Phoenix 2016.

Boy oh boy this post has been a long time coming. We took our first trip to Phoenix last month and due to all kinds of phone/computer issues I’ve had THE most complicated time getting all of my photos into one spot. So here we are, better late than never!

This was probably the most organized and well planned trip we’ve been on yet. The possibility/option of moving to Phoenix (to be closer to the majority of my husbands business) made this trip different than most because rather than going with just the intent of having a good time, there was also the intent of feeling it out to see if it could potentially be a good fit for our family in the future (don’t worry family and friends, this would be way further down the road, if at all). While we are going to have many many more visits before we make up our minds, I wanted to make sure that our first experience with this city was as positive as it could be since we will be spending a lot of time there regardless.

To give you a little insight on my trip planning, I have a pretty simple 3 step process. Here’s a brief glimpse at the workings of my planning/organizing obsessed brain:

1. Yelp
-I am a major lover of yelp. There is no place I go to that I haven’t thoroughly explored on yelp before I go. It allows you to not only read reviews,  but you can also see photos of the atmosphere and menu, which are super helpful when trying to find places that will make the whole family happy. It’s great for hotels too because rather than getting the fluffed up professional photographs that the hotel websites offer, you get to see real life images of what the room will actually look like when you get there (great for if you’re on the fence about a hotel). I spend several days combing through all the possible hotels and restaurants to choose from, and narrow down the best by bookmarking them.

2. Maps
-once I’ve narrowed down our hotel(s) and top restaurant picks , I run them all through maps to see how far they all are from each other. This helps when it comes to making the itinerary because it’s far easier to stick to exploring one area each day, rather than dodging all around in a new city (especially a big city like Phoenix). If you are really unfamiliar with the area and don’t even know where to start, Yelp can be really helpful for this part as well. Often times I will just enter the address of my hotel into yelp, filter my results based on distance, and sift through the places that I had bookmarked. Combining this method with maps will get you a really accurate idea of where everything is at and will make the adventure a bit less complicated.

3. Itinerary
-after I have my spots picked and have them all grouped based on proximity, I start my itinerary. I break it down by day, followed by a list of several potential activities and a restaurant choice for each meal of that day. I know there are plenty of people out there that prefer the spontaneity of a less organized trip but when you’re planning around your husbands meetings + your toddlers mood swings, an organized itinerary makes everything so much smoother and less stressful. We have run into situations far too often where we have no idea where to eat lunch, barely ate breakfast because my husband had a meeting, and now come 1pm we are all cranky and irritable because we are starving and have no idea what restaurant options are even in the area. Itineraries completely solve that problem and allow you to actually enjoy your time. We don’t always stick exactly to the plan, but having that plan as a backup to go off of is a total life saver.

Our first two days in Phoenix we stayed at the Arizona Grand resort. The rooms and service weren’t exactly my favorite but the grounds were really sprawling and beautiful. There’s a Mexican restaurant on the property with amazing enchiladas (and sangria). Sadly the hotel’s water park was closed during weekdays because we went after the high summer season but there were several pools that were still accessible and still plenty of fun for the little dude.

The second half of our trip we stayed at the AC hotel in Tempe, and I absolutely loved it. The property has only been open for a few months so everything is nice and new. There is a rooftop pool with beautiful views and the location is prime. There is a long walking path along the water and tons of restaurants within a 5-10 minute drive.

…Which leads me to one of my favorite parts of traveling: the food! Phoenix has a ton of amazing spots to choose from.  My favorites included:

1. Snooze AM (fun/hip/eco friendly college student breakfast spot with an awesome staff)
2. Culinary dropout (unique/trendy decor and delicious small plates/appetizers)
3. Olive and Ivy (great ambiance, even better food and cocktails)
4. The Hash Kitchen (quirky breakfast spot with an interesting twist on classic dishes)
5. Zu Izakaya (traditional Japanese. Lots of sushi, Saki, and grilled teriyaki to choose from)

As for activities, we checked out Scottsdale quarter (which has a really cool/unique splash pad area and tons of shopping), explored the downtown Phoenix area, and checked out a couple of pretty parks. We did a ton of driving to just get familiar with the area and had a lot of fun looking at the versatile range of adobe-esque houses in the area. If you’re as into home design as we are, I highly recommend just driving through the neighborhoods of Scottsdale for a while, even if you have no intent of ever moving there…if anything you’ll spot some really pretty houses and some of the biggest cacti you’ve ever seen.

We left the trip with a good feeling about Phoenix and all of the possibilities + adventures that it holds. It is such a cool desert city with so much to do and so much that we have yet to explore. While this is just the beginning of our Arizona travels, our first taste was certainly a sweet one.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

 

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Zion 2016: some tips on”glamping”

A list of some things that I just can’t stand:
1. Bugs
2. Dirty things
3. Bugs

Despite this fact of life, I still love camping. I grew up going on several camping adventures every summer and so many of my favorite childhood memories are centered around it. But what I love even more than camping is glamping (glam+camping for those of you who are unfamiliar with the funny little term).

My husband has finally wrapped up his summer long work training and had a whole week back home between his travels. Zion has been calling our name all summer and so… off to Zion we went. I’ve always heard that September/October is the best time to visit the park + it’s only about a 2.5 hour drive for us + our garage has been exploding with all of the camping supplies that my husband insisted we absolutely needed at the beginning of the summer so the whole trip just easily fell into place.

One of my least favorite parts about camping (besides the bugs and decreased ability to maintain proper hygiene) has always been the mess associated with meal time. Fortunately for us, Pinterest has completely changed the game and is full of all the ‘make ahead’ meals you could ever want. I spent the entire day before the trip prepping all three days worth of food. I froze most of our food prior to leaving so that it would last longer in the ice chest and I double bagged everything so that it wouldn’t get ruined as the ice melted. The awesome thing about make ahead meals is that you wrap everything in foil and all that you have to do come meal time is throw it over a fire (or a small camping grill like we used) and 20 minutes later you’ve got a delicious hot meal with no dirty cookware.We keep all of our dry food in one large plastic container and keep the container in the trunk of the car where its guaranteed to stay dry and bug/animal free. I like to keep the container stocked full of lots of snacks because lets face it… there is nothing like kicking back in a fold out chair with your feet up on a log while passing around a bag of Chex Mix and seeing how many of the brown pieces you can sneak before anybody catches you.

**Tip: If you rely on your morning coffee like we do, a french press is an amazing way to make the perfect cup of coffee at your campsite. Simply grind some fresh coffee before you leave, store it in an air tight container, and boil some water in the morning. Easiest and freshest cup of coffee you could possibly have while camping. And let me tell you… Something about a good cup of coffee in the cool quiet morning as the sun rises over the campground that is just total perfection.

A few of our favorite meals on the trip were:

 

Campfire Breakfast Burritos:

(This recipe is even better if you sub the frozen potatoes for freshly chopped red potatoes tossed in olive oil/garlic powder/onion powder/paprika/chile powder and add some salsa verde before you roll it all up! We also sub turkey bacon instead of regular bacon)
http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/side/potatoes/bacon-egg-and-potato-breakfast-burritos.html

 
Campfire Potatoes:

http://www.cleverlysimple.com/campfire-potatoes-on-the-grill/

 

 

Campfire Sandwhiches:
(we substituted the roast beef with turkey)

https://www.keyingredient.com/recipes/923025032/hot-roast-beef-sandwiches-pioneer-woman/

 
To “glam” up the site a bit, we brought a tapestry for a table cloth, which I think added a lot of character to our camp and was super easy to just bring home and wash at the end of the trip for plenty of future use. I also got some cheap wine glasses that come 4 for $5 at Target. They’re perfect because if you break one its not the end of the world since they’re so cheap but they are so much better than drinking wine from a solo cup. We brought some decorative candles for the table that we found at homegoods and they doubled as additional light sources in the evening.

Overall I would say the trip was definitely a success. Our camp seemed to have been situated on top of the central meet up point for the entire ant population of Zion, which was less than ideal, but beyond that everything was great. We were able to accomplish an entire 2.2 mile hike that went along the river . Normally I wouldn’t be bragging too much about 2 miles, but when those 2 miles consist of a three year old hiking *mostly* all on his own, I think it’s pretty justified. There was a bit of rain on our second day so we hid out in the car for a while and went for a scenic drive until it passed while The Lumineers and Deathcab For Cutie sang our tired little hiker to sleep. When it wasn’t raining, we played by the river and my husband and son caught little frogs and lizards while I took probably way too many photos.

Zion will forever hold a special place in our hearts because it was the first destination my husband and I ever visited together back when we were dating. Sharing it with our son and watching him find so much happiness there was everything I could have asked for to close out the summer.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

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If we’re being honest.

I’ve never been a big fan of change. I’m a creature of habit, a lover of routine. I take comfort in familiarity and am all about my planning and my schedules. It may sound boring, but it’s what works for me. Since my son was born, my family and I have settled into a groove that has worked for us and life ran pretty smoothly.

With my husbands job switch, that all changed. Going into this, we knew what to expect and decided that it was worth it. There would be three months of out of state training during which we would live separate lives thousands of miles away from each other. After returning, my husband would be working from home for the first time ever and instead of traveling to his previous territories for business, we would now be traveling to Arizona. We knew what we signed up for, but I don’t think either of us fully understood just how hard all of it would actually be on our family. Sometimes I can’t help but to feel as though our perfectly put together puzzle was taken apart and all jumbled up, and now we are left with entirely different puzzle pieces to form a new picture with.

None of this is a bad thing whatsoever, it is simply a different thing. While we are so excited to begin our traveling with this new company and we are so excited to settle into a life where my husband gets to work from a home office, it has not been an easy road. Three entire months away from the man that I have never spent more than 3 days apart from has easily been one of the most trying experiences of my life. There are visits for a couple of days every other weekend, but its just that… visits. Visits that never feel long enough. I cannot even begin to tell you how often I fantasize about the day that he comes back home to us, not for a visit, but to stay for good. To settle back into our home and our life together. To settle into a new routine, a new groove, a new normal.

We have both talked a lot about how this time apart feels pretty purgatory-esque. He’s away training, unable to actually start up new business ventures until he’s finished. I’m at home with our son, unable to fully settle into a new way of life knowing that once he’s home, everything will change again. The entire summer has just felt like the longest wait of my life.

It’s safe to say on any given day of the week that at some point I’m having a mild emotional breakdown. Going from co-parenting with the best most helpful spouse around to solo parenting entirely on my own 100% of the time has been a shock and a total roller-coaster. Like, I’m talking the craziest roller-coaster the amusement park has to offer. Mind you, all of this came in the midst of the terrible twos transforming into threenagerhood, or as my friend informed me the other day “the trying threes”. My son’s new favorite hobbies include having meltdowns over simple statements like “you can’t have ice cream for dinner”, as well as jumping off of the dining table and climbing up onto the kitchen counter (claiming that he is “rock climbing”, duh). I am fairly certain that he shows all signs of being a future extreme sports star, which isn’t exactly comforting for this overprotective mama. These days, I consider it an accomplishment worthy of a trophy (or maybe like…a free pedicure)  if I manage to get through an entire five minute shower without him destroying something and I’ve become accustomed to warming up my dinner a good five times before I actually have a moment to finish it. This blog post has been in the making for a good 3-4 weeks now and is only finally happening because I’ve been blessed with a small miracle called “my kid has decided to nap every day this week”. Then of course, right when I am at my wits end and about to finally suck it up and hire a babysitter to take him off my hands for a while, he snuggles up next to me and gives me the sweetest cuddles. He kisses my forehead, tells me he loves me, falls asleep holding my hand… and just like that, all is forgiven and I am ready to brave it out another day.

Perhaps the only few things getting me through this incredibly difficult stretch are my occasional weekends with my husband, really good friends, and visits from my grandparents. At the end of a long day, a wine night and adult talk has a way of totally renewing my sanity. In the middle of a rough day, lunch from my grandma has a way of just lifting my spirits (those cafe rio salads are magical I tell you). And at the beginning of an already exhausting morning, coffee with my grandpa while he goes on and on about politics/his homeland in Italy has a way of distracting me in the best way possible. I’ve found during this time that the only way to get through this is to count the small achievements and to focus on still doing things for myself sometimes, even if that just means curling up on the couch with a pint of gelato and binge watching bad reality tv for two hours after my son has gone to bed.

Beyond the difficulties of parenting on my own, there has been the obvious difficulty of living so far away from the man that I have always had such a deeply close connection with. We understand each other better than anyone on this planet. He’s my best friend, my partner, my love. Distance sucks.  Feeling as though we have had two different lives this summer sucks. I will never have a true understanding of what his life and training in Ohio has been like and he will never have a full understanding of what my life as a solo parent has been like. The best we can do is focus on communication, understanding, and always always always loving each other through it.

Our mantra through all of this has been “this is just temporary”. We like to envision ourselves a year from now, settled into our new way of life, looking back on this time and laughing at how dramatic we were to feel as though it would never end. I am fully aware that it could be worse. It could be longer, there could be no weekend visits, there could be far less opportunities to talk on the phone. All across the country right now there are military wives with deployed husbands that are going through a far more difficult experience than I probably will ever know. There are single moms that do what I’m doing day in and day out with little to no assistance. This experience has given me the utmost respect for these strong women, that’s for certain.

We are officially two and a half months into this training with only a couple more weeks remaining. Mid August, my husband will return home briefly before heading out to shadow for a couple more weeks. And with that, it will all be over. He will be fully trained for this new and exciting position, he will be living back home, we will be traveling on business adventures to Arizona… together.

With each day I find myself breathing a little easier knowing that we have almost made it. This summer certainly has not been what I’d had in mind, and while it may have been far from easy, it did come with its share of experiences. It has allowed me to strengthen my friendships. It has reinforced the importance of communication and being open and honest with my emotional struggles. It has taught me that I’m a pretty badass mom. It has taught me that no matter what total curveballs life may throw at me, I will deal with it and I will be ok. It has given me time to become a more creative parent and to work on my parenting techniques. Most importantly, it has reminded me that no matter where my husband is in the world, our love will always get us through. No matter how hard this has been for both of us, and no matter how much has changed this summer, the one thing that has never changed is the crazy amount of love that I feel every time I hear my husband on the other end of the phone (Yeah yeah yeah, I know that sounds so cheesy and sappy but it wouldn’t be us if it wasn’t).

This summer took me far out of my comfort zone to say the least, but we have finally arrived at the final stretch and we are SO close to creating a new “normal” for our family. 2.5 months down, 2 weeks(ish) to go. In my husband’s words, “This has been hard, but it has not left us shaken”.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

 

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Three.

We’ve officially got a threenager on our hands and he certainly seems to have gotten the memo. With all the attitude of a teenager packaged into a toddlers little body, that kid  has been giving me a run for my money these days. With his new age has also come a whole new world of vocabulary and while he thoroughly enjoys arguing with just about everything that I say, I cannot help but to burst out laughing at half the sentences that he manages to put together. One moment the kid has got me on the verge of fuming, the next moment he’s squeezing my face saying “mama, love you soooooooo much!” and in those moments, all I can think is that motherhood is the most amusing and beautiful journey I’ve ever been on.

To celebrate three, we hosted a brunch themed birthday party. I’m fairly positive that Liam would be perfectly down for eating turkey bacon and donuts at every meal for the rest of his life if I let him, so I figured nothing would make him happier than a house full of his favorite people and a table full of breakfast.

I centered the decorations around shades of blue with silver/metallic accents. As always, with the help of Etsy I found a donut banner here for the photo backdrop, and I also found the cake topper and drink stirrers here. For the photo backdrop I used a metallic tassel garland that I found on Amazon.

For food, donuts were obviously the star of the show. I ordered a variety of gourmet  styles from PinkBox donuts, 80% of which were gone in the first hour. I tell ya, say the word “donuts” and people come ready to eat their weight in sugar. Of course there was also turkey bacon–three entire jumbo packages of it because well, people like their bacon just as much as they like their donuts. Keeping with the brunch theme, rather than filling the cupcake stand with cupcakes, I filled it with blueberry muffins and a spinach-artichoke crustless quiche (Pinterest recipes for the win). I made pancakes and as much as I would love to say they were from scratch, given the mass quantity of pancakes that I needed to whip up real quick, I got shake and pour Bisquick (which ended up being such a lifesaver time-wise). To top it all off we had sausage patties, my family’s traditional super chocolate cake, and a bunch of fruit.

No birthday brunch is complete without a mimosa bar for the adults, which is always a hit. We stuck strawberries and raspberries on the drink stirrers, had grapefruit juice and orange juice to offer, and an ice bucket full of champs.

Activity wise, I was able to find the perfect sized kiddie pool on Amazon that we put in the backyard along with water guns and a water table. Put a bunch of kids in a backyard with multiple water activities and they’re happy for hours, it’s awesome. Luckily the weather was on our side and the backyard was actually really comfortable to be in, which is almost unheard of for Vegas in July.

Most importantly, my son had the best time ever. So many of his favorite people were able to make it, he had like 3 donuts and a stack of turkey bacon to himself, and our living room was covered in new toys for three days straight.

This house officially has a three year old, and we are so excited to see the new developments that come with this age.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

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Palm Springs 2016.

My husband and I have not been on a solo vacation since several months before I got pregnant with our son. That’s almost 4 years you guys. 4 years of not one single true vacation. Don’t get me wrong… I have so much fun traveling with our son. But as every parent knows… a vacation with a toddler is rarely a true vacation. Since becoming a mom, I could not help but fantasize about a vacation in which I could sleep in until whatever time I wanted… lay out by the pool relaxing with a drink in my hand without having to keep anybody entertained… pick restaurants based on trendy atmosphere rather than the children’s menu… and so on. Well, that vacation finally came and it came in the form of Palm Springs last week.

Several months ago I got a promotional email from hotels.com, which is really what sparked this whole thing. I sat there for a few minutes thinking about how great a romantic summer vacation with my husband would be, if only we could find a convenient time. And then it dawned on me… there would never ever be a “convenient time”. Whether it be work, money, lack of babysitting, or a million other variables… it is so easy to always find a reason not to take some much needed adult time to yourself. The truth is, it will extremely rarely (in fact probably never) be easy to find someone willing to watch your super high energy toddler for two whole nights while you run off to a desert oasis to lay by the pool and drink mimosas all day with your spouse. It’s just not going to happen until you make it a priority. So, that is precisely what we did. I booked the hotel right then and there, texted my saint of a sister begging/bribing her to babysit, marked it in our calendars, and just like that… we at last had a romantic get away set in stone.

Not surprisingly, Palm Springs turned out to be everything that I needed. We spent our stay at the Ace Hotel/Pool club and couldn’t have been happier with our hotel choice. Our room had a really cool private patio entry, the decor was spot on to the bohemian desert oasis vibes of the hotel, and possibly the best part… it was about 15 steps away from the pool entrance. The great thing about Palm Springs in the summer is that it is so absurdly hot and dry that there is almost nothing to do other than relax by the pool, so the place just has vacation written all over it. I really don’t know how anybody gets anything done around there because I know I personally found myself just wanting to be in the pool at all times. The small fraction of time in which we weren’t being total sloths by the pool, we were able to check out a few other cute spots around town, like the beauty that is the Moorten Botanical Garden, as well as the stunning ‘Alice in Wonderland-esque’ grounds of Le Parker Meridian Hotel.

After that vacation with my husband, I can confidently say that every couple with kids should make it a priority to do a “no kids vacation” every so often. Whether it be to Palm Springs (which I would highly recommend) or just a fun staycation in your own city, child free bonding time is so very important. Not only did I return from the trip feeling refreshed and relaxed and ready to be a good mom again, but I also came back feeling closer than ever to my sweet husband.

And as for my son? He apparently hardly noticed that we were gone. No matter how guilty you may be feeling for leaving your little one(s) for a couple of days, the truth is, sometimes they need a change-up in the schedule and a little bit of time away from you as much as you need a little bit of time away from them. My husband and I got a relaxing vacation, and my son got some quality bonding time with his aunt, so it was really a win-win.

I have no idea when the next opportunity for another romantic little getaway will be, but I sure am happy with the time that we got. Until next time, Palm Springs.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

 

Family Photos 2016

As we embark on the next chapter in our lives and my husband spends the next 85 days thousands of miles away training for his new job, this photo session came at such a perfectly fitting time (which was completely unknown to us when we booked them several months ago). Marking the beginning of our new journey, these photos are such a beautiful visual memory to look back on while my husband is away and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

This session was done by the incredibly talented Brit Moss (www.britmoss.com). She was such a sweet and comfortable person to work with and her unique Indie-Boho style is everything that I had been envisioning but couldn’t find for the longest time. We are so in love with these photos and now the real struggle is going to be choosing which ones to display around our home.

Cheers and Happy National Wine day,

The Whine Connoisseur

A new chapter.

When I met my husband, he was a long haired hippie living pretty much paycheck to paycheck. He took the bus to work at a call center where he would cold call for the sales department of a company in the hospitality industry. I would drive him when I could, but due to conflicting schedules and how far apart our jobs were, 8 times out of 10 he was on his own to get to work. As time went by, he ended up impressing the right people and got hired on directly for the company that he’d been cold calling for. He then had to take the bus even farther across town to their headquarters every day for several months until he could finally afford his own car. He never complained about it… he simply did what he had to do to get where he wanted to be in the professional world. One of the most determined people I have ever known, he worked his way up the totem pole and he hustled day in and day out for several years with that company to provide a good life for our family. Today however, I am proud to announce that he has been hired on as a Senior Sales Executive at an even bigger company, and I could not be more proud of that man.

The last few months have been a total whirlwind for us. Once he was approached with the opportunity, we were torn to say the least. Change is scary, especially when it could effect the entire course of your family’s journey. We were posed with the choice between sticking it out at a company that had provided my husband with an amazing stepping stone into the sales world, and a company that was far more established in the sales world. The choice between a company that my husband was successful at but had honestly outgrown, or a company that we were unfamiliar with but who offered a whole new world of opportunity and advancement.

In making our decision, we looked to respected family and friends for advice and support (thank you all, you know who you are), but we mostly looked to the signs. As we sat back and watched the situation unfold, it could not be mistaken that we were being guided towards the right decision. The decision to leave all that we had known for the last four years. The decision to take a risk. The decision that could get our family ahead by leaps and bounds. So, hearts racing and holding hands…we took a leap of faith.

The transition will not be easy, but it will be worth it. It requires my husband to spend the next three months across the country from us for training. I have been spoiled and lucky in the fact that I have not spent more than a couple of days away from him since our first date, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to start now. But life had other plans and we will try to make the best of it. He will be flying home every so often to check in very briefly and we will be planning a trip for my son and I to visit him mid summer. Additionally, his new job is allowing us to still go on a couple of the small vacations that we had planned out prior to the job offer, and those vacations will probably be our saving grace.

Today I dropped my best friend off at the airport and it was one of the hardest things that I have had to do in our entire relationship. I have shed more tears than I would like to admit and I can guarantee you that I will be drinking a bottle of wine and consuming a pint of ice cream in my sweats tonight once my son is asleep. I mean…I’m totally entitled to at least a couple nights of shamelessly wallowing around in my husband missing sadness, right?

Despite how rough this time apart is sure to be, there is no doubt that we have been blessed with an amazing opportunity, and even in my sadness, I know that the most important emotion to feel right now is gratitude. It is key to remain thankful, and it is key to remember that this distance is only a small period of time in the grand scheme of things. There are sure to be plenty of sad and lonely nights during this time apart, but that’s what Facetime and counting our blessings is for.

In 90 days my husband will return with a ridiculous amount of sales training under his belt, and I will proudly watch him conquer his new territory just as he did the last. In 90 days my husband will be back home, and in 90 days we can officially begin this new and exciting chapter in our life, together.

.5 days down, 89.5 to go…not that I’m counting or anything.

Cheers to changes and opportunity,

The Whine Connoisseur.

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When it all began.

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Santa Barbara 2016.

I have to admit that up until now, I never truly appreciated Santa Barbara. Our last trip there was a little more than a year ago. It was off season, it was cold, our son was pretty moody the entire time, we stayed pretty close to the hotel, and I never got a true taste of the area. This time was different and I can now say that I completely understand what the Santa Barbara hype is all about.

What’s great about Santa Barbara is that it’s within 40 minutes of every activity we could have ever wished to do as a family. There’s the beach, there’s plenty of diverse food options, there’s hiking, there’s wine tasting, there’s tourist attractions. I’m telling you, we could have had a whole two weeks longer and done something fun/different every day.

We stayed at Hotel Milo, which is right on the beach and is situated on some pretty stunning property. The appeal mostly ends there however and I’m not sure I would actually recommend staying there (although I’m admittedly super picky when it comes to hotels and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love this spot). If you’re looking for an affordable property close to the water/pier with plenty of food options within walking distance, then it might be the hotel for you.

Our first day in the area, we went for a morning hike at Nojoqui Falls, which is about 30 minutes out of Santa Barbara. Super short hike, easy for kids, beautiful area, nice and secluded. Only downsides were the not so comforting mountain lion warning sign (had us paranoid the entire time) and the fact that there was no waterfall at the end… Not sure if we went at the wrong time of year for it or what, but the hike was beautiful regardless of its missing waterfall. About ten minutes from the trail head is the Main Street area of Solvang, a quaint tourist town that personally felt like it could make an interesting setting for a horror film… A unique town to say the least. We had lunch at a Nordic cafe there, then we ended the day with a swim/mimosas at the hotel pool, which was probably one of the best features of Hotel Milo.

The second day of our trip after my husbands meetings, we went on our first ever wine tasting adventure. The Santa Ynez area is covered with beautiful sprawling vineyards and is only about a 40 minute drive from Santa Barbara. After doing my research to find the most child friendly vineyard options, we ended up at the Zaca Mesa winery. I was feeling a little hesitant to bring my toddler (who regularly enjoys testing his vocal range) to a wine tasting room, but it actually ended up being totally fine. We were told people bring their kids all the time and the tasting room even had a friendly puppy to keep my son entertained. We got to try six wines, bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc, got some beautiful pictures of the vineyard as a rain storm rolled in, and just had an overall really lovely time. It all left me with an itch for more wine tasting and I’m totally mentally planning a trip to Napa.

The third night of our journey was spent in LA at the Hollywood Roosevelt. The epitome of ‘hip’, the hotel’s target audience is certainly not families with young children, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time and taking over the flamingo floaty at the pool.

Traveling with the little dude typically leaves me so exhausted that I need a vacation from my vacation, but this time was overall about as relaxing as you could hope for while traveling with a toddler . As Liam gets older and more familiar with travel, taking him on all kinds of adventures gets undeniably easier, and for that I am so thankful. The entire way home he begged for “hotel, hotel!”, so I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed our travels as much as we did.

Until next time, California.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

 

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Newport Beach 2016.

At 3 months old, we took our son to Newport Beach for the first time. I was so excited for him to breathe in the ocean air and listen to the sound of the waves at the same beach that I had spent so many summers at as a child. Being a wee little newborn however, he mostly cried the entire time and we packed up and left about 20 minutes into the whole experience. Sadly, our beach ventures have gone pretty much the same way every time since then, with our son either crying, whining, or trying to run away from us the entire time. This time however, was different. Finally old enough to appreciate all that is Newport Beach, the little dude ran around playing in the sand as happy as could be and has even asked to go to the beach several times since we left.

This trip was a major reminder of how blessed we are to travel so regularly as a family. I think I often get overwhelmed by all that goes into traveling with a young child and I forget to stop and simply be thankful for the experience. With the calmness of this trip, my husband and I were mostly able to sit back and watch as our son happily ran around exploring his surroundings. This kid has experienced places and things that I never could have imagined providing my child with, and I am forever thankful for the opportunities that my husbands job has blessed us with.

We stayed at The Island Hotel Newport Beach and just like our last stay there, it was everything we could have wanted. This time we had a corner ocean view/balcony suite, which was perfect for our family and gave us enough space to not drive each other crazy. The hotel has a beautiful pool with an outdoor bar, is a five minute drive from the beach, has some of the sweetest staff members we’ve ever encountered….And don’t even get me started on the delicious patio breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant-Oak Grill (ordering a round of mimosas is a must).

After a couple days of beach going, swimming at the pool, and walking around fashion island (probably a few too many times), we capped off the trip by visiting a few of my sweet family members in the area, who even babysat Liam so that we could end our trip with a baby-free dinner at one of our favorite spots in Irvine (The Lazy Dog). Our time in Newport had a little bit of everything and was certainly one for the books. It’ll be rough topping such a beautiful trip…but you can sure bet we will try!

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

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24.

If my 24th year of life is as good as the birthday itself, then it’s going to be one for the books. Surrounded by some of the sweetest most thoughtful people, we brought in my birthday with a wine tasting/pairing party, calling the theme “Wine tasting in Napa”. From meats/cheeses and dips to chocolate covered everything and girl scout cookies, we had a plethora of both traditional and slightly unusual pairing options to choose from, all centered around a bohemian inspired decoration spread. Multiple wine glasses were broken throughout the night (precisely why I buy dollar store glasses for parties), so obviously good (and tipsy) times were being had. I woke up the next morning (my actual birthday) and went to a bottomless mimosa brunch downtown with friends, followed by an evening well spent with my family and an absolutely delicious chocolate cheesecake made by my Nona. The weekend was a dream, and I can’t help but feel like one of the luckiest most blessed girls on the planet. Thank you thank you thank you to all that played any part in making it special.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

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