fly into Atlanta to use our companion fare (of course, they started direct flights to Charleston in November, but for us that was too late - 'tis life). So, our trip actually started with a night in a cute neighborhood of Atlanta, Inman Park. We got in late and grabbed dinner at a cool place called Krog Market. The next morning, we headed on the road to Charleston. But Inman Park was a very cute neighborhood and a good start to our trip.

Charleston was very charming and we really enjoyed our time there. Before I dive into our time in Charleston, I wanted to let you know you can see a bunch of my Charleston photos. Go to the top navigation > photos > 2015 Babymoon. Or click here

Okay, now here's a bit about our time in Charleston: 

What we Did

  • Waterfront Park - On our first day, we arrived mid/late afternoon, so we headed out to the Waterfront Park before dinner. It has a lovely pier with swinging benches and views of the water. You can also see Fort Sumter, for you Civil War buffs. There is also a nice path along the water to stroll with palm trees and fountains. A great introduction to the city for us! 
  • Sole Charleston Walking Tour - This was a huge highlight of the visit or me. I got the idea to take this tour from a blogger I follow. She had a 10 Awesome Things to do in Charleston post and we were so glad we took it. We ended up having our own personal tour from Fin. Coming from a family that loves history, I really enjoyed how Fin walked us through the history of Charleston. You could really feel and share in his passionate for the city. He  took the time to show us as much of downtown as possible. By the end of it, we really had a good handle of the city, it's history, and it's people. To give you an idea of the amount we fit into 2-1/2 hours, here's a list of some of what we saw: the Pink House (the oldest home in Charleston), the "four corners of law" buildings, Dock Street Theater, Nathaniel Russell House, Rainbow Row, the Huguenot church, the Newer Anglican Church, the Irish Hibernian building, and more!
  • City Market - Apparently, this is one of the nation's oldest public markets and it's still used today it to sell stuff. There are a bunch of stalls lined down a covered, outdoor market space. The stalls are showcase all sorts of stuff from hand-woven baskets to food items to jewelry. For me, honestly, it was a wee bit disappointing as much of the stuff was somewhat junky (in my humble opinion). Thre were a few cute stalls, though, like the spice stall. That said, it's still worth a visit while you're there. And I may be a bit soured at the experience as the basket lady told me to delete my photo when snapped a photo of their basket booth (then put up a sign that says, "no photos" then lady - sheesh! It irked me for sure). 
  • King Street - This is one of the main streets through town with all sorts of shops - high end shops, boutiques, and local goods. I enjoyed browsing the South of Market shop, getting my baby kid at Sugar Snap Pea, tasting honey at Savannah Bee Company (yes, yes, we were in Charleston), and grabbing a popsicle to cool down from King of Pops.
  • Charleston Farmer's Market - This happens on Saturday mornings and we decided to stop here before heading onto our next stop. It was fun to see all the local artisans. We bought some lotions at the Charleston Soap Chef, munched on some pecans from Molly & Me, and savored some sips at Cannonborough. It was an enjoyable meander through local Charleston and another one I'd recommend if you're ever in Charleston on a Saturday morning.  

Photos: Top Row: Waterfront pier, Waterfront swing, Rainbow Row. Middle Row: Heather inside the Huguenot Church, Random gate, City Market basket weavers. Bottom Row: Oldest house, Slave Market, King of Pops on King Street.

Where we Ate

  • Black Tap Coffee - As you probably picked up from my blog, Josh and I are coffee snobs. Maybe it has something to do with living in Seattle. Yea, probably. But anyway, this place did not disappoint us coffee snobs . It was one of our favorite coffee stops of the trip, in fact. The lavender latte was lovely along with the coffee cake muffin. Yum! We even bought a mug as a souvenir. 
  • Husk - This place is way popular. Like way popular. As in I called at the beginning of September for dinner reservations in October, and they were booked. Crazy! So, I made lunch reservations instead and it was totally worth it. Here's what we enjoyed: Shrimp & Grits, hamburger, watermelon scrub, orange honey whey drink, and boiled jalapeños peanuts. Nom nom nom.
  • The Grocery - It's hard to say which our favorite restaurant of the trip was, but this was definitely a top runner. The atmosphere and flavors together made this a most memorable meal. Here's what we enjoyed: La Estrella pumpkin, romesco cauliflower, fried oysters, chicken with pears, and banana pudding ice cream. 
  • Fig - This was our first big meal of the trip, and everything on the menu looked delicious. We ended up sharing plates in order to try more things...great idea. A idea we carried out through many meals of our trip. Here we enjoyed: Pork bolgenese ricotta gnocchi, butternut squash with fromage & honey, Carolina gold rice & peas, wreck fish, and finished it off with calvados crepes. We were pleasantly surprised at the deliciousness of the Caroline gold rice & peas. And we still talk about how great it was to this day.
  • Hominy Grill - If we could, I would have gone here for dinner, but there were only so many nights in the trip so we opted for breakfast. All the people we talked to, raved about this place - a true sign of a good restaurant! We went very South in this meal with cornmeal pancakes with peach yogurt butter, fried green tomatoes with ranch dressing, and a country breakfast with biscuit and gravy. Can you guess who got what? Hint: Mine was corny. 

Photos: Top Row: Hominy Grill Fried Green Tomatoes, Heather at Fig, The Grocery. Middle Row: Biscuits & Gravy at Hominy Grill, Black Tap Coffee, Hominy Grill sign. Bottom Row: All at Husk - Shrimp & Grits, Boiled Jalapeño peanuts, hamburger.

Where we Stayed

We stayed at AirBnBs for (almost) our whole trip. In Charleston, we stayed at this very hip, well decorated cottage - the Historic Design Cottage. Check out the video below for a tour. We enjoyed our stay and would definitely recommend it (and stay there again). The only down side was it's distance to the historic downtown area, but we had a rental so it worked out just fine for us. 

And here's a video tour by yours truly...

Charleston AirBnB

8 Perfect Days: Babymoon

Hi y'all, Did you ever read the “Three Perfect Days” articles in the United Airlines magazine? I always enjoyed those articles, but I don’t think they do that series any longer which is really too bad. 

Since the articles are no longer around (I think not anyway, I don’t really fly United anymore), I wanted to give you my own take on the series with 8 Perfect days in 3 cities. Over 8 days we visited Charleston, Savannah, and Saint Augustine. 

This trip was basically our babymoon…yes, it’s a thing. But we also had our anniversary the week prior and celebrated Josh’s birthday on the trip. In other words, much to celebrate plus one last hurrah before the ‘lil one arrives. It was a much needed trip for us; we’ve both been working hard and we hadn’t had a vacation in a while. Also, it had been a few years since we did a Josh & Heather only trip. 

We had a wonderful time and many great memories. I have so much to share especially in the way of photos, so I’m going to break this down into three posts - one for each city. I’ll be sure to share what we did, what we ate, and where we stayed. Get ready for it!! 

To get you excited, I’m going to share some thoughts on the trip as a whole. 

As I mentioned, we visited 3 cities and each was quite unique. We thought the progression South was the perfect tour. Here’s how our trip flowed: 

  • Charleston, SC - We felt this was the largest of the cities, the most cosmopolitain. It hummed with city life - business people, a street with high end stores - but yet easy to navigate and history woven into the town. 
  • Savannah, GA - While it you could see similarities to Charleston, it was definitely it’s own town. It was smaller and we felt more approachable. This was probably our favorite place, but only by a sliver. We felt it was the best integration of history and city living together. 
  • St. Augustine, FL - This was the smallest of the cities, and was less of a living city with history and more history preserved in time. It was distant from Charleston and Savannah in that it felt more tropical and likely due to the Spanish rather than British origins. 

As with all trips, there were things we liked or surprised us and then a few “eh” things about it. The highlights include:

  • Friendly people - I think it’s true, Southerners are very friendly people. If you were just walking down the street, people would say hello. Or launch into conversations if they sat at the table next to you. 
  • Crickets - So there might have been other bugs, but at night with the warmth of the day softened, the cropping of the crickets was so pleasant. 
  • Architecture - We loved all the houses, porches, gates, and buildings; just too cool. 
  • Food - We ate a lot of good food on the trip, but more on that later.
  • Trees - I was surprised (although it made sense when I thought through it) that there were palm trees. The mix of palm and oak trees fascinating. 
  • Spanish Moss - The Spanish Moss lent a very atmospheric tone to the areas. It’s just what I imagined. 
  • History - It was so interesting to learn the history of each city, and these cities were full of it! 

And, then there were some things that were just “eh, not so much”:

  • Mosquitos - Gawh! Bug bites are the worst. Itchy itchy is no good. Josh got one on the bottom of his foot (crazy guy). 
  • Humidity - I just wilt in humidity. It wasn’t too bad since it’s fall, but there was one day that just felt so thick.
  • Charleston Basket Weavers: I took a photo and the lady told me to delete my photo. Grrr. That just irked me. 
  • The End - I hate that the trip had to come to an end so soon. Reality bites. 

Now, let’s talk about food. I’ll share where we ate and all that jazz in my city-specific posts, but we did get a taste of the good ole South. Here’s some Southern food we enjoyed: fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, Carolina rice, shrimp & grits, po’ boys, biscuits & gravy, sweet tea, and peach cider, boiled peanuts, key lime pie, and local fish. 

Sigh, I wish I was back there now, sitting on the patio on a warm, fall evening with crickets and some banana pudding. I look forward to reliving the trip through the upcoming posts with you.

Good Friends, Nature, and a Wedding

The other weekend, Josh and I were down in the Sierras in California. Before we went on the trip we were saying it was near Lake Tahoe, but now that we've been I'd say it's closer to Truckee...kinda. Here's a map if you're a visual person like me. 

We were down there for an important reason - our good college friend, Chris (who actually roomed with Josh sophomore year and later lived with after college), was marrying Tori. Hurray! We were thrilled to make the trip down and see them tie the knot. It was also great to see all of our other great college friends. These are friends that you can pick up where you left off, even if it's been a few years. 

As I said, we were basically in the middle of nowhere, but specifically at a place called Gray Eagle Lodge. It was a cute lodge that had cute, little cabins all around. Of course, being in the middle of nowhere we had no Internet service. WHAT?! What are going to do. It took a few hours for our wifi detox, but in the end it was a nice break. 

Anyway, back to friends talk. Look at this gang - then and now...crazy! The top one was 2005, 10 years ago, when we were in Lake Tahoe for 4th of July. The bottom is when we took a hike near the lodge when we were at Gray Eagle together. A few folks missing, but you get the idea. 

Or how about this little gem. The guys at the Santa Clara Senior ball, and then at the wedding. HA, so entertaining to look back at the old photos. Also, look at how better cameras have gotten...dang.

So you get the idea - long time friends. We really had a great time. Friday and Sunday was mostly traveling to/from the wedding, so the bulk of the fun was on Saturday. 

Saturday morning we when on a hike (sans bride & groom, of course). The trail started at the lodge and we hiked out to a little waterfall. It was a great hike on a beautiful day.

After working up an appetite on the hike, we grabbed some grub in the town of Graeagle, and then enjoyed it picnic-style at a nearby brewery.

Then it was time for the big event, the wedding! Of course, it was beautiful, sunny day up until the ceremony. Right at 4pm, there was a loud burst of thunder and then the rain came. They were prepared, though, with tons of IKEA umbrellas and tarps. I hear rain at your wedding is good luck. A few of these photos are courtesy of Jeff Herbage (thanks Jeff!).

After the ceremony, the rain stopped. Yup, pretty much. We grabbed some group photos. Maybe in 10 years I can compare these photos with another gathering. Wouldn't that be awesome?! (Thanks to Jeff again for these photos).

Then there was the reception. It had the. best. cheese. table. EVER. It was to die for, you guys. The food was good, the company great, and then we boogied all night long (okay, so maybe to like 11pm - we're getting older apparently). It was tons of fun. (Let's thank Jeff one more time for some of the photos). 

And that was one fine weekend with one great group of friends. 

P.S. More of my photos are on this Flickr album

A Few Hours in Chicago

I told you I'd tell you. I sure did, and here I am fulfilling my promise. I'm good like that - keeping promises.

As you know, I was in Chicago this past April for my Grandma Ruth. There was one afternoon, where Lindsay and I found ourselves with a few hours to spare before the next family gathering. So we looked at each other, shrugged, and decided to hit the town. Downtown Chicago.

Boom. 

We started out with filling our bellies at Little Goat Diner. I knew the chef (uh, not personally) from one of my favorite shows, Top Chef. She was the season 4 winner and has since become very popular, especially in Chicago. 

Yes, there was actually goat at Little Goat Diner. Lindsay got goat sloppy joes and I got a goat cheese & smoked blueberry quesadilla. Both were delicious. See Lindsay ohh-ing and ahh-ing and me ready to devour? Dang, I look hangry in that photo. Don't I? Roarrrrr. Food. Eat. Now.

Every time I write "goat" I say "bahhh" to myself. I'm weird. But we enjoyed the lunch experience. 

With bellies full, we decided to have a little adventure out at Millennium Park. For one thing, it's free (except for parking). And another, Lindsay had never been. 

My favorite thing at the park, and I'm sure it's everyone's favorite considering the amount of people, is the bean. It's just cool. 

Cool bean. 

What's cool is how it reflects stuff. It reflects the skyscrapers. 

It reflects people. 

It reflects off itself. 

We took some photos of ourselves with the bean because it's cool and we're cool. 

It's just reflects everything. And it's in the shape of a bean. The end.

Side note: I guess it's really called Cloud Gate...whatever.

But keep going because it doesn't end with the bean. 

There are other structures there, too. Like the Crown (right) fountain and the somewhat creepy people/faces structures. Lindsay posed...such a model, especially the bottom one.

Nearby was a cool Stock Exchange building arch. And the buildings nearby are cool, too. Umm, Should I stop saying cool? 

Not pictured, but there is also a new addition to the park since the last time I was there. It's thing mega kids land/park. It was pretty wild (see what I did there, used wild instead of cool).

We ended the adventure walking along Lake Michigan. The water was incredible blue. Okay, more like teal. It was quite pretty (and windy, and cool). 

Then we got to our car, which was parked by the fountain. Sadly, the fountain was dry. But cool still. 

And there you have it. A few hours out in Chicago. Plus good sister bonding time. Can't beat that. 

It was cool. 

Orcas Island Family Getaway

Let's rewind for a minute, shall we? It may seem like a long time ago now, but really December was just last month. And I have to tell you about Orcas Island. I just HAVE to because it was too beautiful and too fun not to tell you. 

My parents and sister all flew into Seattle to spend my mom's birthday weekend here in the Pacific Northwest. Then we all went together up to Orcas Island, which is one of the San Juan Islands. 

Remember when Josh and I went to San Juan Island (oh wow, that post was pre-blog refresh)? Well, yet again the San Juan's swept us off our feet. We had such a great time, and we lucked out with beautiful, sunny weather...in December...yea, lucky. 

We started out the trip by jamming all five of us into my car. It was a wee bit tight but we made it work. Sometimes it's lucky to be the driver.

Then, like all good Washington trips, our trip started and ended with a ferry ride. Ferry rides are awesome. They make me feel like little kid again - running to the front to catch a mountain sighting or just standing in the front with the wind in your hair. Or, to just chilling inside on your phone - cough cough (ha! caught ya mom & dad).

We stayed the night at Outlook Inn, which was an adorable hotel. With it being the low season, the prices were great. I'd definitely recommend it. It was decked out for the holidays, too. Love it. 

We arrived late in the day, so it was practically dark already. Being more north, it tends to get dark around 4pm in the dead of winter. UGH! Honestly, it's the worst thing about winter. But on the island, it was sort of cool since it was so dark the sky was super clear and the stars sparkled. It was weird to have to use the brights on my car; I do that so rarely so when I do, I get sort of excited. 

Dinner was at Sound Bite, or at least that's the name during the winter. Normally, it's Westsound Cafe. Actually, a fair warning, if you go in the low season, a lot of restaurants close. I tried two other restaurants before getting reservations at Westsound. I was nervous about everyone liking it, but it was really delicious. 

Josh and I capped the night with a drink at The Barnacle. It's a great bar...go if you ever visit Oracas Island. Do it. Do it. 

When we woke up in the morning, we looked out the window to see the fog resting over the water; it was magical. Then the sun started to break through, and the water shone with blues, pinks, and greens. I have to say, it's not a bad way to wake up.

One more photo of the morning fog for good measure.

Breakfast was equally as good as the view at Brown Bear Baking. Oh man, the orange sugar bun was killer. So So good. I'm drooling.

With full bellies, we headed out to Moran State Park and Mount Constitution, which boasts the highest point on the San Juan Islands. Admittedly, the views were awesome.

In good ole John O'Neill style, we stopped at many viewpoints. If you know my dad, and have traveled with us, you know what I'm talking about. I drove, so I had to take on the Captain duties. 

While on the mountain, I convinced a random guy to take a family photo. The sun was a bit harsh (oh boo hoo, the sun was shining), but you can still see how beautiful my family is...we're like models really.

Sure, okay, I'll show one of just the view. It was hard to get the photo to match what we saw. The fog was like blankets in the valleys. 

We went a little photo crazy at this viewpoint. What did I tell you? A good looking family. 

After Mount Constitution, we spent some time at the shops in Eastsound. It's a quaint town with fun shops; my favorite was Darvill's bookstore. Then, we caught a few tastes of wine a the Orcas Island Winery. And that was about it. We had to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

The ferry ride back caught some great views of Mount Baker. Well, that is what I believe it was...definitely not Mount Rainer, though, I know that one.  

As we rode the ferry, the sun started to set. Sooo pretty. Boats and sun and water.

Ah, I almost forgot, on the way to Orcas Island, we spent a few hours in Anacortes. It wasn't really planned, but we had to kill a few hours until the next ferry. My sister found entertainment in taking photos with all the sasquashes. Oh, there are more than just these three my friends. We roamed some antique stores and grabbed lunch at Gere-a-Delis

So there you have it. A good weekend getaway to Orcas Island with the family. I can't wait to go back!

Adventures in Death Valley: Part 2

Here's Death Valley Part 2, which I pinky swore in Part 1 that I would share. When I pinky swear, I mean it. I keep my pinky swears. I'm not sure what the cost is if you don't keep a pinky swear, but I don't want to find out. 

We did a lot on our second day. Well, we did a lot on our first day. I guess we just did a lot on the whole trip. But the second day, we took the road more. We met some locals like Mr. Mule below. He had a friend, Mrs. Mule. They told me to say "hey" to you.

Oh man, the roads were crowded, I mean look at all those cars on the road in that picture. Crazy, right? Heh, got you. It was just wide open road folks, wide open. 

The Open Road & Locals

The locals & Open Road

Scotty's Castle

Out in the middle of the desert, there is a castle. It's Scotty's Castle, but it doesn't belong to Scotty (I should turn this into some kind of riddle). But seriously, it's in the desert and Scotty did live there. It's a long, fascinating story and we heard all about it on the tour. Basically, it's about a con-artis, a banker, and their unlikely friendship. Funny how life works out and surprises us. Here's the story as it was told on the tour (there may be some inaccuracies ; hey, I'm not perfect):

Scotty was from Kentucky and at a young age headed to the West to become a cowboy. He joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows. After about a decade with the show, be ventured on his own and started to tell everyone he found gold in Death Valley. He convinced some Chicago investors to support his mining expeditions, but went on to use the money all up in San Francisco pretending to be a rich from all his gold. The investors got smart and wanted to see the gold mine with their own eyes. Scotty took them, but staged an attack before entering the valley. It didn't go as planned and the investors caught on to Scotty's scheme.

Luckily, this didn't phase Albert Johnson, one of the investors, and he went on to become friends with Scotty. When it came time to build a vacation home, Albert picked Death Valley (it helped his health and full of beauty). Albert didn't want to make a ruckus about his vacation home, he just wanted a nice place to relax, so Scotty got to call it his castle. 

 Scotty's Castle

Scotty's Castle

There were so many intriquite features of the castle - like the red gate really and the J-S seals. The JS made sense after the tour and learning the history - J for Albert Johnson and the S for Scotty. 

The gates of Scotty's Castle

Funny enough, our tour guide was named Scott - he was sure to clarify that it was not Scotty. The history and the beautiful surroundings made this one of our favorite sites of the park. 

Touring Scotty's Castle

Ubehebe Crater

After Scotty's Castle, we drove to the nearby Ubehebe Crater. Just the name itself is fun to say; try it: Ubehebe. The crater was created from volcanic activity - specifically, a large steam explosion. As a kid, volcanoes both terrified me and fascinated me. I have to say, Ubehebe gave me the hebegebes.

The other photo below was just a random stop on the way to the crater. It's rather funny because there was nobody stopping, but by the time we left about a half dozen cars had also pulled over. People see you looking at something and assume it's cool then they pull over as well. If you ever go to Death Valley, see if it works. Pull over and check if others follow...I bet you it will work. Seriously, though it was gorgeous - the blackened sand was really cool.

Ubehebe Crater & Surrounding Area

Rhyolite

Rhyolite's prime was just a mire six years - from 1904 to 1910. The town sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills. From there it boomed and people from all around flocked to the town. It even had a stock exchange and electricity. But it fell quickly, and is now a lonely ghost town in the middle of nowhere. My pictures show the casino, general store, bank, and a brothel (scandalous!). 

Remains at Rhyolite

There was a random Union Pacific train sitting in the ghost town. It's sort of sad to see a city just die and dwindle to rocks and rubble. I wonder if there are any ghosts hanging around. Oh my!

Roaming Rhyolite

There was even a deserted truck (although, I'm guessing it's not from 1910 - just a hunch). And random cans and rust. But rust is pretty, don't you think?

Rusty Rhyolite

Bottle House 

One place still stands structurally intact in Rhyolite and that's Tom Kelly's Bottle House. No joke, this house is made out of bottles. Can you imagine living in a bottle house? I learned it was made out of about 30,000 bottles, and they were mostly Busch or medicine bottles (you know, Busch as in Budweiser). Pretty crazy stuff.

Bottle House

Borax Train

There are not very many places to stay when you visit Death Valley. There is the Furnace Creek Resort, which if you can afford, looks to be pretty nice (we had dinner there one evening). Or, the Furnace Creek Ranch, which is where we stayed. At the ranch, is the Borax Museum. We didn't go to the museum (there is only so much time!), but we did get a few pictures of the train used to transport the borax

Borax Company Train

Red Rock Canyon

It seems backwards, I know, but before we left I grabbed a photo of t he Death Valley sign. Then we drove onto Las Vegas. Quite the change -- nature and nothingness to mega city and everything. We grabbed lunch at Honey Salt. It wasn't in the strip, just outside in one of the suburbs. And oh my it was good. I really loved the decor and the food was great. 

We had some time to burn before our flight, so heck, let's see yet another National park. We did a quick drive through Red Rock Canyon. Yup, it's red. Actually, it's quite beautiful and we all agreed it would require a return but with more time. 

Goodbye Death Valley, Red Rock Canyon

We really fit a lot into two days at Death Valley. I would definitely suggest a visit, but maybe keep it to the winter season. The summers seem a bit hot, to say the least. I was also happy to be proven wrong about it being "just a desert." It's full of beauty and history - two of my favorite things! 

Adventures in Death Valley - Part 1

I want to tell you something...Death Valley is rad!

Hold up, let's back track a bit so you know where this is coming from. 

After Christmas, my in-laws brought Josh and I to Death Valley National Park for a fun holiday trip. To be honest, I always assumed Death Valley was a large desert with nothing much to see - just hot and boring. Silly me! It's actually like a small amusement park with different "lands" (like Disneyland has "Adventure Land" and so on). There is Badwater Basin, Artist's Palette, San Dunes, and so much more. 

I loved it so much I took over 275 photos. Wowza! So lots of photos to share. But, do you know what I have a problem with? Decisions. You know what's not good for a blog? Lots of photos and poor decision-making. I've had a heck of a time deciding which photos to share. Argh! I wish I could show them all, but that's guaranteed to bore you to death. I'll do my best to limit it, but I really want to show you the awesomeness that is Death Valley (not to mention, show the handsome people that visited it - eh hem, that would be the Brown family). 

Because of all this awesomeness and lack of decision on my part, I'll be breaking this up into a two part blog post. This first post will cover our first day at Death Valley. The next post, which I pinky swear will come soon, will cover the last day. I might even through in a third post, if you're lucky, with some other random stuff. So get comfy, here we go...

Amargosa Opera House

We entered Death Valley from the Southeast entrance (map) since we were coming in from Palm Springs. One of the first attractions is the Amargosa Opera House. This was originally constructed in 1923 as a company town by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. It was abandoned and later discovered by Marta Becket who restored the building and turned it into an opera house. 

We didn't see an opera show, but it was an awesome building and we arrived at sunset, so the lighting was just right. This was my first taste of Death Valley, and I was instantly intrigued. 

Amargosa Opera House and Hotel

Badwater Basin & Below Sea Level

Our first full day in Death Valley started with Badwater Basin. It is one of the lowest places on Earth, at 282 feet below sea level, and it's the lowest point in North America. See Josh in the picture pointing up? No, he's not doing a disco move, rather pointing to the sign on the mountain indicating "Sea Level." (see that tiny sign?!)

 Below Sea Level @ Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin got it's name from a pioneer/explorer that was traveling with his mule, and the mule wouldn't drink the water...hence the name, badwater. All around is salt encrusted ground, likely the culprit for the bad water. We broke off a piece of the salt rock, and sure enough it tasted salty. My favorite part of this site was how the water reflected the surrounding the mountains (as shown in the photo below). 

Badwater Basin

Devil's Golf Course

Devil's Golf Course is similar to Badwater Basin except that the salt flat is more jagged and has all these crazy holes. The name comes from a guide that stated, "Only the devil could play golf" on its surface (according to Wikipedia). 

As we looked around, there was a kid that kept saying that it reminded him of Frosted Wheat. I could see what he was saying with the white salt layer and ribbed-like ground. Clever kid, although he got annoying after the tenth time yelling this to his dad...

Devil's Golf Course

Artist Drive & Palette

The colors here were awesome. Unfortunately it was mid-day, so not a photographers dream; however, you can still see the various colors from teal to pin to red. I'm no geologist, but apparently this is due to oxidation of different metals and from volcanic ash.  

We got out and hiked around a bit, but the drive through is also a must. This was one of my favorite sites of the park. 

Artist Palette

Devil's Cornfield

Another "Devil" named place. I guess the Devil comes to mind when you're at a place called Death Valley. Uh, hello, Death. Death...Devil...Hot....so, here's a fun fact: Death Valley is one of hottest (if not the hottest) place on Earth. On July 10, 1913 a reading of 134°F was taken, the world record hottest air temperature. Some other records say it's Libya is the hottest at 136.4°F. Oh snap! 

Back to Devil's Cornfield. These are actually Arrowweed plants. The are left with there roots dangling out after the wind blows the sand away. Poor things; roots all exposed. How embarrassing. 

Devil's Haystacks

Mesquite Sand Dunes

Sand dunes, now that's what I'm talking about. This is how I imagine Egypt and the sand near the pyramids. I love the ripple the wind creates on the sand. Sadly, there were so many tourists stomping around that finding a clean patch of sand was tough. But I found it! 

Get this, people were actually sledding down the dunes. Crazy. How dare they mess up the sand! I hope they got sand in their underwear. Just kidding...it looked fun.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

It was sunset as we explored the dunes, and I thought the silhouettes of the tourists was pretty rad. 

Dusk at the Sand Dunes

Harmony Borax Works

You might have picked this up when you read about Amargosa Opera House, but Borox was a big deal in Death Valley. You might have used 20 Mule Team Borax at home for cleaning. I used it to get rid of fleas once. Yea?

Well, back in 1883-89, Borax was mined in Death Valley by Harmony Borax Works. Guess what they used to haul the borax around? 20 Mule Teams and wagons. Yup, that's right. Borax is no longer mined in Death Valley, but the mines and wagons are around for tourist to view. 

Harmony Borax Works

So that ends our first day. Did you know you were getting a history lesson with this post. No sir ye. I surprised you, didn't I? But, not joke, we did all this in one day. There is still another full day to share with you. And as I pinky swore above, I will share it. 

Some Cali Time & Parental Digs

In September, Josh and I headed to SoCal to visit my parents. The visit was to see my parents and sister, but also to check our their new home in San Marcos. Last year my parents rented as they transitioned from my childhood home to a smaller, no-kids-at-home home. It was nice to finally see their new home. Silly me forgot to take photos, but I can try to paint a quick picture: it's a great one story home with a pleasant atrium and a nice location near a golf course. Most importantly, they seem happy. 

Funny, most of the interior was familiar. The furniture, decorations, and photos were all the same - just in different arrangements. It was that aspect that made me feel at home. Not to mention, home is where my family is (bleh, corny...but true). Like these photos on the wall, they used to be on the stairs at my childhood home.

We had a pretty chill time, which was great. Saturday we found a great dog park called Buena Visita Park, for my mom to take Keely, their golden retriever. Here's a selfie from our walk:

We had a lovely family dinner at Bleu Boheme in an area called Kensington. This is my parent's current favorite restaurant. It was really quite good. I still remember my flakey and delicious fish. We enjoyed our time together on the patio the most...

We also convinced the waitress to take our family picture. What a beautiful family! Striking I must say.

Sunday we venture out to La Jolla and enjoyed a beautiful day with the sunshine and ocean. Of course, we ate breakfast at The Cottage

La Jolla is such a beautiful place. It's not wonder the rich and famous chose to live there. We soaked in the sun while meandering along the water. We even spied some seals hanging out on the rocks. 

See what I mean? Beautiful. 

And then we had to fly home and back to reality. But I'm glad I got to see my parent's new digs and enjoy some Cali time with the fam. 

Summer Vacay: Utah

At long last I'm writing about our Utah trip. I know, I know, it took me for-ev-er. But really it was only a month ago. Since returning, I had the conference and a LOT of work. Plus, I wanted to get my millions of photos cleaned up and posted. But now I'm here and ready to share.

No, I'm not Mormon. This tends to be the first question people ask (or think to themselves, at least) when I say I went to Utah. Yes, we went to Utah and no not I'm not Mormon. We chose Utah because my in-laws invited us and a good friend of theirs had lent them a great condo (Mont Cervin) in Deer Valley. Lucky us - we basically got a free place to stay, and it was killer to boot. 

I don't want to bore you with every last detail. Oh, and you know I would. Ask Josh how I detail out every thing in my day when he asks the innocent, simple question: "How was you day?" So I'm going to do my best to cover just the highlights. 

Salt Lake City 

We weren't in SLC very long--most of our time was in Deer Valley just near Park City. But we flew in/out of SLC. Our first day, we did a little touring of the city. As you probably guessed, the main attraction is the Mormon Temple. Man, it's a huge and impressive temple. It just towered into the sky. 

Flight into SLC & Mormon Temple

Fourth of July

Our first, full day on the trip was the Fourth of July. We headed down to Park City for a true blue American parade. I hadn't been to a parade since I was a little girl. It was fun to see the USA spirit and celebrate our great country. 

In the evening, we went to the Deer Valley Music Festival and saw the Texas Tenors. We had a nice picnic on the lawn and listened to them sing American, country, and other fun songs. At the end, they advertised their Valentine's Day cruise...umm, no. But it was a fun evening. 

4th of July - Parade & Texas Tenors

Heber Raft 'n Rail

This was one of my favorite days. We went on the Heber Raft 'n Rail adventure. We took a classic steam locomotive, the Heber Creeper, down Provo Canyon. Then we hopped into a raft and went down the Provo River. It was Class I rapids, so let's just call it like it is...floating. Our guide, Jessie, let me guide the raft for a few minutes. Check me out rowing (in slow motion) - look at that determination, look at that strength. 

Herber Raft 'n Rail Adventures

Sy's Ranch & Fishing

Sy Kimball is the good, family friend of the Brown's that lent us the most awesome condo for the week. He also has a ranch nearby. Josh and Don enjoyed a father-son morning fishing on the Ranch. We also visited the ranch and meet the horses. Sy's ranch encompassed all the Utah beauty - sky, mountain, lakes, horses...just beautiful. 

Kimball Ranch

Culinary Adventures

One evening, Josh and I headed to the Riverhorse on Main in downtown Park City to enjoy a fancy date night meal together. The food was delicious. I had Utah Red Trout and Josh had a Trio of Wild Game (buffalo, elk, and venison). It was deeelicious.

We also enjoyed a breakfast at one of Park City's coffee shops, Publik. We enjoyed their coffee, of course, but also some speciality toast. Did you know toast is a thing these days?

And we got several shakes - delicious ice cream shakes that were perfect for the hot Utah days. My favorite was the Banana Cream Pie shake from Hi-Mountain in Kamas. But the Oreo shake from Granny's was pretty dang good, too.

Culinary Adventures

Kamas & Oakley

One afternoon we just drove around the countryside. We ventured out to visit Kamas and Oakley. They are the quintessential small towns with diners and random shops. We just enjoyed the drive around and soaked in the beauty of the area. And just so you're clear, no Oakley isn't the hometown of the Oakley sunglasses. It is the home of the Oakley Rodeo, though.

Kamas & Oakley

Sundance & Provo

You know the Sundance Film Festival, right? Well, Sundance is in Utah. We had a lovely lunch on the patio there and then took the ski lift up to the top. We got some great views of the area and had fun on the lift.

We also explored Provo, home of Brigham Young University. I'm pretty sure it was like 10 degrees hotter in Provo. Luckily, we went to Swig for their quirky sodas and famous sugar cookies (if you're on Pinterest, you know what I'm talking about). 

Sundance, BYU, and Swig Cookie

Utah Olympic Park

You may remember that the 2002 Winter Olympics took place in SLC/Park City. Well, there is now the Utah Olympic Park which is a training center for budding Olympians, but also had fun activities for regular folks like us. Josh and I opted to go on the Alpine Slide. We also enjoyed watching the ski jumpers practice. Yes, ski jumping in the summer - you jump into a pool instead. Watch this awesome video I took of someone jumping - pretty dang amazing. Next time, I'll grab a ride on the bobsled. 

Utah Olympic Park

Relaxing & Beauty

Utah is a very pretty state. The flowers, mountains, and water are so serene. As you can tell, we did a lot and had a lot of fun. However, we did get opportunities to just relax, read, work on puzzles. 

Utah Beauty & Relaxation

See All The Photos

People. Photos take forever to touch up and post. It took me all month to get it done. Appreciate! All the beautiful photos are on my Summer 2014 album - scroll down past NYC photos and you'll find them. 

Yay Summer vacation! I wish I were back in Utah right now.

While on Vacation #2

Today is my last day of vacation. I've been moping all day. Vacation is over. Said goodbye to my in-laws. Going back to real life. Sad face. 

We flew home early afternoon, so we have just finished unpacking and getting a few groceries to tie us over until the weekend. Now, I'm downloading my 200+ photos and reminiscing. Once I my photos in order, and I have some free time, I'll share more about this wonderful vacation with you. Until then, I thought I'd continue to share the daily collages. 

Day 6: We drove through Kamas and Oakley - great countryside and small towns. We saw a great wagon to photograph, the Rodeo sign telling us to hurry back, and got the best shakes (mine was Banana Cream Pie...drool). Then we went to the Utah Olympic Park where we saw summer ski jumpers, and we took the Alpine slide down the mountain. 

Day 7: We started the day with coffee and toast at Publik. Then we visited friends Diane and Don who have a neighbor who makes dog collars - we saw her in action. Next we had lunch and took the ski lift at Sundance. We drove out to BYU and toured the campus, with a pitstop at Swig (with their infamous sugar cookie on Pinterest). We topped the day off with dinner and drinks at Burgers & Bourbon and seeing gorgeous clouds in the sunset. 

Day 8: Today, DOM (day of moping). No collages as there was nothing to share really. Just getting back to normal, every-day life. 

More to come later, but I hope you enjoyed this preview.