Instawhat: Photo Dump

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Hi there.  We’ve been busy living summer.  This here’s a photo dump of what I posted on Instagram for the end of June and most of July.  These pictures pretty much sum up our summer thus far.  See that freckle faced boy?  Poor Casper has skin just like his mommy & daddy… fair & freckled.  No amount of sun leaves a tan on him.  Not that the constant application of 55 spf helps that situation.  It does, however, help that whole skin cancer issue.  You’re welcome, Bug.

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I never thought about this when we were naming him, but I am thankful that we chose a short, easy to spell, easy to write name for our son.  He’s been able to spell Eli for months, and now he’s figuring out how to write it.  This was the first time I had him try it (though they may have practiced at school).  With the exception of the letters themselves being backwards, I was was really impressed.

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I manage a full service restaurant.  We all know that.  We also cater.  Catering is kind of my baby at work, and we went from rarely catering (like, maybe once a year) to catering events 6-8 times a year.  I love being able to cook something fresh for someone’s wedding or birthday.  I also love the challenge of making a beautiful, delicious meal in an unconventional setting… makeshift kitchen, cooking out of coolers, etc.  We have yet to cater an event where people weren’t really happy, and that makes all of the stress of the organization and timing totally worth it.  This particular wedding was at the same estate where Hubby and I got married, which made it extra special for me.  This couple’s first dance was to Jack Johnson’s “Better Together,” which happens to be the same song that Hubby & I shared our first dance to almost 7 years ago.  I was very excited about that.  Also, the couple had their first date at our restaurant, which I thought was pretty awesome.  It sideways torrential downpoured about thirty minutes before that photo was taken.  Yay for improvising & for portable sunshades!

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Hubby and I got to go golfing.  By ourselves.  We laughed a lot.  Love that man.

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Fourth of July to me is celebrating with friends and family on the beach and watching the fireworks go off over the water.  This year we were able to share the evening with our new friends from church, some of whom had never experienced the 4th the way we do it in a coastal town.  Our little boy got to play with all of his buddies… I was in heaven watching him be so excited and happy.

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After breakfast one morning, Bug said, “Mommy, let’s snuggle.”  Couldn’t say no to that.  Plus, we were both wearing our tie-dyed shirts that we made together.

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Random boat trip on the Myakka River.  We packed a lunch, cruised for a bit and just spent time together.  It was a beautiful day with my boys.

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A long time ago, when I first started blogging, I had a Pineapple Project.  A pineapple grew from a pineapple grew from a pineapple plant I had planted and I documented the process.  That first pineapple was 4 years ago.  That same plant grew another fruit the following year.  The original plant died off, leaving a pup plant, which is what pineapple plants do.  That pup finally bore fruit this year.  Usually, pineapples start growing in the summer and are ready to eat by December or so… or, at least, my last two pineapples followed that timeline.  This guy started growing in the winter (which was very warm) and was ripe by summer.  The cold snap we had in the middle of that is probably what made him a munchkin pineapple.  He was seriously tiny, but oh-so-sweet and tasty.

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We closed for three days at work to do some remodeling and maintenance work.  In three days we managed to empty the kitchen of nearly all of the equipment, re-tile the kitchen, office & dry storage areas, re-pave the parking lot, sand down and re-epoxy the bar top, paint several inside doors, paint some furniture, paint the outdoor patio floor, paint the walls in dry storage and deep clean all of the equipment and pretty much the entire inside of the restaurant.  And, proudly, the only thing that we didn’t do ourselves was the kitchen floor & the parking lot.  I wore a face mask for three days, but it was totally worth it to see the outcome.  Also, it was amazing how many customers walked across the blocked off and freshly tarred parking lot to see if we were closed.

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We went on a mini-vacation with my parents to Steinhatchee.  Steinhatchee is a really small town on a rive that leads out to the Gulf in the armpit of Florida.  I don’t mean it’s smelly… it’s just in the curve of Florida before the panhandle.  The scalloping there in the summer is awesome… you snorkel on the grass flats and pick up the most delicious little bay scallops.  We had a great long weekend, but it rained a lot so there wasn’t actually a lot of scalloping to be done.

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There is definitely a Hungry Howie’s on the river.  You can call in your order when you are done fishing or scalloping or whatever and then go pick it up by boat.  This made a pregnant lady very happy.

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This is how Bug spends his time in the boat.  Catching, naming, playing with and then releasing bait fish and shrimp.  It is amazing how quickly those little hands can grab a pin fish.

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While swimming at the beach house, Bug turned Aunt Millie in to an elephant.  He’s quite the magician.

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After swimming at the beach house, Bug & I went for $0.99 ice cream at our favorite farm market, Detwiler’s.  Kid takes his ice cream seriously.

What have you been up to this summer?

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Instawhat: Week of 9/16

So, I am obviously way behind in the blogging department.  I went on a little vacation with my mom, and then I had to catch up from being on vacation.  And now, I’m just being lazy.  The next several posts will be catch-up posts.  Maybe after that I’ll get motivated to do some real blogging!

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My boys playing pirates on the couch/pirate ship at Nana’s house.

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Hubby, Auntie Annie and I took Bug took his first movie!  We were ambitious in bringing him to a 3-D movie.  Go big or go home, ya know?  He did great and loved every second of it.  He sat in his little booster chair (did you know they have those at theaters???) and ate popcorn and watched the entire thing.  He even wore the glasses for all but the last 20 minutes.  I think Hubby & I watched Bug enjoying himself more than we watched the movie!

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My boys lying on the couch watching Toy Story before bedtime.

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I am aware that this picture is sideways.  Oh, wells.  Mom and I went to Louisville for a horse show for a few days and saw these beautiful mums.  We don’t gets mums in some of these colors in Florida!

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This photo doesn’t do this church justice.  The buildings in places like Louisville?  They don’t make those in Florida, either.

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Mom & I visited a beautiful historic home called Whitehall.  There was nobody else there, so we got a tour all to ourselves.  Awesome.

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Opening ceremonies of the last night of the show.  I’ll do a post about the whole horse show thing and our vacation… at some point.

2012 Vacation #2: Maggie Valley

Every year, Hubby’s Nana rents the same cabin in Maggie Valley, North Carolina and just about the whole family (14 of us this year!) shows up for a family reunion.  Every year it’s awesome.  (Here’s the recap from last year, if you’re interested!)  We went on this vacation an entire month ago, but I am just now getting around to posting about it.  Whoopsies.  Story of my life.

This year, Hubby & I opted to drive up rather than fly.  Now that Buggy is 2, he’s not free anymore.  No thank you to $900 to fly.  In comparison (and in Casey math), driving seemed almost free.  You can see pictures from our adventure up here.  Yay for Instagram.  Anywho, we arrived around lunch time on a Wednesday and within an hour or so we were on the golf course.  We play this fantastic little course that used to be super crappy.  The “clubhouse” is still a total shack, but the course was actually in really good shape this year.  They even added sand traps.  Huge ones.  They let us play a sixsome and don’t care what Scary Uncle Adam wears.  We love this place.  Hubby, Adam and I got to play again Thursday morning, as well.

After golf & lunch on Thursday, we went on the Death Hike.  Really, it was a hike of the unknown to go see some elk.  We’ve wanted to do this hike for a couple of years now and just never got it together.  It’s a 7 mile stretch through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that ends in the Cataloochee Valley.  It was one of those hikes that we brought extra food & water just in case the trails were so crappy that we got lost.  Turns out, the trails were fantastic and it only took us about 3 and a half hours.  One lady told us it was going to take 8… she obviously underestimated our athletic abilities.  The hike was seriously beautiful and ended in the valley, which is where the elk in the area graze each evening.  Pretty incredible.

On Friday, we took our annual tubing trip down Deep Creek.  This is my favorite part of the trip.  White water tubing is SO. MUCH. FUN.  Plus, the little kiddos can play in the river while us big kiddos go down the rapids.  This year was especially awesome, though, because Bug is big enough to go down the little rapids.  So, after the big kids went down the larger section, Hubby, Scary Uncle Adam and Cousin Kelly took Bug down a short little section.  He loved it, obvi.  Plus, since he isn’t napping twice a day like he was last year, we were able to stay and have a picnic lunch.  Bug thought it was super cool to eat lunch in a tube.  It took cookies to lure him out.

On last year’s Maggie Valley, Bug got to meet his second cousin Joshua, who is the son of one of Hubby’s cousins and is three months younger than Bug.  This year, Joshua and his family couldn’t make it.  However, another of Hubby’s cousins has a son who is three weeks older than Bug… and they DID get to come this year.  Bug had a blast playing with his second cousin Cohen.  There was a lot of monkeys jumping on beds with these two goofballs.

A highlight of this year’s trip that was a new adventure for all of us was Santa’s Land.  This fantastic theme park opened in 1966 and I am pretty darn sure that it hasn’t changed.  There are all of these old rides that look like they belong in an antique state fair museum.  Like, way cooler and sturdier than any state fair ride that you see today.  Cohen & Bug had so much fun riding the boat ride and the race cars and the helicopter and the carousel.  Santa’s Land also has a mini-zoo with baby bears and a couple of monkeys and some other random animals, like kangaroos.  And, of course, Santa is there.  Bug was oddly enthusiastic about Santa.  He actually wanted to sit on his lap and had a pretty good little conversation with the man.  Cohen = notsomuch.  Sadly, I have no pictures of that.  **Side note – apparently this Santa was the Santa at Sarasota Square Mall for 6 years.  This is our mall.  He’s like a snowbird Santa.  North Carolina in the summers at Santa’s Land and Florida in the winter at shopping malls.  Who knew there were jobs for Santa in the summer.**

The true gem of Santa’s Land is the Rudicoaster.  Get it?  The Rudolph Roller Coaster?  Ha.  As you can see, Hubby, Scary Uncle Adam and Graham (Cohen’s momma) had a hell of a time on the creakiest, bounciest roller coaster ever.  They rode it to see if the little ones would be okay on it.  The little ones decidedly would not have been ok.

Ahhh, the time the babies almost died.  A certain family member who shall remain nameless on the internets (and no, surprisingly, it wasn’t Scary Uncle Adam) backed the car that was holding BOTH babies into a small trench, causing the tires to get stuck and spin out. All of a sudden the car jolts, slides and pops onto three wheels.  The fathers of the babies bolt out of their vehicles as fast as I have ever seen humans move and got the babies out while Uncle Adam jumped on the back of the trench car to get the wheel back on the ground.  I should mention that those trees?  Yeah, they are rooted quite a ways down a mountain.  Meaning if the car rolled, it would have rolled down a mountain.  To get the car out of the small trench, we hooked up a tow strap, which Scary Uncle Adam brought along “just in case,” to our Element, which we lovingly call the Toaster.  The Toaster has all-wheel drive, which has come in handy more than once in the 6 years that we’ve owned it.  Anywho, kind of humorous that the 4-cylinder Honda saved the GMC SUV.  Go Toaster!

The last night of our trip was spent at Smokey Shadows Lodge eating a delicious family-style dinner (tomato pie & all) and playing guitar and just hanging out.  One of my mother-in-law’s family members used to own the lodge back in the day, so the family has been going there for a very long time.  Great Nana loves that we can all be somewhere and experience something that our parents did as children.  You know, that whole generational thing.  Truth be told, we think it’s pretty amazing as well.  Four generations in that picture up there!

So, that was our second vacation this summer.  All I can really say is that I can’t wait to go back next year!

Instawhat – Week of 7/29

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I am in love with this face.  Those eyes.  Those lips.  That little kissable nose.  THOSE CHEEKS.

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All dressed up to go grocery shopping… the one glove is obviously a necessity.  This is a new favorite game.  Bug gets dressed up and then makes me get dressed up and then we line up all of his play food on that there red couch.  And then, surprise!, we “buy” all of the food and put it into the cart.  Oh, and also we buys things like rubber dolphins.

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We drove to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina last week.  This was about an hour into the 10 hour drive that we completed on the way there.  You can totally tell that this was at like 3:00pm, right?

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We left for our trip right around naptime on Tuesday… about 2:00… thinking that Bug would sleep in the car.  Wrong.  This was at 4:30.  He had JUST fallen asleep.  He was 3 bites into his snack when he just passed out.

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That blueish square thing in the lower right corner is the portable dvd player that has saved our lives on car/plane trips.  That legless toddler in the car seat is my child watching (and singing) The Lion King on said dvd player.  He was really excited, hence the blurry missing legs.

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This was at about 8:00.  Playing tag in a gas station parking lot right behind the dumpster. We’re classy like that.  What you can’t see is the clan of high schoolers in their clunkers that apparently use the other half of the gas station parking lot as a hang out spot.  Yay, Georgia.  Back story: We had decided to stop and let Bug run around a little bit to get some energy out so that he would hopefully go night-night in the car.  Which he did.  At around 10.  He was a super good boy… no fussing… just no sleeping either.

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Day #2 of our road trip.  We stayed about an hour north of Atlanta on Tuesday night and so only had about 2 hours of driving to do on Wednesday.  Woot for that!  This was our first view of the Smokies.  Purty.

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We stopped at an awesome farmer’s market just outside of Clayton, GA.  Bug was really excited about the peaches.

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I, not being a huge peach fan, was much more excited about the rainbow of local heirloom tomatoes.  I wanted to taste test every. single. one.

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Yay, mountain golf!  We arrived at our cabin at 11:30.  We ate lunch.  We settled Bug in with his Nana.  We were on our way to the golf course by 1:30.  The golf course that let Scary Uncle Adam wear a bright yellow tank top and multicolored board shorts and sandals.  The golf course that let us play with a sixsome.  The golf course that has a sign by the first tee that says “this golf course strongly discourages drinking and driving.”  Thank God they don’t prohibit it.  They might have kicked us out.  Also, why I don’t have a picture of that sign, I do not know.

Week of Workouts: 7/29 – 8/4

So, there weren’t any traditional workouts this week. Why?  Well, because we were on vacation!  We drove up to North Carolina for the week, and though I brought running gear, I never once went running.  We did have a pretty active week, however.  Active enough to where my calves are still sore.

We arrived at about noon Wednesday and we were on the golf course by 2:00.  13 holes of mountain golf = exercise.  I know 13 holes is a weird number, but that is what we had time for.

On Thursday, we got in another round of 13 holes of golf in the morning.  Then, THEN, we went for an amazing 7 mile hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It took about 3 hours of us moving along at a pretty decent pace.  This would be where the sore calves come into play.  I would say 5.5 miles were downhill, which sounds easy until you realize that your 30 year old knees are 30 years old.

Friday we went tubing down Deep Creek, which involved probably a total of a mile or so of hiking uphill.

That’s it.  Vacation recap to come soon!

2012 Vacation #1: Captiva!

I have a brother.  I don’t think I’ve ever written about him here because, well, I just don’t get to see him all that often.  He’s pretty awesome, though.  He lives in a suburb of Chicago with his beautiful wife & their 6 year old twin boys.  Up until the twins were born, we went on a family vacation every year.  Note that I said up until the twins were born.  We haven’t been on a family vacation in over SIX years, people.  It doesn’t help that I work for my family, which means that it is near impossible for my Dad & I to take time off at the same time.  But, this year, we decided it had been way too long and we got to spend an entire week together!  My bro & his family was here for a week and our parents took the whole family to Captiva Island for the last few days.  We used to vacation here as kids, and when we were there in August for my cousin’s wedding, we though it would be a great place to spend some time as a family.

We started out by spending a couple of days here in town, just hanging out at my pool and at Mom & Dad’s house.  Somehow, in spending like 6 straight days together, we only managed to get ONE family picture.  That’s what happens when there are small children running around.

The cousins all had an absolute blast playing together.  We spent lots of time out on the beach building some serious sandcastles.

And then, in true little boy style, destroying them.

We spent each morning swimming and relaxing on the beach…

We spent each afternoon swimming in the pool and eating ice cream.  I didn’t get a single picture of Bug swimming.  Why?  Because he spends all of his swimming time underwater these days, but since he hasn’t quite figured out yet that he has to come up for air, somebody (me) has to have a hand on him AT ALL TIMES.

We brought our boat down with us and Hubby & Papa took the twins on their first fishing trip one evening.  They were super excited to tell us that they learned how to “launch” (cast).  They didn’t catch anything, but Papa & Hubby did, and they got to help reel the fishy fishies in.

The last night, Grandma & Papa babysat and Hubby, my brother, my sister-in-law and I all got to go out on the town.  We went to Tween Waters Inn, which is a place where my uncle’s band played like 20 years ago, to watch some live music and a have a couple of adult beverages.  There are pictures from that evening, but let’s just say that I’m not allowed to post them.  It was wonderful to spend so much time with my brother & his family… and to watch Bug interact with his cousins.  He wanted to emulate everything that the big boys did, and they were so good about letting him play with them.  Family vacation are the best.

Are you planning any family vacations this summer?

Flying with a Toddler

Last week, I wrote about our trip to Iowa and all of it’s awesomeness.  If you read that post, you’ll notice that Bug & I went together.  Just the 2 of us on our own little weekend getaway.  I mentioned in the last post that I would write about flying with a 2 year old.  It might have sounded like flying with him was awful and I was going to give you a minute-by-minute recap of just how awful… but, no.  Flying with Bug was fantastic.  So, here are my tips for flying with a toddler… or at least what worked for us.

Before I get into the list, let me lay out the details of our flights.  Bug doesn’t turn 2 until Saturday, so he counted as an “Infant in Arms” and I didn’t have to buy a seat for him.  He would have been just fine in my lap, but turns out that each of our 4 flights weren’t full… so he got his own seat each time.  That was awesome, mostly because it made it easier to get into our bag for snacks & toys.  Our flight out left at 7am, with us getting to Iowa right around lunchtime after a 2 hour layover in Atlanta.  This was good timing, because Bug was alert & happy the whole trip.  He would NOT have napped on the plane.  Our flight home left just before dinner time.  This was great because we brought dinner onto the plane, which occupied Bug for like 30 minutes.  We landed back at home late, at 11:30, after a layover just long enough to allow us to get to the next flight in Atlanta, and Bug slept that entire second leg.  Worked out well.  I’d also like to mention that Bug is really into airplanes right now… and he was SO excited to be ON an airplane.  I think that helped.  Oh, AND, he didn’t seem to have any problems with his ears, which is great.

Straight Through – I would definitely recommend straight through flights if possible.  It was not possible for this trip, because we flew out of tiny Sarasota/Bradenton and into tiny Moline/Quad Cities, and we stopped in Atlanta both there and back.  We had a two hour layover on the way there at like 8:30 in the morning.  In case you were wondering, that is like prime-time rush hour in ATL.  We had to switch concourses, which was fine, except for Bug wanted to walk, and then be held, and then walk, and then be held and that was difficult with thousands of people rushing by us in business suits.  Also, the Atlanta Airport website says there are play areas on the A concourse.  There are NOT.  Trust me, we hauled ourselves from C concourse to check it out, and then all the way back because NO PLAY AREAS EXISTED.  20 pound backpack + 27 pound toddler + multiple concourses = this is the only time during the trip that I wanted to cry.  The way home was fine.  Our first flight was late, so we had to hurry between the two flights, but Bug was tired and just wanted me to hold him.

What to Pack – Stuff.  To be honest, it was a crapshoot on the way out there.  On the way back, I knew what he would play with and could plan a little better.  We have a great Camelbak backpack with lots of little compartment and pockets.  It was perfect.  For toys, I packed books, coloring books, paper, crayons, stickers, the Travel Aquadoodle, a portable DVD player & some DVDs, tons of snacks and play dough.  He didn’t really care to play with the play dough or the Aquadoodle so I checked them on the way back.  He also didn’t end up eating many snacks, because they gave out those packaged biscuit cookies, so I only brought a couple on the way home.  Each pack of cookies took him like 30 minutes to consume.  He loved them.   The DVD player was the best thing ever.  I only used it one flight each way, and it kept him perfectly content for like an hour each time.  He also really like playing with the stickers.  That was a good activity for take-offs & landings, when he had to be in my lap.  On the way home, I packed a couple of dinosaurs & tractor toys, which he enjoyed messing around with for a little bit.  He didn’t care much about coloring or the books either, but on our last flight, we followed our usual bedtime routine of reading books, drinking some milk & singing a song or two, so the books proved to be useful in the end.  I also packed his Bud (his lovey), a sippy cup which I filled with airport bought juice/water/milk, a change of clothes, diapers & wipes.  (And, of course, my wallet, flight info and a copy of his birth certificate just in case.)

Be Organized – This might seem obvious, but it is so pertinent.  I made a mental note of exactly where everything was packed in our carry-on bag.  I put anything that belonged together in it’s own ziploc bag (snacks, crayons, etc) so that everything was easy to find.  I also consolidated… things like 2 DVDs per case, all new stickers out of their wrappers and packed together, etc.

Simplify – On the flight there, I took a backpack and my purse, which I had strapped to my backpack.  The purse = not necessary.  On the way home, I packed my purse in my checked bag and just put what I needed in the backpack.  Also, I had originally planned on bringing the stroller to help me through the airport.  There was about an hour where I wish I had it, but otherwise I did pretty well without it.  It was one less thing that I had to worry about lugging around.  We rarely use a stroller at home anymore, so Bug would probably have screamed bloody murder had I tried to put him in it anyways.

Find Opportunities to Talk & Teach – We spent a lot of time talking about what we were doing, and this kept him really happy.  Like I said above, Bug is really into planes right now, so we talked about how planes fly up in the sky and pointed out all of the lights, air vents, tray tables, exit doors, window shades, etc.  We looked out the window and watched the service crew on the ground get the planes ready and talked about their jobs.  We looked out the window once we were in the air and talked about the ocean or the farm land or the clouds.  We chatted with the flight attendants and read Sky Mall.

This was a great age to fly with Bug.  He was interested and excited and well-behaved.  Hubby & I are taking him to North Carolina later this summer and I am looking forward to flying with him again.

Do you have any other travel tips for toddlers?

Iowa = Way Cooler Than You’d Think

The weekend before last, Bug and I went to Iowa.  Yes, Iowa.  You see, my bestest friend Randall lives there with her husband.  She hasn’t lived in Florida for almost 4 years and I had never been to visit her.  I’ve gotten to see her when she’s been here visiting her Mom or when she flew home to host my baby shower, but had never been to her new home.  So, Bug and I went.  I will probably get around to writing about flying by yourself with a 2 year old at some point, but that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about a barrage of pictures documenting the fabulous trip we had.  Randall (or Randi, as I have called her since we were 5) and Nick showed us a grand ole time.

Bug and I arrived on Friday afternoon at 11:30 Iowa time.  11:30 Iowa time = 12:30 Florida time = 30 minutes past lunchtime and 30 minutes until naptime.  We went and grabbed lunch in Le Claire and then snapped this picture.  This was obviously past naptime.

After a nice nap (for Bug & Mommy), we played on the back porch with Bug’s new best friend Winnie (sorry, Ben) & blew some bubbles.  Then we took Winnie to the dog park and played on an awesome playground.  Bug loved this thing that spun ’round and ’round.  He’d get really dizzy, fall down and then want to do it again, of course.  That night, after Bug was in bed, Randi & I left Nick at home and went out for a girl’s night.  We haven’t had a girl’s night with just the two of us in, ummm, years.  Like 4 years.  It was amazing.  I had the best bacon I’ve ever had ever at Duck City Bistro.  I’m doing my best to recreate it.  I’ll share when I have it perfected, but it involves brown sugar, black pepper & twisted goodness.

Saturday morning, Bug fell down the stairs.  Gave me a heart attack.  THANK GOD he was okay… just a little bump on the forehead.  We went to this lovely farmer’s market that blows farmer’s markets in Sarasota out of the water.  All kinds of super yummy fruits & veggies & crepes & cake pops & flowers.  Also, an entire booth of just radishes.  I didn’t realize so many kinds of radishes even existed.

After the farmer’s market, we headed to the John Deere Pavilion.  Oh. My. Goodness.  If you are ever anywhere near Moline, Illinois and you have a toddler… go here.  It was awesome.  They have big tractors with all of the buttons & levers still inside that the kids can climb in.  They have an area with tables full of tractor toys to play with.  They had someone helping kids with an arts & crafts activity.  They had freshly hatched baby chicks.  They had a gift shop with more tables full of toys to play with… plus the gift shop actually had really reasonable prices.  We obviously bought a couple of tractors, but don’t tell Bug because we are saving some for his birthday!  After a nap, we helped Aunt Randi water the flowers, which resulted in playing in the hose.  THEN, we went to Whitey’s and had delicious ice cream.  I had salted caramel and almost died and went to heaven.

Randi had a babysitter all set up for that evening, and we all went out for dinner & drinks with Randi & Nick’s group of friends.  It was super fun and their friends are all wonderful, sweet people and I am so glad that I got to meet all of the people I hear Randi talk about.

Nick is the golf pro at the beautiful Pinnacle Country Club. We went to see him on Sunday morning.  I don’t think I’ve talked much about this, but Bug LOVES golf.  He has these little golf clubs that we (the Easter Bunny) got him for Easter that he plays with every. single. day.  He’s played with them so much that they are now bent.  Going to a golf course was very exciting for him.  Nick drove us around in the golf cart up and down hills.  Let’s be reminded that we live in Florida, where there are no hills.  Bug kept saying “go fast!”  Randi & Nick gave Bug his birthday present early… a good set of just-his-size golf clubs, complete with a tee & a hole!  Couldn’t have asked for a better gift.  Nick set it up on a fairway for Buggy… and he was in heaven!  That afternoon, after nap, we went to another playground, where Bug sat a swing like a big boy.  Well, he sat on a swing like a big boy long enough for Mom to get a picture.  Then he promptly fell off.  That night, we grilled out at the house & sat on the back porch with a bottle(s) of wine and gabbed for a couple of hours.

On Monday, Randi had to work, but Nick had the day off.  We went back to the dog park and the playground and then went to lunch with Randi at work.  She works in the admissions office at the beautiful St. Ambrose University and she gave us a tour of the campus.  We had to fly back on Monday night, and it was very sad to leave.  At the end of every day, Bug said that the favorite part of his day was Aunt Randi.  And, he talked about Winnie the dog for days after we got home.

It was so wonderful to spend so much one-on-one time with my Randi.  We’ve been friends for 25 years and have been through so much together.  It’s weird to think that she lives so far away and that up until last weekend I didn’t know what her house looked like or who her friends were.  Now I know that her house is adorable (as only Randi’s house would be) and her friends are fantastic.  It’s weird to me that although she met Eli a few times, she had never really been able to spend time with him… and he didn’t know her.  Now, when he sees Randi & Nick’s wedding picture on our fridge, he yells her name.  I am so thankful that even though there are a lot of miles in between us, we can still sit on a porch together now and then and drink wine and talk about books and kids and life for hours.  Yay for best friends and random trips to Iowa.

Captiva

A couple of weekends ago, my cousin got married on Captiva Island… more specifically at South Seas Plantation, which is about 2 hours away from home.  This is where we used to vacation as kids and it holds a very special place in the hearts of my whole family.  We spent the whole weekend hanging out with family, walking on the beach and relaxing in the pool.  I didn’t take many pictures of the weekend because, well, I was too wrapped up in having a good time.

  The wedding itself was perfect.  The ceremony was on a rocky point facing the sunset.  The groom was beaming and the bride was more stunning than I can possibly describe.

The reception was one of the most fun receptions I have ever attended.  I can’t believe I don’t have pictures!  Let me start by saying that my cousin has been in a couple of bands (mostly made up of the same guys) over the last 12 years and his father (my uncle) is also a musician.  When I was first in college, the only people I hung out with were my cousins & the band guys.  Instead of hiring a band, they just set up their equipment and played.  It wasn’t like a wedding reception… it was like a rock show at a bar.  It was like old times, except for now we are all married and some of us have a little less hair and bad backs (sorry, guys).  The best part… I got to share it all with Hubby.  He has always heard stories of the old days, but that night he got to experience it with me.  Amazing.

The other super awesome part about the weekend was the pool.  The resort has a couple of wading pools, which are perfect for kids.  Bug could run right into the water.  He was in. heaven.

He was so excited about the pool that we never actually took him to the beach.  I am all about the clean fun of the pool as opposed to the super sandy fun of the beach.  In my defense… we do have a beach at home!  And we use it!

My wonderful, sweet mother-in-law and my equally as wonderful sister-in-law drove down to babysit Bug after the ceremony so that Hubby and I could enjoy the reception.  And stay out late!  And have a few drinks!  And sleep in!  Of course, we still only slept until 8, but whatever… it was wonderful.

What was the best wedding (besides your own!) that you have attended?

Vacation #2: Maggie Valley

We were so fortunate to be able to go on 2 vacations this summer… the first to Orlando & fishing on the Kissimmee River… and the second to Maggie Valley, North Carolina.  You might have seen all my Vacation Snippets from my phone last week while we were up there, but I thought I’d do a little vacay recap, too… with pictures from a real camera :).

Each year, Hubby’s Nana (who is now Great Nana) rents Trapper’s Cabin in Maggie Valley.  The cabin a 15 minute drive up a mountain near the Cataloochee Ranch.  Seriously beautiful views.

Most of Hubby’s family was there:  Great Nana, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings… 16 of us were there at one point I think.  We had a truly wonderful time spending time with family that we generally only get to see this one time each year.

This year was extra-special, too, because there was a new generation to celebrate!  In the past year(ish), Great Nana welcomed THREE great-grandsons into her family… and all within 5 months of each other!  Two of the boys were able to make it to the reunion… Bug (obvi) and his second cousin Joshua (Hubby’s cousin’s baby).  At the beginning of the week, Bug made sure to supervise Joshua.

By the end of the week, these two were best buddies.  They had a ton of fun smiling at each other, playing together and trying to put toys in each others’ mouths.  We really wished that we lived closer to them!

So, what did we do in the mountains?  Well, Hubby, Scary Uncle Adam, Pops, Bug & I drove over to Gatlinburg one day to visit Hubby’s roommate and close friend from college.  We took the Blue Ridge Parkway and then drove through Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which was incredible.  We saw a black bear run across the road and elk grazing on the side of the road.  We also saw a pygmy goat roaming around a parking lot.  Weird.  We all wore creepy thrift store cat shirts just in case we got lost so we could find each other easily.  Except Bug… we totally need to get him a creepy cat shirt.

We let Scary Uncle Adam take Bug on the alpine slide at Ober Gatlinburg.  Ha!  As if!  Adam really wanted to take Bug on the slide, but I said, “NO WAY DUDE.”  So, we let him take the baby on the practice slide instead.  He was okay with that.

We got to play mountain golf THREE times, which was awesome.  We play at Iron Tree, which is too small and crappy to have a website.  Which is why we love it.  I can wear a tank top and nobody cares if we play a fivesome or a sixsome or if people share clubs or if everyone hits two tee shots (or two of every shot for that matter).  In a word, it’s the best-golf-course-ever.  Not to mention, the views are spectacular.

While we were off playing golf & horseback riding & tubing on Deep Creek, Bug got to spend lots of time playing with his Nana.  I think he’s a little upset that we’re home now and he doesn’t have a Nana-playmate 24 hours a day.  He’s back to only getting to see her twice a week.  Poor guy.

We were really close to the Cherokee Reservation, so Nana got Buggy some Indian Native American gear, which he loves.  He keeps bringing me the headdress and the moccasins to put on.  He had a fit this morning when I took them off for his nap!

It’s kind of a tradition on our family trips for everyone to get fake tattoos.  Great Nana even wore one a few years ago.  This year, Great Aunt Jan got a cougar on her chest, Hubby got a butterfly behind his ear, and Bug got a dragon on his chest.  He’s now officially a bad-ass.  Here is my baby – The Boy with the Dragon Tattoo:

Sad to think that we won’t get to see everyone for another year, but we had such a wonderful time hiking & eating & laughing & playing with babies this past week.  I can’t wait until next year!

Did you or are you taking a vacation this year?  Tell me about it!