Scarlett Genevieve.

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It only took 3 (ok, almost 4) months to wrap up… but at last, Scarlett’s birth story:

By the time that I hit 39 weeks pregnant, I was DONE. I no longer felt like a cute little preggo lady, I felt like a beached whale. I was waking up at least 4 times a night to pee and had the hardest time getting comfortable enough to fall back asleep. I’d spent day in and day out bouncing on my yoga ball trying to get things moving along. I had two membrane sweeps. I went for long walks every evening. I was dilated to a 3… for 3 whole weeks. The doctor told me “any day now”… for 3 whole weeks. And still no baby. I realize I was yet to be at my due date, but with how insanely low baby was and the fact that I had an incompetent cervix with my previous pregnancy, I had never been expecting to make it to my due date. At my 39 week appointment the doctor asked if I’d like to schedule an induction and even though the idea of an induction was so nerve wracking to me, I couldn’t help but to blurt out ‘yes’ the second the offer was proposed. He let me know that they’d be calling to schedule an induction and that was that. Leaving the doctor that day I felt a huge sense of relief. The purgatory stage of pregnancy was finally over, I would soon know the exact date of when I would get to meet my girl.

Later that day I was called and provided with my induction date: September 11. Initially I thought nothing of it, however it soon dawned on me that we would be bringing our daughter into the world on one of American history’s saddest days…not ideal. I spent the next couple of days toying with the idea of calling to reschedule the induction. Between the not so desirable date and my overall  fear of an induction, I started to think that pushing it back might be my best option. The night of September 7, I stayed up late (11 pm— impressive, I know ) and ate nachos with my husband while fantasizing together about the tiny little newborn that would soon be joining our family. Little did we know just how soon.

Andre and I went to bed at 11 that night and by 11:30, as I laid in bed deciding to call and cancel my induction, I felt a contraction that was like no contraction I’d felt before. Three minutes later I felt another. I quickly downloaded a contraction timing app and got to counting. They were coming in alarmingly fast and strong. Still, I thought maybe it was another bout of false labor, which had been plaguing me for days. I decided to get a glass of water and tried walking around. The contractions continued to come. I got back in bed to try and get comfy but quickly realized that I was putting all of my energy into breathing through my contractions. I nudged my husband awake and said “I think it’s time”. He popped up, said “it’s time!?”… And then fell backwards in bed and passed right back out. This time I shook him, leaned over the bed as a contraction began and growled “we gotta gooooo”.

Me being me, I refused to leave without applying a quick splash of makeup. I leaned over the counter, breathed through a couple more contractions, and decided it was so not worth the risk of wiggling a baby out onto the bathroom floor.

My husband grabbed Liam out of bed and carried him to the car. I texted my grandma to let her know we were on our way, grabbed a towel to put under me just in case, and waddled myself out the door. Without the hospital bag that I’d spent a month perfecting. Of course.

My grandma lives 3 minutes away from our house and the hospital is 5 minutes away from her house. But as we headed to her house i began to think that there was no way we were going to make it. I texted her to open her door, Andre ran Liam in, and we were off. I thought a baby was going to fly out with every speed bump we rolled over and as we pulled up to the hospital we just left the car in front and ran in to the ER. I was brought a wheel chair right away and just like that, a nurse was wheeling me to labor and delivery. I was ugly breathing, people were staring at me, and I was a total wreck. At this point it was 12:30 and when the nurse  asked when my due date was, I realized it WAS my due date.

The nurse sent me into the bathroom to change before she did a pelvic check. As I was in the bathroom I bent over to get my leggings off (worst thing ever to try to get off while having level 10 contractions) and felt my water break. I came back into the room for my pelvic check and the nurse only had to check for a quick second before turning to me and saying “I have good news and bad news. Good news is, you’re not going home-you’re definitely in labor. Bad news is, you are dilated to a 9 and probably won’t have time for an epidural”. I was in shock. It had been just an hour since I felt my first contractions and I was dilated to a 9….???

I was rushed to a delivery room and my amazing team of nurses got to work. They were determined to help me get that epi and explained that the more I freaked out during a contraction, the faster labor would progress. They were shoving paperwork in my contraction having face as fast as possible and I signed each one with the ugliest ‘I’m at a level 10 pain’ scribble you ever did see. Within 20 minutes (that felt like 20 hours) the anesthesiologist walked into the room and I felt immediate relief upon simply seeing the guy. 10 minutes after that I felt like a new woman, my energy was reignited, and I was ready to meet my girl. Andre and I sat there excitedly texting family members and waiting for push time.

Just after 3am, the nurse came into the room and had me try pushing to determine if it was time to call the doctor in. After three pushes she decided it was go time and ran off to find the doctor. My doctor arrived, I pushed maybe 4 more times, and just like that, my perfect 6lb 3oz Scarlett Genevieve was placed on my chest. Andre was in such awe that he forgot that his job was to take photos and the nurse ended up grabbing his phone and taking photos for him.

I began nursing Scarlett and despite all of my fears, she latched perfectly. And so there we sat, soaking in our newest little babe while we waited to be transferred to our room.

About 7 hours after Scarlett made her grande debut into this world, she met her big brother for the first time. He came in typical Liam fashion-loudly and with a box full of donuts. He was excited but hesitant, and while he would hover next to us watching as we held her, he was too scared to touch her himself.

We decided that it would be best for Liam if Andre stayed with him that night, so Scarlett and I had our first ever ‘girls night’ in the hospital. And let me tell you, it was such a wild sleepover that we didn’t get any actual sleep. That’s right, after delivering at 3am, I stayed up all day the following day with visitors, and then proceeded to stay up with my little comfort nursing girl all night long. Thank goodness for sweet nurses and HGTV.

The following day I was told we would go home as soon as doctors came by to give the stamp of approval. The pediatrician came by bright and early, did one last echo on her heart to make sure her VSD had closed up, said Scarlett was good to go, and signed her off. My doctor however was MIA and despite the easiest delivery ever, the nurses couldn’t release me until I was seen. The entire day went by, and by 4pm this exhausted mama was not having it. I sent Andre out to the nurses station to figure out a plan to break me out of there and at last, they called the doctor and were able to get me released via phone call. I have never packed up my stuff so quickly.

We packed Scarlett into her car seat, rolled on down to the car, and at last, we were all together and headed to our happy place… home.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

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Oh Baby, Baby.

On the morning that I found out I was pregnant it was a beautiful rainy day. I woke up and rolled over to Facetime my husband who was away on business. As we talked, he stopped me and said “babe you are glowing! Are you sure you’re not pregnant? Look at you!”. I blushed and didn’t think too much of it… he was always one to lay on the sweet/sometimes cheesy compliments and I was resting  directly under the light of the window. Once I got out of bed, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a pregnancy test. When I was finished, I put it down and walked away, not expecting anything exciting to take place. I had become accustomed to the month after month disappointment of seeing just one sad little “not pregnant” line on the test and no longer allowed myself to hype up the situation.

When I went back a couple minutes later to check on it, I burst into tears. I don’t cry often… and I especially do not happy cry.  At my absolute most happiest I have never been able to muster up tears and have never understood how other people did. Yet there I was, sitting on the bathroom floor balling my eyes out (although I’m sure the pregnancy hormones played a role). After 11 months of trying and wishing and hoping and praying, we finally got the news we’d been wanting for so long.

I hadn’t planned on telling our son right off the bat, but when he heard me crying he knew something was up and all I could do in that moment was just blurt out “mommy’s having a baby!”. His eyes got big and he pointed to my belly and asked “you got baby!?”. We hugged and I cried some more and called my husband. We had a five minute conversation before he went into a meeting and chuckled to ourselves as we recalled finding out we were pregnant with Liam. Filled with so much excitement, I continued about my day unable to sit still, happy dancing all around the house. I wanted to shout my news from the rooftop and tell the mailman and the gardeners and the neighbors.

And now here we are, about 6 weeks since we found out, and I can finally share the news with you all. The journey to this point hasn’t been an easy one but it certainly has been a happy one. I’ve been nauseas more often than not, my hormones have been all out of whack creating all kinds of mood swings and skin trouble, I have food aversions to just about everything (which has led to weeks of living off of Saltines and cereal) and my energy has been so depleted that naps have become a necessity/my bed time is usually 6pm. I’m finally justttt beginning to feel like myself again and am so ready to be heading into my second trimester.

My last pregnancy was high risk due to an incompetent cervix, which means that this pregnancy is automatically considered high risk. We will find out in the coming weeks what that will mean for us. Cervical surgery, long term bed rest, or restricted activity are all very likely possibilities that we will have to face when the time comes… but for now we are just enjoying my current state of physical freedom, hoping for the best, and taking it all as it comes.

Liam has quickly and very happily accepted the fact that there will be another little human joining us soon. Some days he wants a brother, other days he wants a sister. He has added “baby” to his nightly list of “I love yous” , he gives my already growing belly little kisses, and has expressed the sweetest concern for “how baby is going to get out of there”. He has had moments of stress about the baby playing with his toys and his feelings took a pretty big hit when he saw a package of the teeniest little baby booties arrive that weren’t for him… but in the grand scheme of things, I’d say he is pretty darn excited.

We have just recently begun to talk about how we will rearrange the house to accommodate for a whole new person. I have started purchasing some irresistible gender neutral baby items as my impatience to know the gender grows stronger and stronger. Many of my thoughts are consumed by day dreams of our growing family and what life as four will be like. I am filled with endless excitement and can think of no other word to describe my current state other than blessed. Absolutely.. undeniably.. blessed beyond belief.

So with that, this ‘whine connoisseur’ is taking a little break from the wine… I’ve got some baby growing to do.

Baby number two, joining us September 2017.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

 

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Hello 2017.

2016 was a lot of things for us. It was change. It was adventure. It was new beginnings. 

While I dropped the ball on my healthy lifestyle the last half of the year and I still have not managed to figure out how to get all the things done and simultaneously finish my coffee while it’s still hot, this year did bring its share of accomplishments and positive changes. I still am not supermom (my son has confirmed this by repeatedly telling me that he cannot see my muscles when I flex for him) and I still have not made a single trip to Target in which I left with only the items on my list… however I have added “working mom” to my list of accomplishments and I’ve finally mastered the art of making the perfect flank steak +garlic mashed potatoes.

This year brought a lot of unexpected events. Within the course of 12 months, my husband decided to change companies (and had to spend 3 months away from us training across the country), we traveled to more destinations than we ever have before, I took on a part time job, my husband managed to break 3 iphones, I had like 4 different hair styles/colors, and our son developed a serious love for telling fart jokes to as many strangers as he can. There were highs and lows as there are every year, but overall I am ending this year feeling like one of those most blessed ladies on the planet.

If I was to narrow my lessons for the year down to one all encompassing lesson, it’s probably that things don’t always go to plan… and that’s ok. I have always been a planner. I try not to let anyone see the “notes” app on my phone because there are so many lists and plans going on in there that it’s honestly surprising that I haven’t started a line graph documenting how often my son makes comments about pooping/farting or how many times a day I say “honestly”. Planning and being prepared is my comfort zone and that’s how I like it, however almost nothing that went down this year was “in the plans”. And yet what do you know… Everything turned out ok. More than ok. Life has a way of working itself out and whether I care to admit it or not… Life does not care if I made a plan for this or a plan for that. Everything happens when it happens for a reason, and while I still have no plan to stop planning, I have learned to be more accepting of when things do not happen according to my schedule.

Going into the new year, I feel optimistic… I feel excited… I feel blessed. I have a sweet/successful/super handsome/loving husband who is currently in an ongoing battle with my grandpa as to whether or not he should grow out his beard. I have a son who is absolutely taking his sweet time at potty training but says the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life and always tells me that I’m pretty. I have a job that challenges me and keeps my mind moving and allows me to still spend most of my time at home with my family. I have a home that makes my heart happy. I have a sweet puppy that won’t stop jumping on my house guests but has the most amazing tolerance for loud three year olds that want to use her as a jungle gym. I have a small but great group of friends who thoroughly enjoy getting down with wine/cocktails whenever I need one (or five). I have family near and far that constantly remind me that I am loved (even if it’s a string of texts at 5 in the morning or comes in the form of 6 back to back snapchats). I could not imagine needing anything else as I take on this new year.

I wish you all nothing but happiness. If this year was good to you…take time to count your blessings and cary that love into the new year. If this year was bad to you…take time to count your blessings and clear your head, and shake it all off. It’s time for resolutions and positivity and optimism and all of the cheesy “new year, new me” phrases that someone is bound to make fun of you for. It’s time to take on 2017… Happy New Year my friends.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

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

 

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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Hello 2k16.

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As we head into 2016, my husband and I have done our share of sentimental banter about the year that we just closed out. Going back through photos, the two of us constantly making remarks like “can you believe that was this year??” And “time went by so fast!”. Ultimately, we decided that this year could be summed up as a year of experiences. We were blessed enough to have traveled to Santa Monica and Mammoth several times along with Beverly Hills/LA, Newport Beach, Venice Beach, Park City, and Saint George/Zion. We became so accustomed to traveling that going just weeks between trips would get us feeling restless and our suitcases became permanent fixtures on our bedroom floor. With each trip we became better at traveling as a family and more importantly, with each trip we were able to provide our son with experiences and memories that create such an exceptionally full childhood for him. The kid is 2.5 years old and has already walked through the falling snow of Park City. He’s breathed in the fresh mountain air of Mammoth and swam around the cold waters of June Lake. He’s chased seagulls along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean and seen the beautiful red cliffs of Zion. My husband has provided us with a year of destinations that have added such richness and beauty to my son’s early childhood, and for that, this year has been unlike any other.

When we weren’t traveling, we found ourselves doing what was probably an over the top amount of hosting. From a backyard brunch, to Liam’s second birthday, to super bowl and Halloween and my husbands birthday and Friendsgiving and New Years and our family Christmas (with plenty of wine nights and margarita days in between) our home certainly held its fair share of events. I’d like to think that between the cooking and cleaning and decorating and planning, I must have polished my hosting skills enough to possibly be considered an up and coming Martha Stuart (but I have no intention of landing myself in prison, sorry Martha).

While all of the traveling is incredible and the hosting makes my heart happy, this coming year our goal is to focus on our growth as a family. My husband and I want to continue the ‘get healthy/fit’ journey that we began in 2015 and plan on returning to a clean diet + meal prepping + P90X come Monday. We want to do more activities centered around our son and his development, such as enrolling him in sports and various classes. We want to train our puppy to become the well behaved security dog that German Shepherds are capable of being. We want to put away a good amount of money into our savings account and make financial decisions that will benefit us in the future. In 2016, our focus is family. Our focus is us. Our focus is growth.

2015 was the year that I finally gained my confidence back after losing 30 pounds of baby weight that I carried around for too long. 2015 was the year my little baby turned two. 2015 was the year my husband and I celebrated two years of marriage. 2015 was the year I continued to learn through experience as both a mother and wife. 2015 was a beautiful year full of blessings and good times. I am thankful to have had the experiences I did and to have shared them with my two favorite people in the whole world. I close the 2015 chapter looking back at it fondly, but also looking forward to what the new year will hold for us. Good things are brewing in our household, we have no doubt. It may be the optimism that comes with the start of a new year talking, but I strongly believe 2016 is going to be a good one.

Wishing you and yours all the best in this coming year.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

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