Kansas City

Often Sean’s mom’s birthday and an annual golf outing for his parents’ church fall around the same weekend in August. We went this year for the first time in awhile and had such fun! It was too short.

I took the most pictures on our first night, when we went out for pizza with everyone, including Great Grandpa.

I love this series of pictures of Wes and Great Grandpa! I have no idea what was going on with these two, but it looks like a nice, sweet time. I feels special that I got to capture it.

The pizza at this restaurant is now some of our favorite pizza anywhere!

Can you see how all the adults have their phones out so Wes wanted to be a picture taker too?

Such excitement and fun to be together!

Of course we had to check out the caboose and the fountain before heading home.

More sweet Great Grandpa photos! I swear Madeline enjoyed herself!

We finished the night with pie and a tour of the fairy garden. How fun is the fairy garden!? Also, I was instructed (definitely not asked) to get Beth’s peach pie recipe because it’s Sean’s favorite. I’m writing this the week before Labor Day, knowing I will attempt this favorite for that holiday weekend. I’m a little nervous. It’s a lot of pressure to recreate a favorite from not just your mom but grandmother. I’ll probably have to do a follow up post to let you know how that goes! I hope well!

Look at that car! That’s a MG Midget! That is the type of car Rich had in high school (I think, or around then). He found someone selling theirs and bought it as a retirement gift to himself! It really is a midget. Sean and I went for a drive. I’m so glad Rich has it and drives it and loves it, but my goodness car safety has come a loooooong way. I wish I had taken a picture of the “safety” belt. The two pieces hardly stay together. It was fun to take it for a spin, but not safe.

Again, too short of a trip. But fun! Looking forward to our return at Thanksgiving.

Swallow Falls State Park

Weeks before we arrived in Deep Creek and even while we were in Deep Creek, the weather was supposed to be rain. All day everyday rain most of the days. But that wasn’t the reality! There was rain, but we were all so happy we were able to get out most of the time. The morning of our Swallow Falls walk was one of those mornings we thought we’d be rained out but weren’t.

Sean, Wes, and I went with Maggie, my mom, and Madeline, while someone (maybe just my dad) stayed home during Madeline’s nap.

Isn’t my momma so cute watching the drips come down from the rocks?

I’m so glad we did this hike/walk. It was at the perfect level for our 3-year-olds. A little bit of a challenge but not too long and really pretty. It reminded my mom and me of Oregon. (Again, must go back and read more about these childless people in Portland for the sole purpose of tracking down a wine seller! Such fresh faces!  There’s just one picture in that post that reminds me of Swallow Falls but I’m linking it anyway.)

It also reminded me of the gorges in Ithaca.  (Not quite so fresh faced….)

We thought we’d end up in a swimming whole. I’m not sure this was really it, but the adults were ready to head back and the kids were really needing to make it to the swimming whole, so here we are! Thanks, Sean for not making me take off my socks and sneakers and taking one for the team here.

This was wonderful outing and a great way to end the Deep Creek series.  Until next year!

A treasure hunt!

By Friday, everyone had arrived at Deep Creek. It was a big crew. Sean, NanaPapaAuntMaggieEvelyn, Aunt Ginger, Uncle Don, Aunt Joanne, Uncle Mark, and of course Wes, Madeline, and me. Aunt Joanne helped organize a treasure hunt for Wes and Evelyn. Which was so fun for both and kept them separate for a little bit of time. Something I think we all needed at this point of the trip.

What a “surprise” it was to find sparkly stones and seashells in the backyard of our house! How could they have possibly gotten there?!

After finding the “surprises” everyone was so excited to see what other treasures we could find! A feather, bird houses, a hornet’s nest, and countless rocks and leaves. Both bags of mostly countless rocks and leaves were promptly dumped on Maggie’s lap when she arrived. She was a good sport about it.

Right before Maggie arrived we built a fire for s’smores a little later. It was getting a little chilly and how hilarious is Evelyn turning just a summer chill into a whole Eskimo experience?

Friday turned out to be National S’mores Day! There was also a chance of rain but by great luck we got a s’more in right before the rain came!

I think this next picture happened the next day, but I want to mention our first annual cousin hammock picture. We used to take hammock pictures in the Adirondacks. So here’s the first one of this newest generation and one from the last (although not fully representative of all the cousins, just Maggie, Taylor, me, and Nikki.)

Guess I should add hammock picture taking to the lists of great things about both Adirondack trips and Deep Creek trips. I can’t wait to see how the faces in this new picture change over time!

Deep Creek State Park

While I obviously struggled during my first vacation with children, there were of course so many great times. Our day at Deep Creek Stare Park is the first of a few I’ll separate out.

Do remember that Wes had this wish list of places to visit for the summer? I never thought we’d accomplish his list because I didn’t think lakes had sand and we’re not really beach lovers, but it turns out the lake at Deep Creek State Park does and so we checked off everything! I’m so pleased! Anyway, we went to the lake beach just once. On our first full day. I wish we had gone back. The sand and water were so fun!

Hooray, beach, Madeline says! She loved the sand, but she didn’t eat it! Which was great but really surprised me.

Also, portrait mode on the iPhone! How amazing is this feature?! I think I had used it one time before and then this trip Maggie took all of these amazing pictures. I really never need a real camera again.

Wes, of course, loved the sand too. He had trouble getting into lake swimming. It really is a unique experience. I had a little trouble at first getting back into it. The bottom was super squishy at the house we rented and very rocky at the state park. Hopefully with time he’ll get the hang of it.

Red solo cups for the win! A trick I’ve learned from other moms. When you find yourself somewhere that you would care if a sand toy was lost but still want a sand toy, just buy a bunch of solo cups! Wes observed a few boys playing in the sand and he went up, introduced himself, and asked if he could play. I think they were unsure if him at first but were very interested in his solo cups, so they let him play. And he eventually got his hands on their big bucket! So that’s what happens when you introduce yourself and have solo cups!

Then Nana gave him dinosaur legs right before we left for the day. So happy we were able to check this one off of Wes’s summer bucket list!

Deep Creek Lake

Growing up, my Papa and Steppie had a house by a lake in the Adirondacks. A trip to upstate New York, with a stop at that lake house, was part of our summer vacation every year until I graduated from high school? Maybe just a few years before that?

It was pretty magical, these trips to the Adirondacks. I loved every lake swimming, motor boat riding, Jelly Belly and Half Moon cookies and popover eating, Saranac root beer drinking, deer feeding from my hand, Jeep riding into town moment of that experience. Magical.

When my parents told me they were going to rent a cabin in Deep Creek for 10 days, I said we will be there the whole time! I want to create some lake magic!

When I thought about creating lake magic it was more of a recreation of lake magic for me that would spill over to my children. I got it wrong. Instead, I created lake magic for my children that maybe splashed over to me. Trickled maybe? I got a drop?

I was too busy being the mother this time.  Turns out being too busy being the mother can wreck a vacation if you’re not careful.  I was not careful.  Is that a lesson one is able to learn in time?  Is the answer no?  Is this one of those reasons all the mothers in elevators are telling me to enjoy this time?  Because we’re too busy being the mother to be careful and so all we can do is tell the next round of mothers to be careful?  Does that make anyone else want to cry?

I left our time at Deep Creek thinking never again! But that’s not true. Because looking at these pictures and remembering every lake swimming, Swan raft riding, s’mores and monkey bread and ice cream for dinner and kettle corn eating, chicken feeding, lavender farm and goat cheese store visiting moment of this trip, I realize it was pretty magical. I just hope I can remember next time that it’s going to be chaotic and wild but that’s part of how the magic is made so just relax.

I actually can’t wait to go back. Plus anyone else wishing they had purchased 97 more bags of kettle corn?!

Italy Part IV

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More hills.  It was never ending.  This particular hill was watched over by the Black Madonna.  She watched over a short but fierce one.  We again didn’t stop because I just couldn’t.  It was intense.

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Our final destination on this final full day of biking was a castle and a picnic.

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We also got a little tour of their wine making processes and cellar.

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Our guides and the picnic they put together!

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Then we had our final dinner as a group.  There was maybe a bit too much wine and grappa involved, but it was so fun and such a great way to end the week with a great group of people.

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This is not my best picture, but there’s a story here.  Earlier in the week one of our companions asked what our last dinners would be if we were on death row.  It’s a go-to question of hers.  She’s asked it for years at all kinds of occasions.  It turns out I’m the first person to ponder how I got into the prison to have this death row meal before even considering my meal.  This seemed like an important detail to my answer.  I wanted to be able to hijack a really expensive car with a gun with Sean as a sidekick (he’d be needed to drive it since he can drive a stick and I can’t).  I wanted to have some fun without killing anyone to get to death row.  We all decided that the only way to get on death row was to actually commit a murder.  At our last dinner of our trip, there was an art exhibit in the building behind our table.  A few people went in and told me they had found my perfect weapon, so here I am trying look scary with my perfect weapon.  Sean and I decided both of our last meals would be Second Date Salmon (so glad I explained that before this trip so I could link it!).  And this almost doesn’t seem funny given some of the particulars, but it was fun at the time and a fun memory.

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Sean and I had two nights together in Turin before our trip officially ended.  Here’s my best picture of Turin, which is a great and interesting city that we really enjoyed.  Italy, such a good time and so needed in our lives.  More importantly though, unlike when we returned from France I was ready to be home.  I didn’t wish I was back in Italy at all.  I was 100% happy to be back.  And that was the best part of all.  That we got the break we needed as parents and partners and were just so delighted to be back with our sweet children as soon as we returned.  Thank you Italy and Rich and Beth!

There’s maybe a travel video coming, but I’m having the hardest time with music!

Parts I and II and III, if you missed them.

Italy Part III

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This bike trip through Italy was very fun and very satisfying, but so so hilly.  And much hotter than we expected.  We did a good job of keeping a positive attitude throughout, but the hills and the heat did get to you after awhile.  We were starting to feel it on our 4th day.  We made it to Barbaresco, where we stopped for just a bit before lunch.

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And here we have the church of wine!  Of course it started as a real church, but now contains all things wine.

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One of the big differences between our French trip and this trip were the group dynamics.  Group dynamics were exhausting on the last trip, although we did meet a family we really clicked with.  But this trip the overall dynamics were great!  And the particular group pictured here, we really enjoyed!

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After Barbaresco we stopped in Nieve for lunch on our own.  Sean and I decided we were done for that day.  It was hot, the hills were hard, we were going to enjoy our lunch and shuttle back for a massage.  Lunch was great.  While we’d been loving the food, Sean was craving a big plate of pasta and he got the perfect thing to fill that craving here.  And we had a really great conversation about our lives as a family and together.  So between the pasta and the conversation, it was a really satisfying lunch!  And then we got our couples massage and we didn’t regret taking the afternoon off from biking at all!

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Before dinner we took our Aperol Sprintzes to the chess room for a friendly game.

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We did not officially finish the game, but we got pretty close.  Sean declared me the winner.  I can’t decide if he was being nice, but I did have the upper hand when we stopped playing.  I view Sean as a strategic master, so I’m pretty proud of myself.

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Then dinner was outside again (the evenings were perfect even though the days were hot) with a beautiful sunset.  And this is one of my favorite pictures of us.  Although I got slack from everyone that I’m still carrying around this relic of a camera to take pictures when my iPhone X takes pictures that are just as good if not better….

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Here’s the iPhone version of the picture trying to prove the point.  Okay, fine.  I will probably stop using my relic camera.  I guess it is hard to deny that because I don’t understand my camera settings the color is far better in the iPhone version.

Last days of our trip coming up.  If you missed them, here are Parts I and II.

Italy Part II

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On the 3rd day of biking we did this massive climb pretty early in our day.  It was so steep and it went on seemingly forever.  But we did it!  Sean and I!  We did the whole thing and never stopped once!  We were going 3 miles an hour but we did it.  Now, I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been a success overall to have accomplished this climb even if you did stop.  But I just don’t get back on my bike very well, so the thought of getting back on was enough to make me not want to stop.  I’m just not skilled at it.  To the point it caused traffic slow downs at least once or twice and I know those Italian drivers were cursing me.  Anyway, others did make it up themselves, but not everyone, and I’m super proud of us for conquering it.

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Here we are with the road we came into town on.  But of course it doesn’t look like any kind of hill at all there.

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I know this is a lot of pictures of us but this one is funny.  Our group picked a stopping point that was also clearly part of the daily ritual of an older Italian gentleman.  He wasn’t giving his spot up for us.  When I asked someone to have our picture taken, he was very insistent that we wanted this angle because of the view instead.  I’m glad we got both views because my head is blocking what he meant and so we’re stuck with a bunch of cars here.  But he and his opinions about our group were funny.  I think some direction about how to fill bottles with water were also given (luckily our tour guides spoke Italian).

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Then we biked into the town of Barolo, where a group of us tasted some wines before our lunch.  We were able to talk to the winemaker at lunch, and that was the highlight of learning for this trip.

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Then back to our hotel for an Aperol Spritz before dinner.  It became our tradition to get ready for dinner a little early so we could have one before heading out with the group.  I found out about Aperol Sprtiz right before we left from my Instagram feed.  I’m so glad I did because what a perfect summer drink.  Luckily Aperol is easy enough to get here and we’ve already made a few of these for ourselves at home.

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We were in Alba for dinner on our own this night.  There were so many surprising things I learned about this part of Italy on this trip.  For instance Alba is the capital of Nutella and Kinder Eggs!  Sean suggested we get pizza and although it was high on my list of things to have before leaving Italy, I wasn’t initially thrilled by this idea.   But this pizza was the best!  We didn’t eat with them, but others from our group also made it over to this pizza place, and we all agreed it was some of the best pizza.

Up next, a church of wine and…more hills.

PS – Part I here.

 

Italy! Part I

In June, Sean and I left the kids at home (thanks, Rich and Beth!) and took a bike trip to Italy.  Same company and same idea as our trip to France a few years ago.  And like that trip, it was so great!  We hadn’t taken a vacation in 2 years.  We could feel the lack of a break and we can feel the difference in how life feels after getting a break.

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We went to Piedmont, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is in the Northwestern part of the country.  The draw for us was the wine.  This region produces Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and we were hoping to learn more about both.  We didn’t really.  This trip was structured differently than the last and teaching about wine wasn’t the focus.  But we tasted plenty!  I still felt we walked away with a good enough wine experience, even if we aren’t quite as knowledgeable as we were leaving Burgundy.  Plus, the trip itself was still so great.

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Before meeting up with our biking group we had a night to ourselves.  We stayed in a castle!  Sean’s dream.  Give that man any castle feature – a turret, a moat, a tall tower – and he’s happy.  It was a very fun hotel.  We wished we had two nights there, especially since we did not really sleep on the plane ride over and took a giant nap shortly after arriving.

The next day we got to biking!

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Although these pictures are really from our second day.  We biked through the Langhe Hills for this trip.  These vines here are for making Dolcetto.  I had never heard of Dolcetto wine before this trip, and I’m a big fan!  It’s a very easy drinking wine.  In the places in this region where you can’t plant the grapes that will become Barolo and Barbaresco wines, they plant these grapes for Dolcetto.  (One of the things I’m not clear about after leaving Italy are what the grape names are.  The grapes are not called Barolo and Dolcetto and Barbaresco, they have different names like Nebbiolo and Barbera.  I’m not always clear on which grapes are making which wines.)

The first day is always an easy biking day.  After Day 2 we quickly realized that we were in for some really serious climbs this trip.

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Serious climbs that did make for some pretty serious views, though!

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The food on this trip was so, so good!  So many delicious salads and breads and vegetables.  Not pictured here because I didn’t think I’d like it, is the Bergera salad.  I ended up trying some of Sean’s at this lunch and I never skipped it again!  So delicious.

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We had a truffle demonstration before dinner.  This region is also known for truffles.  The truffles we found were planted by the truffle hunter in advance, but it was still fun to hear him talk about the process and see how his dog found them (because she didn’t exactly know where they were…only the truffle hunter did).  Even more fun though, we got to have these ones from the demonstration on our dinner that night!

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And watching the sunset over those hills as we ate was just beautiful!  A perfect way to end this second day.  More to come from Itay!

New Orleans

Sean and I went to New Orleans at the end of April.  He had a conference, I tagged along, and thankfully my parents watched Wes and Madeline.  Although this trip is already behind us and I went on the trip fully thinking I had canceled the blog, this story is important.

We flew in on Saturday and soon after landing had dinner with Alexis and Christian.  We had the best time!  Alexis lives in Baton Rouge.  It’s a bit outside of New Orleans so I wasn’t sure how this might work out, but I’m so glad it did!  It was great to meet Christian and spend time with a cousin I never have without all of our aunts and uncles around.  (An earlier version of this draft said ” without adults around” because that’s what happens when you think about yourself in your family dynamic.  But I had to change that because all parties at this dinner are all very much adults!)

The only reason I have this picture of food is because I texted it to my dad.  I got frog legs in honor of my Grandma Sarah.  She loved frog legs.

Towards the end of dinner Alexis asked me if the blog was over.  I said yes.  I just canceled it and it’s over at least for now.  And then she asked me if I liked the blog.  And I said yes and then we got distracted by something.

After dinner we walked Bourbon Street.  I think you have to when you visit New Orleans.  It’s a fascinating experience.  Plus we were having such a good time I wasn’t ready for it to end.  Alexis and Christian took us for one last drink at Tropical Isle, where Sean got a Shark Attack and I got a Hand Grenade.  The Shark Attack comes with a plastic shark and a alligator (the victim of the attack), and both now have a home in Wes’s toy chest.

I was sad for this night to end.  We had such fun with Alexis and Christian.  But the rest of the trip didn’t disappoint.

We had brunch at Carrollton Market the next morning.  It was so delicious.  I took this picture because it’s poutine and I meant to text Alli and Mike about it.  Alli and Mike talk about poutine every time we see them, it seems.  And now I understand why!

Then we took a long walk.  We started with a lap around Audubon Park, then down St. Charles Street (where the houses are HUGE!), and ending up in the Irish Channel at Sucré.  Sucré is a sweet little sugar shop that I went to with my parents when we were in New Orleans just the three of us back in 2009?  2008 maybe?

As we walked around Audubon Park I asked Sean about the blog.  How Alexis had brought it up and that I do really like it and what I should do about it.  And he said that he loves the blog and we’ll figure out how I can make time to write.  So that’s why I’m including this story.  Because if we hadn’t gone to New Orleans and I hadn’t texted Alexis to see if she was available for dinner and if she hadn’t asked me such a simple question about it, we wouldn’t be here.

The rest of the trip was really refreshing for me, with parts that were really enjoyable for both of us.  Monday was still a work day for Sean.  As soon as Monday arrived relaxed Sean transformed into super stressed Sean right before my very eyes.  It was weird.  I know his job is stressful, but to witness how the stress transformed him was something I didn’t expect.  Sometimes when he comes home I want him to be more immediately delighted to see us.  Watching how his work affects him gives me renewed appreciation for his contribution to our family and more patience as he transitions between one stressful situation to another (because let’s face it, families are joyful but also stressful…especially as bedtime approaches).  We still had fun.  We ate lunch at the Gumbo Shop, another spot I revisited from my trip with my parents, and took a trip to the casino after a dinner.

Which left me still wondering who is in charge of choosing the carpets for these establishments.

Tuesday morning Sean woke up bright and early to speak on a panel at his conference.  I took myself to Cafe De Monde for a nice little breakfast.  I read a book over a hot cup of coffee.  That’s one of the things I liked most about this trip.  It was quick, but I was only on my schedule to do whatever I wanted without interruption.

Then we went home to our sweet children and our regular lives.  We really did miss those sweet children, but it was a nice break.  Thanks, New Orleans.  And thanks Alexis for asking me such a simple question about my blog.