Edinburgh, the Last Stop

view from the train, apparently not as entertaining as T. Swift
view from the train, apparently not as entertaining as T. Swift

Our final stop on our United Kingdom vacation was Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the cherry on top of what was already a fantastic trip. The 3 hour train ride was a little long for Luna, but we had a nice view and Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video on repeat to keep us (i.e. Luna) happy. We learned quickly that Edinburgh was going to be the coldest of all our stops, but also the most beautiful. Stop #1: Edinburgh Castle.

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It was very windy. So windy, that it was difficult to push the stroller uphill. I tried to stay inside the state rooms, exhibits and gift shops as much as possible. There was a minute where I went outside in a courtyard area… I sat Luna down, told Peter to watch her and walked ahead of them to study the map. A few seconds later, I turned around to ask Husband something and was shocked to see a Chinese woman holding Luna and her Chinese tour group of about 20 surrounding them and taking photos with their iPads. I then see Husband with this face…

charlie

But, really, who wouldn't want to pick up the cutie and take her picture?
But, really, who wouldn’t want to pick up this cutie and take her picture?

We walked around doing touristy stuff and exploring the dark and mysterious St. Giles Cathedral before hitting the sack that night. We had to go to bed early because I was making everyone wake up an hour before sunrise the next day. We got up with the moon, dressed in lots of layers, put Luna in the carrier and started walking.

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The goal was to walk through town, to Holyrood Park and hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat. It’s a very tall hill formed from an extinct volcano and is very popular for hiking, but is known for being a little difficult and often very windy. The plan was to hike to the top at sunrise, take in the amazing views, hike down and eat an enormous breakfast at a local family restaurant where I made a reservation. That was the plan…

Halfway up we could barely stand the incredible winds whipping us in the face, and poor baby Luna could not make it one more step. She was inconsolable and I felt like the worst Mom in the history of Moms for even attempting to hike with her to the top of a windy small mountain. In an attempt to redeem myself, I sent the boys up to the top and hiked back down with a baby strapped to me as the sun came up. I managed to find the restaurant where I had made a reservation and decided I’d have coffee until the boys made it down.

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At least they got to enjoy the views.
At least they got to enjoy the views.

Here’s a video that shows just how strong the wind at the top of Arthur’s Seat was, and of my Dad-in-law almost falling down.

I was confused to find the doors locked, and even more confused when I read on the door that they don’t open until 11am everyday, especially since I made a reservation online for breakfast at 9am. I began walking uphill on The Royal Mile back to our hotel feeling peeved that I missed the sunrise, the views, a huge breakfast and had yet to have any coffee. Luna was feeling like 50 pounds hanging from my shoulders and was sound asleep, but as I carried her and wondered the very quiet empty streets as the sun came up I began to appreciate the moment. How many people can say they walked the Royal Mile with their baby in their arms as the sun rose? Besides, we got coffee and breakfast somewhere else.

Okay, I have rambled a lot on this post, so let me speed through some other top spots in Edinburgh. We hit up Holyroodhouse Palace where Queen Elizabeth stays during the summer and where Mary Queen of Scots lived and watched her boyfriend get murdered! (Have I mentioned my new fascination with Mary yet?)

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We climbed the teeny tiny narrow 271 steps of spiral staircases of Sir Walter Scott’s monument, shopped and ate lots of good food. (Food blog to come!)

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view from Scott's Monument
view from Scott’s Monument

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We toured the Royal Yacht Britannia, the retired yacht of her royal majesty. It was impressive and interesting and oh-so very ridiculous. The queen would have the boat travel to somewhere, say Australia, then she would fly there with her forty-three palace workers and stay on the yacht like a floating hotel. That’s a little nutty.

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The queen's bed, surprisingly modest.
The queen’s bed, surprisingly modest.

Husband’s highlight of Scotland was the video game exhibit (no photos allowed) at the National Museum of Scotland. Luna loved the kids playroom, running around the video game exhibit distracting people and dancing with me to “Just Dance”.

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And, that’s the end of our amazing trip. No worries, though, there are many more travel stories to come!

green eyes

Cheers!

When Texas Friends Come to Town

Meet my friend, Danica!
Meet my friend, Danica!

I have this friends, she’s awesome. She lives in Texas with her Husband, baby boy and funny corgi. She’s Mexican, speaks no Spanish but cooks a mean enchilada. She is always honest, always herself, dangerous to shop with, so much fun, snorts when she laughs, very thoughtful and ready to listen to me vent without a moments notice. Her name is Danica and she and her family just spent the last week with us.

Me and Danica with our babies at Percy Warner Parker (where we did NOT see Taylor Swift BTW)
Me and Danica with our babies at Percy Warner Parker (where we did NOT see Taylor Swift BTW)

Danica and her Husband love to travel, like Husband and myself, so they have visited us when we used to live in Tennessee, both years we lived in NY and they even went with us on our recent trip to NYC! A month later they are here in Tennessee to see our new house and spend the week with us. We had them, their baby plus their puppy. It was a party every night in this house. And, by party I mean a strict routine of baths, story-time, lullabies, crying and Netflix for adults once the babies finally fall asleep.

passed OUT
passed OUT

Last time they came to Tennessee, we went hiking, repelling, caving, watched fireworks and went downtown. This time was our plans were much more relaxed and completely kid-friendly. We went to parks and playgrounds, the zoo, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, the Opry Hotel, the Escape Game and even managed to fit in some hiking. It’s really nice that we both have babies and need to stick to a somewhat regular schedule. We had a blast and it was awesome to see our two little ones bond and spend so much time together.

watching the trains together at Cheekwood
watching the trains together at Cheekwood
They were clearly thrilled to meet Mrs. Claus at Santa's PJ party...
They were clearly thrilled to meet Mrs. Claus at Santa’s PJ party…
just chillin' with the kangaroos
just chillin’ with the kangaroos

Almost every outing turned into a photo session for the babies. We had some beautiful fall weather and could not help but set the babies in the bright colorful leaves and start snapping away. At one point one of us was lying on the ground with the camera, one was tossing leaves in the air and the other was jumping around making noises like a monkey to get smiles. They were the best little models. We got very little attitude and we could pay them in Cheerios. They even formed their signature poses. Luna loves to throw her hands in the air in excitement and Orion prefers the calm and cool look.
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We went out to eat way too much, as we do anytime guests come to visit, but we did cook at home a few times too. The great thing about having friends stay with you is that you can be totally comfortable and have a great time no matter what the setting. It really didn’t matter if we were in East Nashville at a trendy hotspot or sitting on the living room floor snacking on chips and guacamole, either way we were doubled over with laughter and making some unforgettable memories.

did a mention we had some amazing fall weather?
did a mention we had some amazing fall weather?

I have got to tell you that if you have been putting off visiting an out of town friend or having a friend come to stay with you, stop and just do it. I know it is hard to plan, pack, arrange schedules, travel and deal with kids, but it is so worth it. Staying with a friend is truly the best way to travel. You get to see a new place through the eyes of a local, eat the best foods, meet new friends and stay somewhere for free. (Assuming your friends don’t run a brothel or something.)  It’s also a really special way to bond with your friends you rarely see and create even more ridiculous inside jokes.

looks like someone is trying to sneak a kiss!
looks like someone is trying to sneak a kiss!

Personally, I love when we have guests. I love getting to spend more time with them, get to know their families better and it gives us a really really good reason to clean and get some much needed stuff done around the house. Soooo who’s our next guests???

come back soon best buddy!
come back soon best buddy!

Cheers!

 

My Play Date with Moms

I recently met up with a couple of friend’s of mine, also Mommies, to go on a hike with our babies. VERY few of my Tennessee friends have babies so it’s rare that I get the opportunity to hangout with other Moms. It’s especially difficult considering I live an hour away from one, and two hours away from the other. So, when we do get together we try to pick a place somewhat in the middle. Our recent get together was at Old Hickory Lake Park, just north of Nashville.

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This place is awesome! The trails go through some beautiful thick and very shaded woods. It is next to an enormous lake with beach areas, picnic tables and playgrounds. The woods are tall and grow over all the paths so its easy to stay cool on the shaded trails. Some trails are paved, but even the dirt trails are maintained well enough that we could push a stroller just about everywhere we wanted to explore. The moss growing over stones and old trees, as well as the butterflies, gives it a very “enchanted forest” feel.

forest sunlight

The best part about hanging out with these ladies is the ability to talk about our kids without feeling like a bore or like you’re in a competition. It’s so easy to get either competitive or ashamed when talking with (or googling) other moms and kids. I hate to even mention what Luna is doing, or not doing, because I don’t want to hear what she should be doing, or not doing. I too often google questions like, “When should my baby start laughing?”, “Why doesn’t my 4-month old play with her toys?”, or “When can I expect to be on a schedule?”

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Sometimes I find responses that give me a bit a comfort, but most often I read things like “My newborn was on a schedule the second she popped out. She speaks 4 languages, sleeps 12 hours a night, reads fluently and does 25 push-ups.” Obviously these internet Moms with perfect children leave me thinking I must be doing something very wrong. I don’t actually take these people seriously, but it’s still refreshing and relieving to be with my real Mom friends and hear that their kids are just as unpredictable and random as my own.

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At first, one of us may sort of slowly and questionably ask….”sooooo, does your baby grab toys yet?” or “does your kid nap at the same time everyday by any chance?” Instead of lying or, exaggerating the truth, one of us will reply with, “Oh God no, my baby will sometimes take two 3 hour snaps and the next day might take 5 twenty minute naps. Then sometimes she naps once.”. Then we can all breathe with relief and realize that are kids are perfectly perfect.

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After our hike, we had a picnic where we got to talk and gossip while one baby slept, one ate and one (slightly older baby) ran around chasing bugs. It was a great afternoon and I am looking forward to many more summer days like this!

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Cheers!

Finally A Nice Day!

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This past Sunday was GORGEOUS.

 

Like, most of the U.S., Tennessee has been freezing for what feels like an eternity now. The worst part is that it has been in the single digits with zero precipitation. It should be illegal to be that cold with no snow. What’s the point? No one wants to go out in play in dry 7 degree weather, so we have felt as if we are under house arrest. I’ve enjoyed the hot soups, tea and warm fires, but we have felt stir crazy lately.

But, Sunday was nice. Sunday it was sunny, blue clear skies and 55 degrees outside! It felt like summer. It’s amazing how warm 55 can feel after it’s been only 4 degrees. There was no way we were going to waste the day indoors, so we decided a hike was in order and headed off the the Natchez Trace. We found ourselves back on Garrison Creek trail, where Husband and I hiked back in the fall. This time, we found a different section we’d yet to explore.

natchez trace tree

The lookout
The lookout

Since I am now 37 weeks pregnant, enormous and uncomfortable I assumed we would hike about a mile before I got too worn out, or had to pee and then have to go home. I don’t know why I ever considered this a possibility. Did I forget who I was married to? We ended up hiking 3 miles, which really isn’t that bad…if you are not about to have a baby. I tried to be a trooper for the most part, but we did take a break halfway through so I could sit and rest.

37 weeks and 1 day pregnant...20 days to go!
37 weeks and 1 day pregnant…20 days to go!

hiking moss

Towards the end of the hike we came to a creek that we were supposed to cross, but the bridge had been demolished and the water was half-frozen over. Our friends and I decided to stay on our side of the river and follow where the trail should lead, like any logical person would do. Husband, of course, managed to get across the river, not once, but twice because the other bridge at the end of the trail was also demolished.

The first broken bridge.
The first broken bridge.
Belle probably had the best time.
Belle probably had the best time.

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It was such a pretty day. I could feel the sun on my skin and actually enjoy being outdoors. Even some of the plants looked beautiful, which I didn’t expect during the dead of winter. We had a really nice time just walking, chatting and enjoying the scenery. By the end, I was done and hoping I’d somehow convinced Luna she was done too.

Belle was exhausted! She immediately climbed into the carseat and rested the whole way home.
Belle was exhausted! She immediately climbed into the carseat and rested the whole way home.

Back home, Husband and I worked out for another half-hour. I’m doing whatever I can to convince this baby that it’s time to come out and meet us. So far, she still seems happy where she is, but I’m excited to see what the doctor will say today!

Cheers!

Hiking and Autumn Leaves

Over the weekend Husband and I decided we had to go on a hike. The leaves here, in Tennessee, are in their prime. I can’t go anywhere without wanting to pull over and take pictures. I grew up in Southeast Texas where we have two seasons…summer and not-so-summery. During the winter the leaves go from green to brown and instantly fall leaving dead looking trees and no snow to liven them up. When I was young I dreamt of traveling to places where leaves actually change colors and now I just can’t get over it. It’s soooo pretty!

I made Husband pull over as we drove to the hiking trail so I could snap a photo.
I made Husband pull over as we drove to the hiking trail so I could snap a photo.

We are lucky enough to live near lots of beautiful hiking trails and decided to try the Garrison Creek Trail, which is only 15 minutes from our house and in Leiper’s Fork. Leiper’s Fork, a historic rural village is basically across the street from us. This old adorable town is located on the Natchez Trace, which is a National Park Service Unit, and is GORGEOUS!  It is impossible to drive down the Natchez Trace and not see tourists, photographers and hikers exploring and taking photos, and we were right there with them.

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The "lookout" onto Leiper's Fork Bridge on the Natchez Tree.
The “lookout” onto Leiper’s Fork Bridge on the Natchez Tree.

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View from the Leiper's Fork Bridge.
View from the Leiper’s Fork Bridge.

We hike through the woods on an almost invisible trail. The storm the night before left the trails covered in dead leaves and mud so we were mostly guessing where we were hiking. The hike lasted for maybe an hour. It was really nice and beautiful, but HOLY COW, I was exhausted! I am still doing Insanity so I thought I was in decent shape, but the uphill sections of the trails left me out of breath and needing a break. Husband had to actually help me at one point.

walking me and pete 25 weeks

I may have been worn out, but I still enjoyed the hike. Belle was the happiest little dog. She got to run around chasing sticks without a leash, and so did Husband. Sometimes, we just walked quietly in awe of the fall colors around us.

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We headed back before the sun went down because otherwise we never would have made it back to our car. Even in the sunlight we almost got lost. I’m glad we got in a hike now, before it gets dark at 5 o’clock and the it’s too cold to enjoy it. What are the chances the rest of November will be this nice?

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Happy Hiking!

Cheers!

Climbing King’s Bluff

Our 3rd day of Tennessee adventures (yup, 3rd day…I’m saving the 2nd day because it’s a doozie) was rock climbing day. We took Sara, some friends and two dogs to King’s Bluff to climb, get some sun and tear up our fingertips.

roric trail climbinb shoes

 

Sara had never rock climbed before, and if you have ever climbed you know the first time is brutal. She was such a trooper. We cheered her own, yelled at her, encouraged her and gave her every tip we could think of AND she made it to the top! That’s got to be one of the best feelings ever!

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We took turns climbing and resting. I, yes 3 months pregnant me, managed to climb three routes before being worn out. Don’t worry (Mom), I was perfectly safe. The doctor even said I can do basically anything I want right now. Although, he did say no sky diving…pity.

Rorik tried to get some climbing action too.
Rorik tried to get some climbing action too.

me climbing

Every route has a unique name. This one is "dip in the river". My favorite was "Bob the Builder".
Every route has a unique name. This one is “dip in the river”. My favorite was “Bob the Builder”.
Go Derek!
Go Derek!

We managed to climb most of the day and come out barely scathed. I’m so glad that I’m still able to be adventurous…. I don’t think climbing will be so easy in a few months.

I did it!
I did it!
The group, minus Rorik.
The group, minus Rorik.

Now, keep in mind…if you’re planning to visit Tennessee, pack your climbing gear, swimsuit, hiking boots and caving clothes. Yeah, we went caving too. More to come soon!

Cheers!

 

Skipping Rocks on the River

cummins falls

A couple Saturday’s ago, while in Chicago actually, my friend Sara messaged me and asked if she could come visit. “Of course!” I said, “When do you want to come?” Her response was basically, “I’m leaving tomorrow and I’ll see you on Monday!” Classic Sara.

We love Sara and have had so many random adventures with her since we met in Albania. When we heard she was coming to stay with us we immediately began making plans for some wild Tennessee adventures. We decided that our first “adventure” should be slightly easy…we didn’t want to scare Sara immediately. We took her to Cummins State Park .

This park is a new state park. It has hiking trails, an overlook to the waterfall and one of the top ten swimming holes in the United States. When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly park ranger. She told us we could take an easy hike to the overlook, or a difficult hike through water and slippery slopes that leads to the bottom of the waterfall. We obviously chose the latter. The ranger took one look at my sandals and suggested we try it when we all have on tennis. We thanked her for her suggestion and made our way to trails.

We walked down a muddy trail that led to the river bank. Most of the hike involved walking down the side of the river, and a little bit of wading as well. Sometimes the bank was too steep and sometimes we had to cross to the other side. We started our trip trying to keep our feet dry…soon we wouldn’t even have dry clothes.

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Belle had the BEST time chasing sticks! She is usually terrified of water, but seemed not to notice it this trip.
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It was a little slippery on the moss covered rocks, but it was never dangerous.

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Finally, we spotted the falls. All of us were a little stunned at how big and beautiful they were. We had no idea what we were actually hiking to until we found it.

the falls

people

stacked rocksme and pete

Like I said, we had no idea what we were going to find, so we didn’t plan on swimming. None of us had swimsuits and we were envious of the people climbing the falls and jumping in the water.

“Take your clothes off.”

That’s what I told Husband, “If you will, I will.”. We all swam in our sports bras, leggings and boxers. We climbed behind the waterfall, jumped into the freezing swimming hole and had a great time.

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It was perfect! After we were chilled to the bone, we put our clothes back on, hiked back and managed to be mostly dry by the time we got to the car.

We stopped to skip rocks on the way back...so nice to have time to skip rocks.
We stopped to skip rocks on the way back…so nice to have time to skip rocks.

And this was just the beginning of Sara’s Tennessee adventures.

Cheers!