Luna recently returned from her second annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC. This summer vacation was a different animal compared to last summer. Last year, Luna was a 6-month old not-crawling-yet baby. This year she is a fearless running wild toddler with a will to jump in deep water at a moment’s notice. Meaning? This year’s beach trip was the best (and sometimes scariest) one yet.
Luna had such a good time that I decided to compile a bucket list of her (well, my) favorite beach activities.
Watch the sunrise on the beach. Luna and I did this a few times because someone likes to wake up at 5am, but one morning we shared a special sunrise time with some of our favorite people and we added champagne.
2. Let the littles swim naked. Luna’s favorite skinny dipping time with during the sunrise.
3. Take lots of bike rides and stay active. We rode bikes every single day around the island, and while it may not look like it, Luna loved being pulled around in her private cart.
4. Buy a puddle jumper and let them swim. Luna LOVES her puddle jumper. She begs to wear it, and I love it even more. Luna went swimming in the pool and in the ocean every single day.
5. Get a little dirty. What else would you do on the beach if not play in the sand?
6. Dress that baby in white and force them to take a photo on the beach. You’ve just got to do it.
7. After the photo, let them just be their silly selves and get that new white dress all broken in.
8. Finally, spend as much time with your crazy family as possible. Even if it means learning weird new yoga poses. This is one of the few times you are all together and that everyone gets to bond with that toddler of yours. Embrace it and enjoy it.
Anyone else have any fun beach traditions or activities to share?
Another year, another big Hilton Head family vacation. It’s our favorite week of the year and while I was nervous about having a wild toddler around a pool and an ocean every second of every day, I still had the best week of the year at our favorite beach house. Seeing Luna enjoy the beach as much as her parents makes us as happy as clams…as does the many various family members who beg to watch her every waking second. #yay #freetime
I’m positive that every single family who takes a beach vacation, spends at least one evening taking advantage of “magic hour” to capture the classic family-in-the-sand photograph. We do it every year and as often as we try to mix it up and get a bit creative, but every year they look likes this…
Of course, nothing is wrong with these photos. They’re adorable, traditional and bring back great memories. However, they aren’t exactly unique or exciting. So, this year we FINALLY mixed it up a bit. It took a few of us to put our heads together, and what we came up with is now my favorite group Hilton Head photo.
Soooooo…..here we are!
I mean, how could we not take a photo in the most enormous shower? AND, how could we not wear towels in the shower?
Happy Summer yall!
P.S. I must apologize for my very looonnnngggg blogging vacation. I did not want to be gone this long. It’s just a lot harder than I expected to start a part-time job, be a mostly-stay-at-home Mom, write and keep up our adventures. To be honest, I usually write at night when everyone goes to bed, but lately I have just gone to bed! (Or maybe watched some OITNB, which is kinda disappointing this season, right?) I’ve missed you! I’ve missed my Internet life and I’ve missed this creative outlet!!! I WILL find my way back. Pinky Promise!
For the last eight years, I have been asked time and time again if it’s hard to live so far away from “home”, from my family. The answer has always, and will always be, yes. It is not easy to live so far away from my parents, sister, other relatives and many close friends (they are in Texas, I have been all over the place, but currently Tennessee). I miss them constantly, but I also choose where I live for so many reasons (that would be a whole different post). It’s hard, yes, but THANK GOD we make it work. Thankfully, we have phones, texts, video chat, Skype, email, Facebook, etc etc. We make it work, and more importantly, we still make lots of efforts to see one another as much as possible.
Last week, we were in Texas. Oh how nice it is to go home and be spoiled and loved on by your parents. That’s one plus side of living far away….lots and lots of love and attention when you get together! We drove all night so Luna could sleep and knocked on my parents’ door bright and early at 6:30am. My Mom immediately took over with Luna and told us to catch up on our sleep. If you insist! She was more than happy to get some much needed quality time with her Granddaughter. I retired to the living room couch where I lightly napped. Between napping, I spied. I spied on Luna and her Honey (my Mom). I spied because I didn’t want to interrupt or spoil the precious moments unfolding before my eyes.
The two of them ate breakfast together at the tiny Mickey Mouse folding chairs and table my Mom bought. Honey taught Luna to color, and Luna taught Honey the joy of taking the crayons out of the bag one at time, and putting them back into the bag one at a time…and out…and back in…and so on, and so on. They ran all over the house, keeping each other on their toes. They snuggled in the recliner and watched cartoons. Honey blew bubbles for Luna to chase around in her PJ’s. They loved on each other as if they lived next door to one another and played side by side on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how full my heart felt as I watched them bond.
There were many many full hearted moments that week. Seeing my parents be Grandparents is really special. I hate that I can’t see it everyday, but maybe it makes it even more special this way, more appreciated, no moment taken for granted. (Though, my fingers are still crossed that they will one day move to Tennessee!) I also got to see my nephew, who I haven’t seen since Thanksgiving! Having my nephew and Luna together was the best!
Then, there my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, babies, babies and more babies! Every trip to Texas is a crazy whirlwind of visiting one person after another. There is never enough time to see everyone I want to see or see enough of the people I do get to see. Texas just has too many awesome people living in it! (That’s right, that Texas pride never fades, nor does its modesty.) While we may have been ready to get home and get Luna back on a normal schedule, we weren’t ready to say goodbye.
So, yes, it’s hard to live so far from “home”, but we make it work. While the distance may be hard, staying connected isn’t. Sure, it takes a little work, but doesn’t everything worth anything take some work?
As you may have heard, we went to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and IT WAS AWESOME! We have been dying to go to Disney since having Luna, and we found the perfect excuse to plan a trip: a race. Several months ago, we signed up for the Expedition Everest Challenge. So, not only did we get to spend 4 magical days at our home away from home, but we also got to experience a magical run and after party. I think Disney runs might be my new obsession!
The Expedition Everest Challenge is a 5k through Animal Kingdom at night with obstacles and a scavenger hunt! I’ve got your interest, right? It was an extra special race because it was the 8th and final challenge. Why? I’m not sure, but I believe it has something to do with the Animal Kingdom expansion… Anyways, to prepare for the run we picked out Winnie the Pooh themed costumes. I was Pooh, Bella was Piglet and Husband was Christopher Robin. (BTW, I don’t know if Husband will ever allow me to dress him in costume for a race again… apparently Christopher Robin isn’t super cool. Whatevs. It could’ve been worse, my original plan was the three kittens from Aristocats.) We also prepared by doing Insanity Max 30 and running almost never. It’s so hard to stick to a running schedule, am I right?!
Even without running we totally kicked butt! We ran our fastest 5k ever at 22 minutes and 51 seconds! Husband placed 15th out of individual men, Bella placed 7th and I placed 8th out of individual women. I am super proud of us, and impressed with Insanity Max 30 for keeping us in good shape. It was very intimidating to start the race in the first heat. We were surround by individuals and teams who have placed or won the challenge in previous years. Some had run every single year. We were shaking in our tutu’s, but we managed to keep up with the pack and it was a blast!
We ran through the parking lot, through the park, through three (albeit mediocre) obstacles and across the finish line. At the finish line we were handed the usual bottle of water, a cool towel and a clue! That’s right, the challenge was only halfway over. We were to solve the first clue, run to the second, give the correct answer, receive the second clue and so forth. It was not easy to keep running, but we pushed through it and took a few breaks to solve some serious clues. There were a total of 6 clues and at the second finish line we had to hold up the “hidden Yeti” with our 6 solved clues in order to cross and receive our medals. It was exhilarating and so much fun!
Then, the after party. We celebrated at the post-race private after party in the park. The Dinoland and Asia sections were open for us to enjoy. There were characters, open food and drink stands and rides! Yay, for rides with no lines! We rode Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Kali River Rapids. It may have been a mistake to get soaking wet on the rapids considering it was chilly out and night time, but it was still worth it to be in Animal Kingdom at night during our own private party.
We didn’t get back until almost 2am. (Wild night for us lame parents.) After spending the entire day at Magic Kingdom and running all night we were EXHAUSTED! It was definitely a night to remember. In fact, it was such a good time that we are already planning our next Disney Run: The Disney Princess Half Marathon!!! (And, by “we” I mean me and Bella. Husband is thrilled to be the babysitter.) Who’s with me???
Also, who has advice? I am SO not prepared. Good thing I’ve got 9 months to whip myself into running shape!
We are home from our first Disney vacation with Luna, and I am very tempted to say it was our best trip yet, and considering, we met, got engaged and got married there, that’s saying a lot. We love Disney, but seeing the magic through our daughter’s eyes makes it much more magical than I ever imagined. We spent our three days at the parks doing lots of what we thought Luna would like (and a little of what only we would enjoy). I had not doubt that Luna would enjoy running around, dancing to the music and looking at all the sights, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she not only enjoyed, but interacted with the shows, rides and characters. Her favorite (and our favorite) part of the trip was by far, the moment she met Minnie Mouse.
Luna has a small stuffed Minnie Mouse that she has loved since she was just a couple of months old. In fact, it is the first object she ever smiled at. I have said for a while that she loves Minnie Mouse in general, but Husband has refused to believe that she actually recognizes Minnie Mouse. That is until we went to Disney World.
Every. Single. Store. we went into had rows and rows of stuffed Disney characters. There was Mickey, Goofy , Donald, Pooh, Simba, Nemo and of course, Minnie. Luna would scan every aisle until she came to Minnie. She then instantly pulled Minnie from the shelf and ran with her to either me or her Daddy. This happened, not once, but in ever single store and gift shop.
Obviously, I convinced Husband to buy her one. I mean, how can you not buy this girl a Minnie Mouse during her first trip to Disney?
Then, the most magical moment of all happened. Our last day at Disney was spent at EPCOT. We decided to use one of our fastpasses for a character spot. We were somewhat apprehensive about spending time in line for Luna to meet characters that she would most likely be terrified of, but we decided to give it a shot, and I am oh so so glad we did!
She met Mickey and loved him. Next, was Goofy. She loved him too. Finally, the grand finale was her supposed favorite character, Minnie Mouse. We slowly set her on the ground about 6 feet from Minnie and nervously waited to see what would happen. Luna’s little eyes lit up when she spotted Minnie. She ran to her, arms out and hugged that giant mouse! Minnie “kissed” her head, held her hands, hugged her and interacted with her for a good three minutes before we stepped in for photos. It was magical!
Minnie Mouse was the highlight of our trip, but I have SO much more to share! Stay tuned for Disney tips and tricks as wells as some adorable photos!
During our trip to the UK we visited lots and lots of old churches and cathedrals. Husband especially loves touring old churches. There is so much history, architecture, art and intrigue. The United Kingdom had some especially beautiful old churches, and we were lucky enough to spend lots of quality time in them.
When we visited Westminster Abbey in London they were about to start services and weren’t allowing visitors, sooo we did the only logical choice and told the guard we were going to services, which we did. We sat and and listened to the choir and services start, but Luna wasn’t exactly enjoying it or sitting quietly, so we left after about ten minutes. Unfortunately, that was the only time we had in that famous Abbey, BUT have no fear, we made up for all of that lost time in the York Minster, my all time favorite cathedral, er minster? Does anyone know the difference?
The York Minster is HUGE. Huge and gorgeous. We spent hours and hours covering every inch, brick and stained glass window. We toured the basement, which goes 2,000 years back into the Minster’s history. Husband and Dad-in-law climbed the winding staircases to the top of the Central Tower. (I had to stay back thank to some baby and “it’s too dangerous for kids” rule.) I spent a lot of time in “the orb” It’s a new exhibit that gives you a very rare opportunity to see some very cool, very old ancient stained glass. I’m not typically a huge fan of stained glass, but I found a whole new appreciation for it after spending time in the orb, and in the Minster for that matter.
In Scotland, our favorite Cathedral, and Husband’s all-time fav church, with the St. Giles Cathedral. St. Giles is over 900 years old and is located in the center of The Royal Mile. It’s dark, mysterious and has some incredible stained glass windows. However, the most interesting part of the church is the Thistle Chapel. This little room caught Husband’s attention because it was off limits, due to theft. Obviously, he was intrigued and determined to go in, after a little research and a convo with one of the workers, the doors were unlocked and we were taken in right before closing for a little private tour.
I REALLY wish I would have immediately written down everything we were told because it was so interesting, but of course, i didn’t write down a single word. Here’s what I do know… The Thistle Chapel is a room created for the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s great order of chivalry). There are 16 members of the Order. Each member has their own stall in the Chapel with their own “heraldic device” on display. After one member dies, another is invited to join the Order. The room is full of the most detailed and intricate carvings and designs. There are many symbolic details, and some silly ones too…like an angel playing the bagpipes. It was a cool room, made cooler by the fact that we got a private tour.
While planning our trip to the United Kingdom I knew I wanted to start in London and end in Edinburgh, but I was not sure where we would stop in between. In fact, I basically looked at the map and thought, York looks about halfway…okay, done. My handy dandy Fodor’s travel book, as well at the Internet, helped me outline an itinerary for York while staying in London. I knew NOTHING about York prior to our trip, so I needed all the help I could get, especially since I was the designated tour guide.
Our first stop was Grey’s Court, which is a magical country cottage hidden between the Minster and the city walls. It’s a home that is over 900 years old and is now a restaurant/hotel. We had lunch and coffee and it was oh.my.gosh. amazing. Great food. Great service. Great ambiance. And, a great view. Everything we ordered was delicious and when we finished our waiter offered to give us a tour of the rooms and the property. Let me just say this; if you ever find yourself in York, book a room at Grey’s Court.
Next stop was the York Minster and I swear to you this was the most interesting church I have ever visited. St. Peter’s Basilica is unbelievable, but there was something so captivating about the Minster. Maybe it was the lack of tourist, the stain glass exhibit or the underground rooms… whatever it was, it kept us there for hours. The boys got to climb the spiral staircases to the top in capture some amazing views, but it was “too dangerous for children” so Luna and I stayed down below.
We spent the rest of the day walking and touring. We went through the Shambles (old narrow street that was once all butchers and now touristy unique shops). We naively hiked to the top of Clifford’s Hill, only to learn that the tower was closed. We drank beer and cider at the Trembling House of Madness, a cozy pub adorned with dozens of stuffed animal heads and is apparently haunted, and did some shopping, of course.
Day 2 we did some extreme walking. As soon as the sun was up we walked through the Museum Gardens before having breakfast in the gardens. After our huge meal, we spent a couple of hours walking the full loop of city walls. After that long walk (with a stroller) we earned a coffee break at the Perky Peacock, which is inside an older bridge tower. Then, off to the National Railway Museum! (Somewhere in here we went to the Yorkshire Museum..it lead much to be desired.)
I am not typically interested in trains, but these trains were so very cool! We saw royal trains with complete designer bedrooms, living rooms, offices, kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms. Fancy overnight trains for very wealthy people. (Why can’t we all travel by train these days?), bullet trains, very old mail trains, enormous engines and so much more. Every single person told us that the museum was “must-do” in York, and I now agree.
Our last night in York was topped off with one of their famous ghost tours. Yes, York is apparently the most haunted city in Europe. The tour was cheesier than I had hoped, and we froze our butts off, but whatevs, we did it. Next stop, Edinburgh!
London was our first stop in Old Blighty, home of the queen, Paddington Bear and Big Ben. Honestly, I knew little of London before jetting off to spend a week traipsing about the city. What I did know, I learned from Mary Poppins, Harry Potter and Bridget Jones. I went expecting very rhythmic chimney sweeps, Diagon Alley, awkward single girls and not much else. However, I was chosen (by myself) as the tour guide/planner for the trip, which meant I needed to do a bit more research before taking my chaps on holiday.
I learned a little before we set off, and A LOT once we were there. I spent every night studying my guide book, city map and favorite travel websites in order to make sure the next day was planned to the max. We did, and saw so much that’s its absolutely impossible to write everything about London in one post. I’ll dedicate future blogs to more specific topics (food, shopping, Harry Potter, churches, etc), but this post covers the best of the best stuff you gotta see when you are in London.
I used Fodor’s Great Britain tour book on this trip. Fodor’s is always my go-to. They tend to cater to the thrifty traveler and their suggestions are on point 99% of the time. For London, they offered a walking tour (yay!), and we did it the second we dropped our bags at our hotel.
The tour took us to Covent Garden Plaza, Chinatown, the theater district, Picadilly Circus, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, the mall, Trafalgar square, passed the National Gallery and right back to our hotel at Charring Cross. We hadn’t slept in 30 hours, but it felt good to walk. The city invigorated us. Of course, when the walk ended, we had a little espresso break back in our hotel room before heading out for another walk through the city. This time we saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Tate Modern. Holy Cow, that’s a lot to see in one day!
Our next full day in London began with another early morning walk. This time we began by walking to the London Eye, to Big Ben and to Westminster Abbey (where we attended the first 5 minutes of a service, until Luna lost her patience). Finally, we took the tube across town to London Tower. There’s so much to see at the Tower, but the most popular attraction is the crown jewels, which you look at by standing on a large conveyor belt. After a lunch of fish and chips (fries), a walk over the Tower Bridge (NOT London), we took a rainy trip on the Duck Tours.
The day we went to Harry Potter Studios, we managed to squeeze in a shopping trips to the most incredible department store, Harrod’s. And, yes, it’s bigger and more impressive than Bergdorf Goodman. We also had time to do some shopping at Hamley’s, which is a crazy old and super famous toy store in London that opened in 1760. Obviously, we bought souvenirs and gifts from both places. Luna and I both needed things.
Our last full day of walking all across London was a record breaking day, as far as steps go. It began at Kensington Palace, home of William and Kate and former home of Princess Diana. We toured the state rooms and then walked to Victoria and Albert. I LOVED the Victoria and Albert museum and their incredible gift shop. We stayed and explored until we had to leave to make our reservation for afternoon at Fortnum and Mason. (More on that magical experience to come.) And, because we ate so much we decided to walk it off by walking a few miles back to our hotel after taking in the view of London from the Shard.
If you managed to get through all of this, congrats. You just got my very long summary of all the best stuff to see in London, minus the food, the shopping and anything hip and trendy that the locals do (that will have to wait until next trip). After my fast and furious tour of London, I’ve got to say it’s awesome. It is a cleaner, more polite and beautiful version of NYC. Although, our friend in London feels the same way about New York… grass is always greener I guess.
Have any of you been to London, or do you plan to go? What was your favorite spot? What do you plan to see?
We are home and recovering from our 2 week vacation across the Big Pond, and I must say it was AMAZING. Yes, even with a baby, it was freakin’ awesome. I have been mentally preparing sooo many blog entries for you and I am itching to get started. If only this little baby would leave me alone for more than 2 minutes. Geez, obsessed much? Well, while Luna naps for 2 seconds I’ll very quickly give you a synopsis of our trip and a sneak peak at blogs to come!
Our first stop was London, and 6 days was not enough time!
We took a day trip to Cambridge and hungout with our very good friend Katy and her daughter, who we haven’t seen in almost 3 years!
And, in one very busy day we saw Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath! That makes for one very big, busy and long day.
We took a train to York to spend a couple of days, and oh my…I fell in love with this city. Just the Minster itself with mesmerizing, but there was so much more. Like 900 year old restaurants, haunted pubs, shopping in the Shambles and enormous trains.
Our final stop was Edinburgh, Scotland. It was by far the coldest city we visited, but walking in the gale force winds, rain and snow was so worth it. And, also, Harry Potter.
And, Luna is the cutest little international traveler you ever did see. Just wait, there is a bunch of adorableness headed your way!
Cheers! (Just in time too, guess who just woke up?)
Our quick trip to the Big Apple was so full of plans and adventures that we are still recovering a week later. (Quite literally, thanks to catching some nasty colds.) As you know, we attended Comic Con, but before, after and in between the convention we hung out with friends, visited Zoey, ate some NY staples and showed Luna around our former stomping grounds.
The first night was a late one for us, and after flying and a full day of Comic Con-ing, we ordered in from our favorite Indian restaurant. Holy crap, how I miss that place and REALLY miss having dinner delivered! I forgot how easy and wonderful it is to have meals delivered and no dishes to wash.
The next day I had a bit more free time and got to join some of my best friends and their baby for a long walk though Central Park and a shopping trip through FAO Schwartz. We just had to spoil our babies with something from the iconic toy store. We didn’t stop walking there either… We finished up at Time Square and perhaps bought another special gift at the Disney store.
Saturday, we took the babies to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and let them okay and explore for a couple of hours. They loved the hands-on exhibits and play areas, but the daddy’s had the most fun.
Sunday, we spent all day in Brooklyn with Aunt Zoey!!! Zoey allowed us to relax in her new fancy pants apartment and bask on the even fancier rooftop. She showed us around her favorite Brooklyn hotspots (which consisted of the waterfront, ice cream and Artists and Fleas). And, we even made an appearance at the wrap party for the latest show she wardrobed (A Crime to Remember).
Our last day in the city was the slowest and most nostalgic. After coffee with my former coworkers, whom I miss all the time, Husband, Luna and myself spent the day doing our favorite things: shopping down 5th and Madison, eating chocolate at Vosges, drinking Starbucks, getting sandwiches at Lenny’s, window shopping in Bergdorfs and soaking up everything NY has to offer before hopping on a plane back to Nashville.
It was a really great trip. Luna was an awesome little trooper. Her favorite part of the city was how it lulled her to sleep all day…
I may just have to invest in a “noises of the city” CD to play her at night. Time to start planning our next adventure.