Maternity Photos.

You guys, I cannot even begin to express how in love I am with our maternity shoot. It was something I had envisioned for months and when it finally happened it surpassed any hopes that I’d had for it. This was the second shoot that we’ve done with The Light and The Love Photography and we were once again blown away by the talent that is Britany.

For years now I have wanted to do a family shoot up in Mount Charleston, but due to it always being pouring rain every time we tried to shoot there, it’s never worked out. At last, I got my mountain photo session and ohmygoodness between the scenery, the lighting, and Britany’s serious photography skills, these photos perfectly captured the beauty of this pregnancy.

I’ve had a lot of questions about my dresses. Unfortunately the lacy bell sleeved one is no longer available, but it was from Forever21. The other dress is from Show Me Your Mumu and is linked here.

Liam’s outfit is all from Zara (which i cannot believe I haven’t discovered sooner) and Andre’s outfit is from Express.

I was a little nervous about this session because the last few family sessions that we’ve done with Liam he’s become distracted/bored super quickly and getting any images with him were always a tricky task that involved a ton of bribery. This time around he was SO unbelievably well behaved and cooperative and cuddly and had all the smooches to give. We brought my sister along to assist as needed, which I think helped a lot. We also brought some treats for him to look forward to between locations because let’s be real, some Star Wars fruit snacks and lollipops will always be the easiest way to keep a four year old in a good mood.

This session was by far my favorite family session we’ve done yet–which is obvious the moment you walk into my house because I’ve already framed half of it. It was the last session of just the three of us and I’m so glad that I will forever have it to look back on. The next time our family is photographed we will finally be joined by our littlest babe, who is apparently very comfortable inside my belly with no intention of coming out on time. Stay tuned, she’s gotta make her debut eventually.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

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The Nursery.

I started planning our growing little one’s nursery long before this babe was even in my belly. I would sit up at night pinning ideas on Pinterest, bookmarking websites that had cute decor inspo, and feeling slightly ridiculous for planning so in depth for a baby that did not yet exist.

Fast forward to finding out I was pregnant. After seeing those two lines on the test and spending my entire morning pacing around the house with an overwhelming feeling of joy, I remember wandering into the room that would soon belong to our baby. As I sat there rearranging the room in my head, I planned the perfect nursery for a little girl. Call it a mother’s intuition or call it wishful thinking… I just knew it would be a girl’s room long before we ever knew the gender.

Now here we are. Just 6 weeks from my due date and all that we need to complete this nursery is our sweet girl. Inspired by wild flowers, I created a girly little space with a boho touch. With the exception of her crib (which will be in our room for the first few months) and changing table/dresser, I utilized furniture that we already had. The leaning shelves were purchased for our first home years ago at The Container Store. The couch is part of a sectional that was in our first home as well. We’d thought about getting rid of it several times but since it was still in great condition we held onto it “just in case” we could find a later use for it…and sure enough we did. What was once the couch we bought for our first home together is now the couch that I will cuddle up and nurse our little girl on. The crib and changing table/dresser are both from IKEA. I’ve found changing table dressers to be so ridiculously over priced and not at all cute enough to justify the high price tags, so thanks to an idea I saw on Pinterest, we bought a basic plain white Ikea dresser and changed out the knobs with little crystals that I found at H&M.  It’s the perfect height to double as a changing table and will still look great once she transitions to a big girl room.

All of my framed prints came from Etsy shops Adoren Studio and Ivie Baby. The frames came from Ikea, Target, and H&M (which surprisingly has a super cute home section on their website). The furry stool is from Target and is probably my favorite piece in the room. The rug, almost all of the shelf décor, hanging flower crown antlers, wall hooks, and the pillows also came from Target because as we all know, Target is just winning in the game of reasonably priced home décor. The tapestry hanging on the wall-also one of my favorite pieces in the room-came from Modern Burlap. After spending so many months hoping and praying for this baby, the verse grabbed my attention the moment I first saw it and I instantly knew that it had to be a center piece of her nursery. Lastly, let’s talk about the giant flower S on the wall (which, for those who have been curious about her name, is totally a hint). I had seen giant floral letters on Pinterest a million times and was set on putting one in my girl’s room. Every internet search led me to Etsy, where the smallest letters were going for over $100. Since I have a million other things that I would rather spend a hundred bucks on, I decided to try to make one myself… and oh my goodness am I glad I did. With the help of a DIY website and some Michael’s coupons, I was able to put together a giant floral letter that matches the room perfectly, is double the size and cost a quarter of the price.

I could not be more proud of the little space that I put together for our girl. As the need to nest grows stronger and stronger I find myself sitting in her room on the couch several times a day, just picturing our sweetest new addition enjoying her space. The clothes and blankets are washed… the drawers are stocked and organized… Everything is in its place.

Now we wait.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

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28 weeks.

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28 weeks of growing this little girl inside of me.

We have officially entered the third trimester and while it feels as though I have been pregnant all year (probably because I literally have), it also feels like the time has absolutely flown by. In just 10-12ish weeks our family will grow by one. This littlest babe will make her debut, and we will finally get to meet the girl behind the kicks.

I definitely feel like I am entering the third trimester. As baby girl gains weight, moving becomes more of a challenge.  My bed time has been 9pm and mid-day naps are almost a necessity. While shaving my legs the other day I came to the realization that I am probably just a few weeks away from needing some assistance. My meals have had to become smaller as eating makes me feel more uncomfortable, but I’m hungry every thirty minutes. The pregnancy leg cramps have been SO real. Sitting upright in a chair for too long is a killer on my back. Working out is now less of a desired activity and more of a forced one. I have become increasingly irritable and my constantly changing roller coaster of emotions can get overwhelming. Basically, I am typical third trimester pregnant lady.

As the days of being “just the three of us” come to and end, I have been feeling all kinds of sentimental. The last four years of our lives, it’s been the Daddy, Mommy, and Liam show. Practically children ourselves when we had him, Liam has grown us up in so many ways and made us the people we are today.  Together, the three of us moved from our first condo to our first house. We have traveled and made memories all over the southwest. We have spent each night cuddling in our too-small-for-the-three-of-us queen sized bed. We got our first family puppy. We have gone through big changes and sleepless nights and laughter filled bacon cooking mornings. Together…just the three of us. As Liam says about ten times a day, we are “besssst friends”.  And now in the blink of an eye, it will be the four of us. The four best friends. This newest addition is already so very loved and I couldn’t be more excited to create new family memories with her, but I will always cherish the last four years of bonding that I’ve had with the sweet little boy who first made me a mama.

I thought that the second time around I would be less nervous. However as the countdown to due date begins, I have realized that I am not less nervous, my nerves simply lie in new places.  While last time my nerves were mostly about the labor/delivery process and the early days of motherhood, this time my nerves are more focused on Liam’s feelings/emotions and what balancing being mama to two will be like. I want to give both of my babies all the attention that they each deserve. I want to make sure that my husband and I get the time that we need together. I want to make sure that in all of that, I don’t forget to also take care of my own well being. My nerves mostly just come down to how I will balance all of that. I love my people… this little squad my husband and I have created. And at the end of the day, I just want to make sure everyone is happy and very well aware of how loved they are.

Despite the inevitable nervous thoughts that come with the unknown, I am filled with a sense of calm. This entire pregnancy I have just had this gut feeling that everything would be ok. And it has been. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my first pregnancy wasn’t the easiest. After almost losing our son at 23 weeks due to an incompetent cervix and being put on very strict bed rest, I went into this pregnancy being automatically classified as “high risk”. While we went into it prepared for the worst, the worst never came. My high risk specialist and I made the decision early on not to operate on my cervix. We decided to wait it out, closely monitor it, and only operate if necessary. With each appointment it became more and more obvious that we made the right decision. As my specialist likes to say, it’s like I went out and bought a new cervix. It has baffled all of us in the best way possible and with each passing day of healthy pregnancy I am reminded of what a blessing it has been.

As I head into the “nesting/I don’t want to do anything other than sit at home and bake a baby” phase of pregnancy, I am filling the next few weeks with as many activities as I can. With my baby shower next week, followed by a week long trip to Phoenix, followed by Liam’s fourth birthday and then our maternity photos… this growing mama will gladly welcome the end of pregnancy slow down once it comes.

28 weeks down, 12 to go. See you soon baby girl.

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur.

 

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Baby #2 is a…

At 12.5 weeks pregnant, we went in to see my high risk specialist for a cervix check. I knew it was super early to ask about the gender, but I was so anxious to know that I couldn’t help but beg him to take a guess. Right away, the doctor said “looks like a girl”.  The words my husband and I had been hoping like crazy to hear. He let us know that he was 80% sure and would check again at the next appointment. Scared of getting too excited, we shared our news with only a couple people and I did my best not to get my hopes up (and by “did my best” I mean I only added like 50 girly items to my online shopping carts instead of actually purchasing said items).

At the following appointment at 14.5 weeks, the doctor changed his certainty to 90% girl. That was all I needed to hear… from that moment on, baby became a she. I went home that day and started buying flowery little swaddle blankets and pink onesies. I sat in bed awake at night dreaming up the perfect girly nursery and smiling at the idea of watching my husband raise a little “daddy’s girl”. In the back of my mind however, I was still so nervous that we would walk into our next appointment only to find out that she was suddenly a he. I of course would still love that baby with everything I had either way, but I knew it would be a bit of a temporary shock if the gender changed on us (not to mention I sure would have an embarrassing amount of returns to make).

Finally this week, at 17.5 weeks… we got the confirmation that we have been waiting for. Baby number two is 100% a girl. The moment the ultrasound tech scanned over the little girl parts she exclaimed “oh yeah that’s without a doubt a girl” and all I could do was smile the biggest smile.  Just like that, I get to be the mama of a daughter. I want to cry just saying it–thanks pregnancy hormones.

I remember as a little girl, I always said that I hoped to first have a boy so that he could be the protector, followed by a girl who would look up to her big brother. As we began our journey into pregnancy number two, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would actually get to experience mothering a girl or if I was destined to be a boy mom. Now I am filled with so much joy to be able to say that I have got my sweet crazy boy + a girl on the way.

Trimester two has been much easier on me than the earlier weeks of pregnancy. My nausea has finally passed and most days my energy levels seem to be normal again. Best of all, my incompetent cervix has not yet come back to bother me. The high risk specialist has told us at every appointment that he is shocked by the total turnaround and that it’s like he’s looking at an entirely different patient’s cervix. I remain under careful watch and he’s ready to operate on me the second he feels he needs to, however so far there has been zero sign of the return of my cervical problems.

I have to say, it’s a bit of a shock. A good shock, but a shock nonetheless. Ever since the complications of my last pregnancy, we have been warned to expect the same thing this time around. We were prepared (or at least as prepared as one can be) for me to be on bed rest for the majority of my pregnancy. The moment I found out I was pregnant I held off making any plans out of fear that I would be bed ridden for the following 8 months. But here I am, 18 weeks along and still movin and groovin. Things could change suddenly, but for the time being we are simply hoping for the best and trusting the talented doctor who is closely monitoring me.

I have recently begun feeling tiny baby kicks all throughout my day and from time to time I have even been lucky enough to feel quick little movements on the outside of my belly, excited for the kicks to grow stronger so that my husband and son can share in the experience. I’m growing bigger by the moment and at least half of my wardrobe is now very much off limits. My cravings include bean and cheese burritos with sour cream (if there is no sour cream I will throw a pregnant lady fit and refuse to eat it), Frosted Flakes/about half of the rest of the cereal aisle, corn on the cob, and chocolate chip cookies accompanied by an almost frozen glass of whole milk. The nursery/baby item check list is quickly coming along and I find myself staring at the already acquired items in excitement at least a couple times a day. Surprisingly, I have managed to make it to the gym for a 30 minute workout 4-5 nights a week and am feeling pretty darn great about that.

Just about halfway through this pregnancy and so far it has been everything I’d hoped for and more. I plan on soaking in every sweet moment as this little one continues to grow,  awaiting the big day that we get to welcome our girl into the world.

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.

A time for change.

For three years now, I have been a stay at home mom. Day in and day out, I have been blessed enough to have the privilege to stay home raising my little boy. Every milestone, every bad day, every good day… I have been there to see them all. When I began my journey as a stay at home mom, I never thought I would see the day where I felt like I needed more. My job was to be mommy, and that was all I could ever want.

But here I am three years later and I found myself beginning to think “what about me?”. I am a mom. I am a wife. Those are my two favorite titles and I am so proud every day to be both of those things…but I’ve reached a point where I need to have my own identity outside of those roles. I need to take care of me in order to take care of them.

Some of you may remember me writing a blog post similar to this earlier this year. I briefly tried working part time at a yoga studio before deciding that it just wasn’t for me. I happily returned to my life as a stay at home mom, thinking that I had gotten it all out of my system. I’d seen the other side of the grass, decided it was not actually greener, and told myself I never wanted to leave my baby ever again.

Until a few months ago.

My husband has been traveling so much for work lately that more often than not, he is gone about 2-3 nights a week. Sure, we sometimes travel with him. But when he’s got too much work to do or we don’t want to put our dog in boarding too often, Liam and I remain at home. I found myself having far too much free time, and with that time, I couldn’t help but feel like I could be doing something more to better how I felt about myself. Something that could not only benefit our family financially, but something that could motivate me and get my mind moving (because sometimes potty training a toddler day in and day out just isn’t quite the mental stimulation you desire).

It slowly began to dawn on me that perhaps the problem with my short lived yoga studio front desk job had not been with me being a working mom… perhaps the problem was that I was leaving my baby to do something that I wasn’t excited to be doing. I felt like I had been giving up precious time with my baby to go to a job that I had zero interest in pursuing a real future with. What I needed was a job that I enjoyed. A job that I could excel in and be proud of.

And then just like that, everything fell into place. I often find myself completely amazed at the way the universe works… The way you can throw a thought or a prayer out there and have it answered in such an obvious way.

I had been taking a long “me time” bath a couple of months ago. As I sat there thinking about what sort of job I really wanted to pursue, I found my mind continuously going back to the job that I was working when I found out I was pregnant with Liam. I worked sales, customer service, and social media for a locally based baby product company and it was a job that I truly had a lot of fun with. I knew that the responsibilities that I had at that job were what I wanted to look for in my next job, I just wasn’t sure how I would find it…let alone find something that worked into my ideal schedule. I had thought about contacting my old bosses but assumed they had filled my role long ago and wouldn’t have a spot open for me to return to.

Several days later, out of nowhere, my old boss just so happened to contact me to see if I was interested in working a convention for them. I accepted the job and before I knew it, one thing lead to the next and suddenly I had my old job back. I was able to work out a schedule with them that allows me to work from home half the time, which gives me the best of both worlds. My biggest fear in returning to the working world had been that I would have to sacrifice the time that I got to spend raising my son. The way that it worked out, I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice anything. I get to go to the office a couple days a week where I am surrounded by adults + get to focus all of my attention on the job at hand…and Liam gets to go to a great in home daycare a couple days a week where he can socialize with kids his own age. I could not have asked for a better situation and I am so incredibly thankful that this opportunity came our way because no matter how long it ends up playing out… It has made me feel like me again.

It has been a few weeks now since I have returned to the working world and so far I couldn’t feel better about the decision. Liam absolutely loves playing with the little babies at day care, and I absolutely love what I do. On days that I have to be in the office and my husband is in town, we forgo the daycare and Liam gets to spend quality one on one time with his daddy… something that very rarely happened before because I was always around.

I take a step back and look at my life each evening and can’t help but to feel completely overjoyed with the life and the opportunities that my family and I have been given. Perhaps it’s just the joyful Christmas spirit filling the air, or perhaps it’s the total uplift in my own spirit, but I couldn’t be more content and excited about what the future holds.

If you’re a stay at home mom struggling with the same feelings that I was experiencing… take control. I was in a slump for a while there and the only thing that finally picked me up out of it was my husband reminding me that this life is mine to do what I want with. Whether your inner happiness is going to come from a part time job, starting your own blog, getting involved in mommy groups, getting out of the house to go to yoga a couple times a week, or the hundreds of other possibilities… just go find it. Find whatever it is that is going to make you feel like you again and make it happen.

As Christmas approaches, I wish you all so much love and happiness. I would like to say that I will be blogging more consistently again but after saying that a good five times now, I’m going to refrain from making any promises (but i certainly plan on trying).

Cheers,

The Whine Connoisseur

 

 

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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

 

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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