I knew that I wanted our next trip to be somewhere warm (but not nearly as humid as Tennessee was) and that the kiddos would be accompanying us. It also had to be budget friendly since we literally just returned from a trip. After a little research and playing around with different flights, we decided to book airfare from Seattle to Las Vegas. But we weren’t stopping there. From Las Vegas, we’d drive to a place that I’ve wanted to explore for a while: Palm Springs.
To be fair, Chris and I have been to Palm Springs before. It was seven years ago. We decided to road trip from Washington, down to Vegas for an event, then over to California and back home via highway 1. While it was fun to be young and spontaneous, we didn’t realize just how expensive our little endeavor would be. And when we finally reached Palm Springs, we were so broke that we couldn’t afford to stay in town. We had to settle for a meal of crappy Thai food before moving along.
Ever since that trip I’ve wanted a redo. I never would have thought it would be seven years and two kids later but it was totally worth the wait.
Flights from Seattle to Las Vegas were nearly $200 cheaper than flying directly into Palm Springs. We factored in renting a car and buying gas for the 4-hour (one way) drive and it was still worth it to fly into Vegas. We also scored BIG TIME when our first flight was delayed and we were offered $500 flight vouchers PER PERSON to switch to a later flight. Done deal. We ended up making money after all was said and done.
If you’re game, I’d recommend playing around with flights to see what will save you the most money. We could have also tried flying into LAX (with a shorter drive time) but ultimately found the best deal to Vegas.
There are two hotels that I’ve always wanted to stay at when visiting Palm Springs. Those two are The Saguero and The Ace Hotel & Swim Club. I was drawn to the brightly colored picturesque exterior of The Saguero. It looked lively and fun. So when I stumbled upon ridiculously affordable (non-refundable) rates for the The Saguero, I booked in a heartbeat.
I got one thing right: The Saguero is both bright and lively. In fact, there was a little too much of the latter. Young, twenty-something year old me would have loved this place. There were live DJs and all-day pool parties. The hallways were flocked with scantily clad youth talking about a variety of subjects not quite suitable for our small children.
There were a few pros to our stay at The Saguero. One: Holden’s obnoxiously loud train sounds were masked by the thumping beats from the DJ booth. Two: The large rooms allowed our children to run off any excess energy before bed time. Other than that, we realized that in our short stay, we had outgrown the hotel.
The final straw was when we returned from a day of exploration. We were hot, hungry, and tired. Chris was weaving our double stroller through the throngs of intoxicated party goers in the lobby when one very inebriated man pointed at our little family and loudly slurred, “I nevvvver want that liiiife.” Chris and I both rolled our eyes and made our way to our room. Within two minuted of being there, Chris was fiddling on his phone. And shortly after, he exclaimed, “I’ve got us a new hotel. We check in tomorrow.” And thus ended our time at The Saguero.
An oasis. That’s what The Ace Hotel & Swim Club was to us after our brief stay at The Saguero. It was clean. It was trendy. It was quiet. And it felt more, shall we say, “grown up.”
Our room was incredible. It had a large bed, two comfortable lounges that turned into twin beds at night, and the added bonus of a private, enclosed deck. When we weren’t at the pool, we were giving our kiddos their first taste of popsicles. It was incredibly messy but totally fine since we just rinsed down the space when they were done.
While we only had two nights at The Ace, we made the most of our stay by enjoying the awesome guest amenities– whether it was posting up by one of the nightly fire pits or enjoying a breakfast at The King’s Highway diner. And when it wasn’t a million degrees outside, we’d take the tots on a walks of the premises, collecting decor ideas for our future abode.
All in all, I’d highly recommend anyone book a stay at The Ace Hotel & Swim Club. Check their website before booking through a third party site as they often run promotions that will save you a little extra money.
It wasn’t all pool parties and popsicles. Even though temperatures were reaching the 100s, we decided to take in as much of the area as we could. In the end, I think we found a little something for everyone.
Holden’s recent obsessions include trains and dinosaurs. Thankfully, we were treated to both at the Cabazon Dinosaur Park. When we pulled up, our grumpy toddler immediately perked up when he noticed a freight train passing by. Little did he know, his mind was about to be blown with giant dinosaur models.
Admission is $13/adult (ages 13-54) and $11/children (ages 2-12). Children two and under are free. If you think your child will be happy with simply seeing the giant T-Rex outside the gate, save yourself the money. But if you have children that are even remotely interested in dinosaurs, digging for fossils, or panning in a cool stream, go ahead and fork over the cash. While Holden breezed through the winding path, barely stopping to take in any of the dinosaur models that greeted him, he LOVED “panning” for dinosaur bones in the little stream at the start of the park. I’m pretty sure he could have stayed there for hours but both Henley and I were over the heat.
Once we finished our dinosaur adventure inside, we stepped out to take photos of the iconic T-Rex and grab a bowl of Sweetosaur ice cream. That might have been my favorite part.
Okay, so the kids might have slept through our entire trip through Joshua Tree but I have full confidence that if they were awake, they would have loved. it. To be fair, we had poorly planned our excursion after a day of exploring (and dinosaurs!) and the kids were exhausted. They fell asleep before we even arrived and stayed that way until it was dinner time.
Chris and I, on the other hand, loved our evening drive through Joshua Tree. We stopped for some photos, watched a few tourists attempt to climb a few rocks, saw ALL the Joshua Trees, and then left. If the kids had been awake, I would have loved to stop and do a mini hike on one of the paths. Next time!
I’ve seen photos from Moorten Botanical Garden’s beautiful cactarium grace my social media feeds for years. It’s what the kids these days are calling “insta worthy,” The cactus nursery, as I’ll call it, was both the stuff of dreams and nightmares. The latter because sharp objects and inquisitive toddlers don’t really mix.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed walking through the garden and taking in the various local flora that is foreign to us in the Pacific Northwest. We visited early in the morning so that we could beat the heat of the day. Although we still ended up melting, Holden enjoyed scouring the gardens for dinosaurs (there were a few) while Henley was fond of giving me a heart attack every time she reached for a dagger sharp cactus. There were also a few tortoises and birds on the premises that both the kiddos loved.
All told, we spent about an hour exploring the gardens. We probably would have left a little earlier but I had a very special surprise planned for the family. Take a peek below.
One thing that I’ve been more conscious of since having kids, is taking photos for our children to be able to look back on. And while we take a ton of photos while traveling, we rarely get any with all of us in it. Enter Flytographer. This service offers you a personal photographer who meets up with you in a location of your choosing and delivers professionally edited photos in a fast turnaround.
While it’s easy to ask a stranger to take your family photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, you might end up with a shot where your heads are cut off or only half of you are looking at the camera. Flytographer takes out all the guess work and you’re left with frame-worthy photos to last a lifetime.
Chris and I have had a Flytographer shoot in Slovenia and one on Maui (for our babymoon) so I was extra excited to finally use them for our family photos. We met our Flytographer, Melissa, at Moorten Gardens early in the morning (in order to beat the heat) and she followed us around snapping photos as the little ones explored.
You can save $25 off your first Flytographer shoot by using “tawnyclark” at checkout
There’s no shortage of restaurants in Palm Springs but if you want to get down and dirty at a cool local haunt, you have to visit Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. This legendary watering hole is known for its hearty food, live music, and generous pours.
Pappy & Harriet’s felt like a gritty dive bar but was also a comfortable place that welcomes families. We were seated right behind the sound booth and Holden enjoyed looking at all the buttons and lights. It only got better once crooner Brian Whelan took the stage and wowed the crowd for a few sets.
Our dinner was delicious (steak for Chris and I bison burger for myself) and even though it was past their bed times, the kids seemed to have a blast.
As parents to two small children, I think it’s very important to take a little time for yourself. For me, that involved taking a shopping trip downtown Palm Springs. And for Chris, it was visiting a local tiki bar.
Bootlegger Tiki sits where the original Don the Beachcomber Tiki Restaurant once stood. Now a craft cocktail bar, it serves us some of the most delicious (and creative) libations in town.
While not a place suitable for the kiddos, it’s the perfect oasis for a parents’ night out. Chris snacked on sriracha popcorn while throwing back a “Thar She Blows”– a medley of O.F.T.D., White Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Génépy, Amaro, House Falernum, Aperol, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Lime, Cinnamon, Grapefruit Bitters, and Cucumber Bitt.
Of course! All in all, our four short nights in Palm Springs were a blast. Our plan is to return to the desert during one of the cooler months so we can enjoy more of the outdoors (sans blistering heat). I’m also making it a goal to do an adults only vacay in the near future. I want some time with Chris at Bootlegger Tiki!
My advice for traveling to Palm Springs with small children is to take it slow. Plan for naps and breaks. Also be sure that you and the babies are staying hydrated. And unless your child enjoys boozy pool parties, maybe skip The Saguero.]]>
It’s no different with family photos. When I was younger, I remember our yearly trips to the photo studio. My mom, dad, brother, and I would all be wearing coordination outfits (one year it was denim-on-denim. Seriously) and at least one of us would have an emotional meltdown during our session. Every year, my mom would swear that she would never do it again as it was more trouble than it was worth. And every year, we’d send out our holiday cards with our sideways smiles and matching attire.
In this case, change is good! Gone are the days of rigid posed studio shoots. Now days, you’re most likely to find family photos taken in fields of flowers or frolicking on a pristine beach. Since we’re in the PNW, so many of our friends have a mountain or a forest of trees photobombing their family shoots. And I’m not complaining. One might even say that annual family photos are the new humble brag.
But what about taking your family photos to the next level? One thing that Chris and I discovered is that some of our best photos come from our travels. An obvious favorite is this photo from our engagement at the Taj Mahal.
When I was six months pregnant with Holden, we had a very special Flytographer shoot on the beach on Maui. These photos spark such fun memories for me. We didn’t know what to expect with welcoming our first child and just how amazed (and sleep deprived) we were about to become.
And on our last few trips to South Korea and Hawaii, we enlisted friends and strangers alike to capture photos that now grace our refrigerator and hallways. They might not always be perfect but we love bringing home photo souvenirs from our trips together.
To help capture the perfect photo for your 2019 holiday cards, Expedia is offering one person the opportunity of a lifetime! Expedia is giving away a $50,000 all-expense paid trip for one lucky winner to take their dream vacation. Will you take your photos overlooking Machu Picchu? Or perhaps on safari in the Serengeti? Or maybe send out an underwater photo from your time swimming with whale sharks? You might even have better luck getting your entire family to look at the camera at the fruit stands on the North Shore of Oahu.
Whatever it is, Expedia is footing the bill. And while only one person can walk away with the main prize, we’re all winners. Expedia is offering 50% off of activities from July 1-7. From glitzy Vegas shows and helicopter tours, to dinner cruises and skydiving, there’s surely something for everyone.
Entering is easy. Just head to expedia.com/holidaycards to be in the running for this incredible prize. And don’t forget to book your 50% off activities. You don’t have to be on vacation to take advantage of the sale. There’s till plenty to do in your own backyard.
Where would you capture your 2019 photo if you won the prize? Let us know in the comment section below!
I don’t know about you but our toddler is extremely active. So active that he doesn’t realize he’s hungry until he’s well into the hangry stage. There are few things worse than a hangry toddler stuffed in a small space with hundreds of strangers. In order to prevent the typical meltdown, we packed what I thought was a ridiculous amount of snacks.
I packed healthy snacks. I packed naughty snacks. I packed old favorites and brand new treats. I even ordered Holden a pizza and a cheeseburger for both of his meals on Korean Air. My bag overfloweth and yet, we were running on literal crumbs by the time we landed.
You know the old traveler’s adage, “Pack your suitcase and then remove half of your items.” Well, when it comes to packing snacks for your toddler, do the opposite. And as always, make sure both you and your kiddo are drinking lots and lots of liquids.
Thirteen hours is a long time to be flying with a toddler. These tiny people have tiny attention spans and can only fixate on one thing for so long. While most international airlines now come equipped with personal TVs, it might be beneficial to pack a tablet uploaded with your child’s favorite shows, movies, and games. While we try to steer clear of screen time at home, travel days are the exception. If it makes them happy, keeps them quiet, and lets mama get a little shuteye, we’re all about it.
Even then, our toddler can only be riveted by the iPad for so long. Since he was very into construction vehicles at the time (he’s now moved on to planes- go figure), I bought a few small construction set toys and stored them in my carryon until we were at max boredom. Holden’s face would light up every time I revealed a new surprise and he would be entertained for another hour.
I also packed a handful of activity books that, to be honest, weren’t really a hit with our guy. That being said, if your child is into reading and coloring, I believe activity books would be a worthy investment.
One thing we always bring with us on our travels is blue painter’s tape. We use it to baby proof outlets and restrict blind cords in hotel rooms as well as to keep coloring papers in place on plane tray tables. It does its job and is easily removable. Bonus: it doesn’t take up a ton of space.
Since your toddler is now flying in their own airline seat (yay for a free lap), they can also reap the benefits allotted to most travelers i.e. a free carry-on and in-flight meals. I found it best to pack everything you need for your toddler in one bag that you can store underneath the seat in front of them. That way, you’re not frantically ruffling through three different bags to find diapers, wipes, favorite blankies, and Wet Ones wipes (a serious plane necessity).
For our 13-hour flight to South Korea I packed Holden’s bag with:
On our trip to Korea I packed all of this in my Nena and Co CDB (convertible day bag) but when we’ve traveled internationally before (to Germany, Czech Republic, Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria), I used our Kånken Fjällräven backpack. Both do the trick.
Ok, this kind of sounds doomsday-y but if you prepare yourself for all of the worst case scenarios, you usually find yourself pleasantly surprise that not all of them happened. Our flight to Korea actually went really well until the last two hours. Our sweet son has a serious case of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) and although his eyes were bloodshot and he could barely keep his head up, he refused to go to sleep. This resulted in an extremely grumpy child. A child that was so tired he would only exhibit his discomfort by half-awake wailing. Nothing was good enough for him- no treats, no bulldozers, no Blippi. And of course, he passed out half an hour before landing thus leading to what might have been the angriest child through customs.
But you know what? We made it. No one was scarred and I had to really dig through my brain catalog to even remember that Holden had a rough time at the end of our flight. While traveling with a toddler certainly isn’t the easiest way to explore the world, I truly believe that everyone is better for it. Plus, look at all the fun he had in Korea!
What did I miss? Are there tried and true methods that you use for traveling with your toddler? Let me know in the comment section below or reach out to us on Instagram (@captainandclark).
What did I forget?]]>
This baby, to be exact.
I’d like to introduce you to our new little explorer, Henley Courage. She was born on May 20th at 5:41AM, weighing 8lbs 4oz. Her full head of hair shocked us almost as much as her name. You see, before her arrival there were five names that were in the running. Her middle name was always going to be Courage but we had tossed up Everly, Evangeline, Sawyer, Ellia, and Harper. Before we knew that Holden was a boy, we had chosen the name Everly Courage for a girl. I had made up my mind that I was going to have an “Evie” but a month before she was due Chris threw a wrench in our plans when he confessed that he wanted an “H” name to match Holden’s.
Five hours after her birth, we still couldn’t agree on a name for our little girl so we did what anyone would do. We consulted Google. As soon as I heard it escape Chris’ lips, I knew it was the one. Henley Courage.
My pregnancy was good, not great. If I’m being honest, it was kind of “meh”. In the nine months before Henley was born we had moved across the state to Spokane, moved BACK across the state to Tacoma, started a new business venture, and resuscitated our tour company from its winter dormancy. It was a hectic time to say the least.
I didn’t type out a formal birth plan like I did with Holden. After going through labor and delivery once before, I knew that while I could have all the “plans” in the world, the baby is the one in control. Like with Holden, my dream was an all natural vaginal birth with no interventions. That being said, the end goal was really to have a healthy baby and healthy mama.
Due to preeclampsia, I had to be induced with Holden. I was worried that I’d eventually be given pitocin but after cervidil was administered, my labor ended up starting on its own. He arrived a few hours later. Thankfully, preecclampsia was never an issue with this pregnancy but it meant that I had no idea what it felt like to go into labor on my own.
It was about ten o’clock at night. Holden was asleep in his room and Chris and I were watching our new favorite show (“Justified.” If you haven’t seen it, you need to) when I noticed that my Braxton Hicks felt a little different. There was the familiar rise, peak, and fall that I felt with Holden’s labor. They weren’t particularly strong but they weren’t pleasant either. I secretly started keeping track of the length and time in between each one. They lasted about a minute and were sporadic- ranging from five to eleven minutes apart. It wasn’t until an hour later that I realized they were getting closer together and more painful.
I decided that it would be a good time to tell Chris. Seeing as Holden came quickly (three and half hours after labor started), he decided that we should get things in order and monitor how things progressed.
“Labor isn’t serious if you can talk through contractions.”
I can’t remember where I read that, but as I was hunched over our kitchen sink experiencing each wave of contractions, I persuaded Chris that we should wait longer since I could still hold a conversation through each one. I didn’t want to arrive at the hospital only to be turned away because I was in false labor or not dilated enough.
Thankfully, he ignored me and called my parents to start making the trip to our house. They arrived at our place around one in the morning and by that time my contractions were erratic again. I realized that if I sat down, they almost stopped. Part of me wanted to stay home a little longer in the hopes that I could get a little rest but at Chris’ urging, we left for the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital a little after one thirty and were escorted to labor and delivery. After triage it was determined that I was only three and a half centimeters dilated. We were told to walk around the hospital and then be checked again at 3:30. I was exhausted (cause, you know, nine months pregnant with a toddler and still being awake), irritable, and uncomfortable. The more we walked, the more painful each contraction was. I remember taking a couple on all fours on the floor of the hallway. I convinced Chris to let me sit down for a little while since the contraction let up while seated. What was supposed to be a few minutes turned into thirty as I drifted in and out of sleep.
At 3:15 I decided that I was over it and wanted to be checked again. We made the slow and painful walk back to triage where I was told that I was only at four centimeters. We were given two options. 1.) We could be admitted since I appeared to be in real labor and our first child came so quickly. Or 2.) We could go home, attempt to get some rest, and come back later. I opted for number two. I was exhausted and knew that I would need as much energy as possible if I was going to push this baby out. And since I only progressed half a centimeter in an hour and a half, simple math told me that I could be in labor FOREVER.
Chris and the nurses weren’t convinced. At their urging, I was admitted and at around 4AM a nurse resembling a young Amanda Seyfried helped me into a wheelchair to be taken to our room. And I kid you not, as soon as my booty was in that chair contractions came on hard and strong.
I barely remember getting situated in our room. I don’t even remember when I put on my hospital gown. The next thing I knew, I was on my left side, breathing through the blinding pain of each contraction. The one thing I forgot from my first labor is that there’s literally nothing Chris can do for me while in labor. I don’t like to be talked to or touched. I just want to focus on getting through each contraction. He’s basically tapped out until it’s time to push.
The only respite from the pain was when young Amanda Seyfried came in and started searching for a vein for my IV. She was lightly caressing my arm and it felt AMAZING. I know it sounds weird but the light touch took my mind off the pain and I didn’t want her to stop. I briefly contemplated asking her to stay forever.
I have no idea how much time was passing but I was terrified to ask anyone to check my dilation because I didn’t want to hear that I hadn’t made any progress. Instead, I just took on every contraction until young Amanda Seyfriend (or Brooke as her parents call her), came in and said that while I wasn’t acting like it (by crying, screaming, etc), the monitors were reading fast and heavy contractions. So at 5AM she checked me, looked perplexed, and called in another nurse to confirm. And yes, in less than an hour, I had gone from 4 centimeters to 10. I was complete.
I literally have no idea how long I had been sitting at 10. I don’t know when I transitioned as I didn’t experience the strong urge to push like I did with Holden. That being said, as soon as I was told that I was at 10, my mind registered what had happened and my body completely took over. The nurses told me that the midwife wasn’t at the hospital yet and not to push until she arrived.
It was impossible NOT to push. They had to call in a doctor who literally stood by until my midwife arrived just incase she had to catch the baby. And once the midwife was there, the rest is history. A short thirty minutes later, Henley was Earthside. Delivery was expectedly painful, but I happen to prefer pushing to contractions. Although I wanted immediate skin-to-skin, she was born with her cord wrapped tightly around her neck and was blue and purple. She was taken to be evaluated (thankfully just across the room) and was deemed okay and placed on my chest twenty long minutes later.
With Holden, the first thing I noticed about him was his cute little cry. For Henley, it was her hair. The fact that she had any was a complete shock since Holden was bald until he turned one. She was also so much bigger than I expected, coming in nearly a pound heavier than her brother.
Henley’s been home for a little over two months and we’re starting to get back into some semblance of a routine. Holden has been exceptional with her. He always alerts us when she’s crying and will attempt to soothe her by sticking her pacifier back in her mouth (whether she wants it or not). Our hands may be full but our hearts are fuller.
We’re slowly adjusting to life as a family of four and just took our first trip. We have some big travel plans in the works and look forward to sharing the with you. Stay tuned as I’m hoping to have a recap of our Canada trip up soon.
Here’s a sneak peek until then:
Our friends Jackie and Paul had to learn that the hard way when they invited us to crash their Scotland honeymoon. It started as a joke while playing nerdy board games one night. “You guys should come with us. It would be awesome. Our condo even has two bedrooms.” And while it might have seemed like an off handed invite to them, I was definitely looking up airfare later that night. What started innocently enough soon turned into an all-out honeymoon crash. With the blessings from the newlyweds, we (Holden too!) planned on meeting them a week after they landed in Scotland.
None of us had been to Scotland before and we were thrilled at the opportunity to explore together. Chris and I booked our airfare using miles (thank you, Alaska Air!) and flew from Seattle to New York (where we stayed with Holden’s godparents for a night) and onward to Aberdeen, Scotland.
Chris, Holden, and I had one night in Aberdeen before we were to meet up with Jackie and Paul. We arrived in the morning and it was our goal to stay awake as long as possible so that we’d adjust to the time change. That’s easier said than done when you have a one year old. Luckily, Holden was a champ and slept better than he had in months.
Heads up: Scotland is pretty expensive in the summer and it can be hard to find affordable accommodation. We ended up booking our night at Mercure Aberdeen Caledonian Hotel and LOVED it. It was in an amazing location, had beautiful light-filled rooms, and only set us back about $60USD a night. This isn’t by any means sponsored. We just really enjoyed this hotel.
I really wish we had spent more time in Aberdeen. I enjoyed the laid back vibe of the city. There was festive bunting strung over high street and everyone seemed so friendly- especially towards Holden. Chris and I agreed to have a traditional Scottish dinner for our first meal in the country but we were so famished that we ended up ducking into the first place that looked decent. It turned out to be a vegetarian restaurant (Foodstory Cafe, for you veggies out there) but the atmosphere was inviting and the food smelled incredible. I had the vegan chili while Chris devoured the vegan taco bowl. We left feeling both incredibly satisfied and full.
We strolled around the town until we couldn’t fight the fatigue any longer. I’m pretty sure the three of us fell into bed around 5PM (so much for staying up) but thankfully everyone slept in until around 7 the next morning.
After rendezvousing with the newlyweds the following day, we piled into our rental car (well, rental SUV) and headed straight to our first sightseeing destination. Dunnottar Castle looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. Attacked by the Vikings, taken capture by William Wallace, visited by Mary Queen of Scots, and eventually saved from ruin, the castle’s colorful history is one for the books. The castle grounds are perched upon sweeping Scottish cliffs and appears as if it rose from the surrounding waves.
Castle tickets will set you back £7/ adult and £3/ child although family passes (admission for two children and two adults) are only £17. Guests are allowed to roam for as long as they want until closing.
After climbing the stairs to the castle entrance (and be warned, there are a lot of stairs), we paid our admission and began exploring the grounds. I particularly enjoyed the “free range” experience. Unlike most historical sites, we were able to wander at will. Holden particularly enjoyed running around on the grass and exploring the various rooms and tunnels. It would honestly be an incredible place to hold our next archery tournament. Who’s down for our first international tournament?
While we could have stayed at Dunnottar all day, our grumbling tummies has us yearning for lunch. The next time we visit, we’ll definitely pack a lunch so that we can take in as much of the castle as possible.
While Chris and I were teaching in South Korea, we had the pleasure of making friends with a feisty red-head named Claire who hailed from Scotland. Her go-to noraebang (karaoke) song was “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.” Or maybe it wasn’t. It might have been the copious amounts of soju, but we’d find often find ourselves in an inebriated stupor sining (or butchering) the song at the top of our lungs. If one actually listens to the lyrics, they’ll learn it’s actually a somber and heartbreaking tune, but to us, it will always be associated with Scottish Claire. So when we learned that the condo, Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel and Spa, is near Loch Lomond, we knew it was going to be awesome.
The two-bedroom timeshare that Jackie and Paul had for their honeymoon turned out to be a one-bedroom suite. Chris, Holden and I ended up claiming the fold-out couch in the living room so that the newlyweds could have their own little love nest. It ended up working out perfectly since Holden is an early riser. We would get up and start breakfast without disturbing the lovebirds.
Located in the Trossachs, the property itself was gorgeous. Though we were only a short drive from the town of Aberfoyle, we felt truly secluded from the outside world. On the mornings that we weren’t out exploring, we’d walk a kilometer alongside Lake Ard to a tiny breakfast haunt (I can’t remember the name of the place to save my life) for some freshly baked goods and posh porridge. We’d also spend lazy afternoons challenging each other on the giant chessboard. Holden particularly enjoyed frolicking around in his ridiculously adorable kilt.
We also had the privilege of meeting up with two of our good friends who we met in while living in South Korea. Corey and Paul currently live in Liverpool and made the journey to spend a few days with us in Scotland. One of the days we were together, all seven of us piled into our cars and made way for Loch Lomond.
The drive up to Loch Lomond was breathtaking. We stopped along the way to take photos of the scenery and the most adorable shaggy Highland cows. Loch Lomond itself was just as beautiful as we imagined it to be. We even stumbled upon a few waterfalls that made the perfect backdrop for family photos.
In typical Scottish fashion, the weather was overcast and chilly but if it had been a nicer day, I’m sure we would have spent it actually on the lake itself. If we visit Scotland again, we’re hoping to stay at one of the many hotels on the lake.
Due to the location of our condo being an hour drive to both Glasgow and Edinburgh, we had the opportunity to visit both cities twice. Honestly, I found Edinburgh to be the most charming of the two but we ended up spending more time exploring Glasgow.
My favorite part of Edinburgh was the Scottish National Gallery. Not only was it free, but we could have easily spent hours looking at all the stunning art. The Scottish National Gallery features fine Scottish art from the early Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. I was so proud of Holden who did well walking around the different galleries. While he might not have been as impressed with the art itself, he thoroughly enjoyed chatting and flirting with anyone who would give him the time of day. Other than exploring the Scottish National Gallery, we spent most of our time in Edinburgh walking around and shopping. I think we’ll have to go back to truly get to know the city.
Truth be told, we had more time to spend in Glasgow and thus, were able to see much more. Most of our time was spent on foot, getting lost as we searched for food. Isn’t that how we spend most of our trips?
Without a map or a plan, we wandered the streets, ducking into various shops until we stumbled upon the Glasgow Cathedral. Built in 1136, we were immediately entranced by the stunning gothic architecture and how the cathedral seemed to loom over the city. The cathedral was destroyed by a fire in the 12th century but was soon rebuilt with towers and updates evolving throughout the years. Walking around the interior of the cathedral, you’ll see the striking nave, ornate organ, the stunning Millennium stained glass window, and the tomb of Saint Mungo, an apostle of the Scottish Kingdom of Strathclyde and founder and patron saint of the city of Glasgow.
With all of our exploring, we worked up quite the appetite. Two of our favorite meals in Glasgow came from The Smokin’ Fox (6-8 Waterloo Street) and The Admiral Bar (72A Waterloo Street). The former, a sexy restaurant with a cocktail menu to match the swanky decor. And the latter, a laid back pub with an assortment of mac and cheese dishes. You really can’t go wrong with either.
We have so much more of our trip to share with you. In particular, our day trip though the Highlands, flying falcons, and our ambitious (and successful) hunt for Chris’ families’ ancestral home. Stay tuned as we roll out more from our trip to Scotland.
Holden is only nineteen months old and he’s been to Hawaii four times. That’s more than most people visit the islands in a lifetime. And the crazy part is that he has no idea just how lucky he is.
The first time we took Holden to Hawaii he was only six months old. It was our first trip to the islands with a baby and honestly, it sucked. We foolishly thought that we could continue with the same routine that we had in the past. We would sleep in (ha. hahahaha.), go get coffee at Arvo, then head off to the North Shore where we would swim, snorkel and surf. We’d return to our hotel with sunned cheeks and sand in our hair.
Holden obviously had other plans. Due to the time change, he would wake up no later than 5AM. His nap time routines were completely off. Oh, and he absolutely hated the beach. Everything about it. He detested the sand, was terrified of the water, and the sound of the waves sent him into uncontrollable sobs. Chris, the seafaring water worshipper, thought that we created a child terrified of all things aquatic. It was a sad time for us all. I was also that anxious new mom that refused to put her baby in the sun- even for a second. And since he was too young for sunscreen, we spent most of our time under the safety of the shady palm tress. Couple all of that with the fact that it was also election season (which, regardless of party lines, is a trying time for everyone) and I had yet to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. It was a recipe for disaster.
The best thing we got from that first trip was this sequence of Holden maniacally laughing as he tried to eat sand.
I’m happy to report that the subsequent trips that followed only got better and better. We have since fallen back into our groove. We’ve tweaked our itinerary to accommodate a toddler and have found our trips to Oahu to be much more enjoyable.
I know that doing something four times doesn’t necessarily make one an expert, but we’ve spent enough time on Hawaii that I feel comfortable sharing our tips and tricks to traveling to Oahu with a baby.
Ko Olina Lagoons
I always enjoyed the lagoons at Ko Olina before we had kids but now they are even more special. There are four lagoons in all and our favorite can be found at the very end. The lagoons offer protection from the surf and even the littlest of babes can enjoy the serenity of the water. Parking is on a first-come first-serve basis and be warned that there are no lifeguards on duty. We make the most of our trip by always packing a picnic lunch (or picking something up at the nearby ABC Store or Island Vintage coffee house). If you find yourself peckish, treat yourself to any of the resorts that line the lagoons.
Pro Tip: The Papalua Shave Ice shack at Disney’s Aulani resort is a great place to grab a bite.
Arguably one of the prettiest beaches on Oahu, Lanikai has always been a family favorite. Powdery white sand with crystal clear water is what you’ll find just outside of the town of Kailua. We’ll either pick up a plate lunch or stop by the local Whole Foods for beach snacks. The surf is perfect for kick boarders and SUPers and kayakers can even paddle out to nearby Nā Mokulua islands. I have to honestly say that due to the surf, Lanikai is better for older children. Infants and toddlers will still enjoy the soft sand between their toes and a little dip if the water is calm enough. On our last trip, we brought a pop up tent and both of the kiddos (an 18-month old and a 9-month old) absolutely loved it.
It would be remiss if i didn’t at least mention Waikiki beach. Not only is it extremely accessible to all that stay in Waikiki, but the surf is gentle and forgiving. It’s also typically shallow enough for kiddos of all ages. That being said, it’s often over populated and the water easily becomes cloudy and polluted with sunscreen and various other ambiguous fluids.
Totally unrelated: check out those chubby baby thighs! I can’t believe he used to be such a little chunk. #rollsonrollsonrolls
Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa.
I mean, you really can’t go wrong with a Disney resort. I had my eye on Aulani for years and we finally had the opportunity to stay right around Holden’s first birthday. We were there for a work trip but were able to explore nearly every inch of the resort. I particularly enjoyed how Disney truly catered to the kids. We barely had to baby proof our hotel room. The most we did was hide the pens. And our room even came with a pack ‘n play.
All three of us enjoyed the Waikolohe Valley pool area, in particular the lazy river. I also spent way too much time at the Ka Maka Grotto. I would head down right as the pools opened and spent a few quiet minutes to myself before everyone else arrived. As for Chris, we had a hard time pulling him away from the two different water slides. He’s a water baby through and through.
I might have fan-girled at the character breakfast. Goofy came right up to our table and spent a little one-on-one time with us. Holden was less impressed but he went to town on the Mickey waffles.
While Holden might have been too young to enjoy all that Aulani has to offer, Chris and I soaked up all the Disney magic that we could. For those that want extra time with Mickey and his crew, be sure to book tickets to the Ka Wa’a Luau. Not only was the food so ono, but luau guests are treated to extra time with the Disney crew.
The Laylow, Autograph Collection.
True to its name, The Laylow is where one can go to truly escape. Situated in the heart of Waikiki and only blocks from the beach, guests to The Laylow are treated to privacy and quiet. Plus, the hotel is ridiculously cute. I wanted to copy our room and paste it to our bedroom back home. Just look at that wallpaper!
Our room at The Laylow was so inviting and comfortable that we had to drag ourselves out for dinner. Holden is a little maestro and loves any and all instruments so the in-room ukulele was a huge hit. I was able to enchant him with all five songs that I can play.
The Laylow receives extra bonus points for The Hideout espresso bar located in the lobby. The baristas were full of aloha and our lattes were amazing.
The Sheraton Waikiki.
To be completely honest, the Sheraton Waikiki didn’t really look like much from the outside but I was completely blown away by our suite. We had two balconies to ourselves and a giant living room and kitchen area. Honestly, there was probably more square footage in our suite than in our apartment back home. And even though The Sheraton Waikiki is a huge resort, once we reached our room, we felt like we were at home. The Sheraton Waikiki will always hold a special place in our hearts and its where Holden first crawled. He scooted himself all over that living room and was oh-so proud of himself.
Another perk of the Sheraton is the pools. There’s a separate pool for kiddos and one reserved for adults only. Holden was only eight months at the time of our stay and was still a little iffy on water adventures. That being said, we managed to get a few smiles out of him while swimming with Chris.
We have another post in the shoot featuring all the fun things to do on Oahu with young kids. There will be a little something for everyone. Stay tuned and please send any questions you have our way. We’re happy to answer them!
Nineteen months. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve felt any urge to push “publish” on a post. There’s so much that I want to share with you all and yet I can’t find myself wanting to sit down to write anything. I’ve gone through a sort of writer’s block. Couple that with the sleep deprivation, anxiety, and pressure that comes with new parenthood and you’ve got yourself a stale travel blog that’s just begging to be revitalized.
In many ways this blog was our first baby. We birthed, nurtured and raised it into something we were so proud of. Our lives were devoted to sharing our travels and encouraging others to get out and explore our amazing world. And then we welcomed Holden into the fray and everything changed. There was a tiny human that legitimately needed us for survival. From that moment onwards, this travel blog was neglected. Only to be thought of seconds before I passed out in the precious few moments of sleep that we could find.
But I want to change all of that. I miss writing. I miss sharing our adventures. I miss working on something for me.
My resolution for 2018 is to publish a post at least once a week. To most bloggers, that sounds like nothing. But to me, it’s going to be quite the feat. Mostly because right as Chris and I felt we were getting a hold on this whole “parenting” thing, we found out we were pregnant again. We’re expecting our newest addition to arrive this May which means that I have five months to get my groove back. Five months to write, share, schedule and post.
My request from you is to hold me accountable. Hit us up on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you haven’t seen a post in a while. Feel free to send over any questions that you’d like me to answer or topics that you want covered.
We have a lot to be excited for in 2018 and we can’t wait to share it with you! Happy New Year!]]>
Our idea for the holiday theme is a good ol’ traditional family road trip. For us, road tripping and the holidays go hand-in-hand. We have always done Thanksgiving at my parents’ house and Christmas with Chris’ family. That typically means loading up our car with treats, gifts, and goodies and then hitting the road. We have to cross Snoqualmie Pass during Christmas time and it’s usually covered in snow. We blare our favorite Christmas songs while the car smells of freshly baked cookies and peppermint hot chocolates.
We want our theme of Shell savings to continue. Our post will feature a few flashbacks to our favorite holiday road trips and also reflect on how our trips have changed since becoming a couple, and eventually welcoming a child. The Fuel Rewards Program allows us to reap benefits on something we’d already be doing: driving for the holidays.
Wait. How did this happen? How is the holiday season already upon us? I swear, it feels like just yesterday we were donning our swimsuits, sipping on mai tais, in the hot summer sun.
Winter has always been hard on me. The Pacific Northwest is a stunning place to live, but western Washington can also feel very cold, dark, and desolate in the winter. We tend to see way too much rain and not enough snow. And to me, rain=bleh and snow=festive. Both Chris and I suffer from seasonal depression if we stay in the cloudy and damp PNW for too long. Most years, we’ve been fortunate to have been able to escape to a tropical locale for a few weeks of the winter. Nothing a few pina coladas and vitamin D can’t fix.
There is a saving grace that’s doesn’t have us hopping on a place bound for sunnier shores: The Holidays.
I love Thanksgiving. Love it. Or at least the old school (read: ignorant) idea of it. Not so much the butchering of First Nations, bringing forth disease, taking over land that’s not ours- part. I enjoy the romance of family coming together from all over the country to spend time with each other and enjoy a delicious meal. And let’s be honest, the meal is really why I’m here. I rarely eat turkey and Thanksgiving food is some of my all-time favorite. In fact, my best friends know I love turkey so much that every year they throw a Friendsgiving party for my birthday. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.
Since we’ve been married, we tend to spend Thanksgiving with my side of the family (mostly because my dad makes the best mashed potatoes and my mom’s turkey is incredible) and Christmas with Chris’. This means multiple trips across the state. We probably log a couple thousand miles over the holidays. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, we kind of love it.
I’m not necessarily a huge fan of driving over the passes in the winter, but I love the road trip that we make to Quincy, Washington for Christmas. There, Chris’ mom’s side of the family convenes for days of baking, eating, laughing, and games. Our car smells of freshly baked cookies and piping cups of coffee. It’s typically packed to the gills with Christmas presents and baby paraphernalia and we blare our favorite Christmas tunes as we make our way over the snowy pass. I’m particularly excited for this Christmas because Holden will be more present and aware than the last. It also means there’s going to be a lot of toddler-proofing that needs to be done.
This year we have even more reason to celebrate our time on the road. Since becoming members of the Fuel Rewards Program we’re saving even more at the pump. And the more we spend, the more we save. It’s reassuring to know that even though we’re at the pump more often, we are saving more than we would if we filled up at any ol’ gas station.
Here’s what our holiday calendar currently looks like.
Drive from Spokane to Bremerton for Thanksgiving with Tawny’s family: 324 miles
Drive from Bremerton to Spokane: 324 miles
Drive from Spokane to Quincy for Christmas with Chris’ family: 138 miles
Drive from Quincy to Bremerton for holiday time with Tawny’s family: 204 miles
Drive from Bremerton to Salem to visit Chris’ dad: 217 miles
Drive from Salem to Spokane: 397 miles
Grand Total: 1,604 miles
I’m both excited and exhausted just reading that.
If you’re planning on hitting the road this holiday season, be sure to reap the benefits of the Fuel Rewards Program. And remember, sharing is caring. For every friend that signs up after your recommendation (with your unique referral link) and uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal (up to 20 gallons). There’s no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn! We plan on stacking our Fuel Rewards to truly make the most of the program. I foresee a lot of savings in our future. That means more money for presents and gingerbread houses!
Remember that if you sign up for the Fuel Rewards Program before the end of the year (how is 2017 almost done?) you’ll automatically earn Instant Gold Status for six months. After that, you just need to average 2 fill ups a month to keep it. Fuel Rewards® program members that have Gold Status can save 5¢ off every gallon (up to 20 gallons/visit).
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Shell. The opinions and text are all mine.
It seems unreal, but here we are nearing the end of the year. As always, I know that you start to forget everything that we did since January and I consider it my duty to remind you of all (or at least a great deal of) what we’ve accomplished. We had a lot of apprehension about this year because we had a new element to take into account: our very own Holden Brave. We weren’t sure if we would travel, if we would have time for one another, or if Holden would love the world. As it turns out, 2017 was a wonderful year despite our many worries. Take a moment to be thankful for what we’ve done so far.
Oh Tawny, the year isn’t even finished yet and look at all that we’ve accomplished so far. Don’t you forget. We work hard for this life together and I couldn’t be happier to be sharing it with you, Holden, and one more on the way! I love you babe, here’s to a glory laden 2017 and an even greater 2018! Maybe we’ll start sleeping again in 2025.]]>
After a busy travel-packed summer, we are more than happy to be spending the next few weeks at home. Fall is hands down our favorite season and when we’re not out exploring the world, you can find us donning flannel and scarves, overdosing on pumpkin spice, and frolicking in the changing leaves. If that makes us “basic” then so be it! Autumn is best.
But being home doesn’t mean we’re sitting still. Due to our hectic filming schedule, we find ourselves on the road A LOT. Between video shoots, client meetings, and everyday errands, we’re still racking up the road miles. Luckily, our *Fuel Rewards® savings from Shell are also piling up and we find ourselves saving at nearly every visit to the pump.
If you haven’t signed up for the Fuel Rewards® program yet, you can do so by clicking here. Sign up before the end of the year and you’ll automatically earn Instant Gold Status. Fuel Rewards® program members that have Gold Status can save 5¢ off every gallon (up to 20 gallons/visit) for at least six months. That’s just money waiting to be saved!
While we were in Europe this summer, we used our credit card that’s linked to our Fuel Rewards account and watched as our additional cents-per-gallon added up. We couldn’t wait to get home and see how much we would save at our first visit to our local Shell station. Spoiler alert: it was a lot. I particularly enjoyed Chris’ face as I reconciled my European shopping trips with “think of the Fuel Rewards savings!” Towards the end of our trip he even took me out on a fancy date. When I questioned if it was in the budget he slyly replied, “Don’t worry. It’s going towards our Fuel Rewards.” I got myself a keeper.
I was a little worried that our Fuel Rewards savings would taper once we arrived home but luckily, I still find everyday ways to stack our rewards. I even earn extra points when running errands. That’s right. Purchasing our finicky cat’s very expensive food at Petco has a silver lining– extra savings!
So, what exactly are we going to be doing while we have this time at home? It’s not all work and errands, my friend. We just finished our annual Castle Staudinger Archery Tournament. Yes, it’s a real thing. In fact, this was our 11th consecutive year hosting the tournament. And this year’s theme was “Viking.” The tournament is Chris’ favorite time of the year. Our friends and family travel from all over the world to partake in all the revelry.
And when we’re not dressed up as Vikings and shooting arrows, we’re preparing for the start of our busy season for tours. Our company, Pretty Gritty Tours, is renowned for our Booze and Boos ghost tour. And as Halloween is right around the corner, we find ourselves booking tour groups left and right. Thankfully, Chris loves giving tours and doesn’t spook easily (unlike moi).
Aside from hosting tours, we’re also planning on enjoying all of our favorite Fall festivities. We’re talking spiced apple cider, pumpkin patches, hay rides, and finding the perfect Halloween costume for baby Holden. I cannot wait.
Between purchasing promotional material for our tours, splurging on ridiculously adorable Halloween costumes, and basically throwing our money at local pumpkin patches, our Fuel Rewards points continue to add up while at home. There’s also an easy way to earn extra rewards. Simply send your referral link to friends and family so they can also join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station after registering using your link, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal (up to 20 gallons). There’s no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn! Imagine all the pumpkin spice lattes you can buy with the money you save! Everyone wins.
*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473.