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

 

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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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A letter to my pre motherhood self.

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Dear pre-mommy me,

A short time from now, you are going to be blessed with the craziest ball of energy you’ve ever seen. He will look just like you and act just like his daddy. He will say no to absolutely everything (even when he means yes). He will throw entire bowls of food on the ground and laugh in your face as you tell him to pick it up. He will cover your white coffee table in dark baby cub paw prints… Five minutes after you’ve cleaned it. He will roll around the dirt in the backyard at least twice a day (and usually try to snack on it as well). He will deny the plate of dinner you set in front of him 5 out of 7 days of the week. He will test your patience. He will make you question yourself and your parenting abilities. But more than any of that, he will make you a better person. He will give you the title of mommy, and you will wear that title with pride.

Because pride is the feeling in your heart when you look into the innocent eyes of the little human being that you created. Pride is the feeling in your heart when your little human shouts an enthusiastic “HI!!” to the sad stranger walking by and manages to make that stranger genuinely smile. Pride is the feeling in your heart when your little human figures out a new word or follows a new direction.

I will not lie, motherhood is just as scary as you’re expecting it to be. You’re faced with decision after decision and you won’t know if you’ve made the right decision until after the choice has been made. You will make mistakes, but there is no mother who hasn’t. You will do your best, and at the end of the day, that is what your son will see.

Rest up, for motherhood is exhausting, and like a guard dog, you will never truly sleep. But for every night of 2am wakes up, there is a morning of sweet snuggles. For every tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, there is a playful dance in the middle of the living room. For every time that you look in the mirror and miss your old body, there is a happy little boy running around as reminder that the changes were worth it. For every doubt you have, there is a sweet little hug as confirmation that maybe you really are doing it right.

During the quest to be a better parent, Google will be your best friend and your worst enemy. So will social media. You will find yourself constantly comparing yourself to other mothers, forgetting that your life does not need to look like anyone else’s. You will struggle to allow your little one to leave the protection of the safety bubble that you’ve created for him (even if it’s just playing on the jungle gym with another toddler). As cliche as it may sound, follow your heart. Follow your mother instincts. They will always point you in the right direction.

Of all the titles you can have in this world, mommy is certainly one of the best. I know that at this time, the only thing scarier than the idea of giving birth is the fear of being a bad parent. But fear not, for epidurals are a gift from the heavens and the happiness that motherhood fills you with will forever outweigh any worries you may have.

I guess all of this can really be summed up with this: motherhood is awesome (even if it doesn’t feel that way in the midst of a restaurant tantrum). Don’t be afraid, be excited. For there is a little boy who is about to REALLY make life interesting.

Cheers,

T.W.C.

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Taking California. Again.

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Going on a family trip to Southern California may not have been the best thing for my diet, and it certainly was not the best thing for my workout schedule, but it was great for my soul, so it all balances out, right?

Going into this trip, I felt like I needed to get out of Las Vegas… like, yesterday. I am not a winter person. At all. I enjoy the winter months from Thanksgiving until New Years, and as soon as those winter events have come to an end, my brain moves into summer mode. So in other words, this trip came at a much needed time. Between a memorial service for my great grandma in San Clemente, and my husband needing to take care of some business in Santa Monica, this trip just fell into place perfectly.

We spent the first portion of our trip at the Ocean View hotel in Santa Monica. Directly across from the beautiful beach/Santa Monica Pier, and right up the street from the Third Street Promenade, we couldn’t have asked for a more prime location. I have seen master bathrooms larger than our hotel room and the walls were so thin that it sounded as though each passing hotel guest was standing in our room… but when you can open your balcony doors to the smells and sounds of the ocean, you are quickly reminded that there really isn’t much to complain about.

When my husband tended to business and meetings during the day, I took my son on long walks on the Santa Monica bluffs over looking the ocean. When my husband was done working, we strolled through some of the most stunning beach neighborhoods that I have ever laid eyes on, we spent time on the beach as the sun set, and we went to some of the most delicious restaurants in the area. We did have a breakfast incident in which Liam threw his sippy cup at my coffee cup, sending coffee all across the table and into my lap… But hey, after the mess was all cleaned up my avocado/mushroom/goat cheese omelet was so great that it was impossible to care too much.

As beautiful as Santa Monica was, after several awful nights of sleep due to Liam waking up from all of the noises outside, the second half of our trip was welcomed with open arms. Moving on to stay with my god mother in Irvine, our family fell nothing short of being totally and completely spoiled. Upon arriving in Irvine, my husband and I were hitting our parenting limit. Liam had been great for most of the trip, but after the bad nights of sleep and a terrible experience with him (involving 10 too many hysterical fits) at a restaurant that day, we were in great need of a break. Little did we know, my real life fairy god mother and her dear husband had already planned on babysitting Liam for the night so that we could go out to an ‘adult’ dinner. Who knew how relieving a two hour dinner could be! We found a lovely restaurant down the street, shared some delicious sangria, then came back to a sleeping baby and the good company of my amazing God mother and her family.

The following day, we attended a lovely memorial service for my great grandma in San Clemente. At my cousin Kelly’s beautiful home overlooking the ocean, the family came together to remember our great Gammy and to celebrate the long life she lived. Liam found joy in chasing a bunch of the little girls around the house, while simultaneously draining my husband and I of the small amount of energy that we had left.

Returning to Irvine that night, my god mother had one more grand surprise up her sleeve: a hot tub date for my husband and I in her backyard. Not only did she create the loveliest ambiance of candles and light fixtures surrounding the hot tub, but she also put Liam to bed AND treated us like royalty, bringing us drinks and Liam updates as we enjoyed the peace of the perfect California night.

Heading home on Sunday morning, we were feeling relaxed, thankful, loved, and pretty freakin stoked about the lack of traffic. Our trip was everything we needed it to be. We got to relax, my husband was able to secure some important meetings, we were able to spend quality time with our loved ones, and Liam was better behaved than we’ve ever seen him be on a trip. The year has been off to an interesting start to say the least and it has already presented its fair share of challenges. However, sitting in the comfort of our home, relaxed and refreshed, I can’t help but to feel as though we are one very blessed family.

Cheers,

T.W.C.

 

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A Cali Baby is a Happy Baby

 

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     Our last family trip to California took place last year when our son was just two months old. We were new parents full of impractical and ambitious ideas as to how the vacation would go. Long story short, we spent almost the entire vacation stuck in our hotel room, completely overwhelmed by our cranky colicky newborn. This time around, we could not be more excited to fully experience southern california with our far more alert little man.
     Initially this trip had been planned as a family vacation over six months ago. As the time came closer however, my husband was asked to travel to the same area for business, so we figured we might as well extend the trip. An entire week away from home with a one year old whose favorite activity is testing the word no to the fullest extent. “Patience”, I told myself repeatedly as I mentally prepared for the trip. As I packed a weeks worth of baby diapers, toys, sippy cups, outfits, beach supplies and more, I prepared for every situation that could possibly occur. Back up outfits, backup blankies, backup wine, backup everrryyyything.
      First obstacle to be tackled: car ride. My son has hated his car seat since he was about 4 months old, so it was safe to assume beforehand that the 4 hour car ride would not be his favorite thing. I made sure to have snacks, juice, and toys within reaching distance. Between that and his nap, we made it to the halfway point without a problem. Luckily, we stopped off to visit my grandparents, which gave my son the perfect amount of time outside of the car to “reset” before heading out for another two hours on the road. This was the first time that my son ever met my dad’s parents, and I couldn’t be happier to have been able to share my son with them. We spent the entire visit playing on the same floor that I used to play on, with the same toys that I used to play with as a child. By the time we loaded our family back up into the car, we ALL needed a nap time.
     Finally arriving at our first hotel in Newport Beach, we couldn’t have been happier with our beach front room. The best part was that there was a balcony connected to the room that my son seemed to think was the best thing that ever happened. A major joy of hotel traveling is that there are so few items in hotel rooms that they are pretty much “baby proofed” before you ever get there. So between the baby proof room and the balcony, our son was one happy camper… and we all know that a happy baby makes for  two VERY happy parents. 
     Day number 2 in Newport, we decided to set up shade on the sand and have a relaxing beach morning. Relaxing.. not so much. About 15 minutes into our adventure, my son lashed out at my husbands soda can, cutting his finger on the edge. Blood.. was.. everywhere. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we came with no bandaids and there was no lifeguard on duty. As my husband ran back to the hotel, I sat on the beach trying to hold a cloth to my sons wound as he flailed around, unable to understand what I was trying to do. By the time we got the bandaid on, all of us were exhausted from the entire event and we decided to head back to the hotel and find a more baby friendly activity for the day. 
     The trip continued on, and we quickly discovered my sons newest development: screaming. Boy oh boy does that kid have a voice. I wouldn’t mind if the screams were taking place in private… I could handle private screams. But of course, his favorite place to scream is in the middle of restaurants exactly two minutes after our food arrives. He stuffs his face with as much food as he wants, then the second he’s done, he begins screaming and throwing his body around. There was not one.. not two.. not three.. but FOUR times on this trip that I had to leave the restaurant early with my son while my husband grabbed our tab and to go boxes. It was a little chaotic, but by the end of the trip I can proudly declare that we were masters at handling “the scream”.
     Our trip was full of visits with family members and friends that I haven’t had a chance to see in far too long, food that was so amazing that I was in shock when I hadn’t gained 10 pounds, and beach front hotels that made a girl feel spoiled. Driving around by myself with my son in LA while my husband was working was stressful and challenging, and by the end of the trip, I felt as though I should have won a trophy for conquering the California roads. The trip certainly had it’s ups and downs, but bumps are to be expected when traveling with a curious one year old. All things considered, it was a beautiful trip with my favorite two humans. And I mean… crawling into our own bed at the end of it was pretty great too.
     We have been going to SoCal annually since before our son was born, and I hope to make it a tradition that lives on… Three years down, many more to go.
Cheers,
T.W.C.