Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

  • The Retreat

    Date: 2015.01.12 | Category: Family, Health, Holidays, Life, Love, Mark, Me, OMG YAY!, Travel | Response: 2

    My husband is notoriously difficult to shop for.  He likes tools… none of which I could even begin to pick out.

    Leading up to Christmas this year, we were beginning to prepare our three bedroom house for the addition of two more people. We have been cleaning out and purging what we can to make room. Everything has been attacked: from the girls’ rooms, to our closet, to our garage and office. We still have a way to go, but we are making room.

    So, for Christmas this year, I decided to do a little something different for Mark. I had read several blog posts and talked to a few people about the importance of setting aside time specifically for you and your spouse. It’s so incredibly hard to do with small children. Their needs always come first, and with both of us working full time, we feel like we should spend all of our free time with our children. And by the time bedtime rolls around, we are either both working some more, or retreating to our own selfish creature comforts.

    So, this year for Christmas, I decided to give Mark a retreat: a night away from everything dedicated to just the two of us. I made sure the girls would have a place to stay overnight with their Nana, then I booked a night at a Bed and Breakfast in Natchitoches. It was far enough out of town where we would be going away, but close enough that we could easily get back home if we needed to.

    I put a lot of research into where we would stay and eat during our short getaway, and even wrote and illustrated (with crayons!) a poem to give to him on Christmas Eve.

    This past Friday was the big day. After a week back of trying to get the girls back into their post-Christmas routine, we were ready. We counted down the days, then the hours.

    At go time, we drove down to Natchitoches to Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast.

    This place was AMAZING. It was an old house owned by a Civil War veteran. After being handed down to family members through the years, the couple who own it now bought it and completely renovated it. There are several gorgeous rooms to stay in, each with their own unique and beautiful features. I opted for the Garden Room with the giant bed and jacuzzi tub (of course). Because it was their off season, we were the only ones there, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

    After bringing our bag in, we headed out to dinner. I polled Facebook, and learned that one of the newer restaurants, Maglieaux’s on the Cane, was supposed to be delicious. Mark put all the planning in my hands, and we were both so pleased with our candlelit Louisiana seafood dinner. We had crawfish cornbread, Caesar salads, seafood stuffed mushrooms and chicken, and white chocolate bread pudding. Every single course was perfect. And, best of all, we got to sit and eat without having to feed anyone else or cut anyone’s food up. Win!

    Being the old homebodies that we are, we left dinner and went straight back to our room (after stopping by their kitchen for a couple of complimentary drinks). You know how most of the time staying in a bed besides your own isn’t all that great? Well this bed was lush. King-sized, pillow-topped, with tons of pillows. And that jacuzzi tub! I don’t think I would have gotten out of it ever if we didn’t have a check out time.

    I was so thrilled that I could stay up as late as I wanted with no repercussions… but fell asleep at 10:30 anyway, because that bed.

    We slept until 7:30 the next morning and got to wake up, lounge around and talk without anyone crawling in between us or digging their cold little toenails into our legs.

    Breakfast was served in the dining room at 8:30, and we wandered down to the kindest lady who was prepping a huge breakfast just for the two of us. The china was finely set, the coffee and juice were amazing, and oh. that. food.


    Raspberry croissant bread pudding for first course breakfast? Yes, please!

    The second course was Southwestern style and included eggs, grits, tomatoes and an English muffin. Later, when I asked Mark what his favorite part of the getaway was, he immediately and without hesitation said BREAKFAST.

    Following breakfast we checked out and strolled a little down by the Cane River and through downtown before heading back.

    That trip was more than I hoped it would be. We (mostly) put away technology, and just spent time completely relaxing and enjoying ourselves together as a married couple. We talked and laughed and sat in comfortable silence. We felt recharged and rested. It was good for our souls and our sanity.

    Immediately we started talking about when we could do it again. Who knows? Maybe we can divide up our four children for our anniversary and slip away in the fall. If not, I already know what I want Santa to put in my stocking next year – and next time it will be for two nights.

    If you live in the area, I can not recommend Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast enough. It’s extremely affordable and beautiful. The food is delicious and the hospitality exquisite. And even if you’re not in the area, I can’t recommend taking a retreat for you and your spouse enough. We love our children with all our hearts, but sometimes it is best to put one another first.

  • The Biloxi Adventure

    Date: 2015.01.04 | Category: Baby, Family, Food, Friends, Holidays, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Pregnancy, Sarah, Travel | Response: 2

    Adulthood friendships are unique. Chances are if we are friends as adults, then we have common values. With our friendship time limited due to family and work, it takes a special bond and sometimes quite an effort to keep a strong friendship alive. I am so blessed to have several women in my life who I count among my close friends, who keep me sane in times of stress and who blow me away with their generosity.

    So for me, the part of the holidays I was looking forward to the most was the opportunity to spend four days with my very best friend in Biloxi. Susan and I were roommates for three years in college, and when we hang out there are no obligations or expectations. We eat what we feel like, watch our girls play and no one complains when we wind down for bed at 8:00 p.m.

    This trip was especially important, because due to life and work circumstances, we likely won’t see each other again until a couple months after the twins arrive. I’m not going to dwell on that right now because it makes me too sad. So, on with the happy!

    Our trip to Biloxi was perfect (well mostly perfect – the four of us did have mild colds, but we pushed through them).

    Susan’s daughter was forced to share all of her new Christmas toys with my girls, and, for the most part, did pretty well with it. They all wanted to be in costume the whole time, which was fun.

    Our first full day there, Susan and I got to spend the morning together, kid-free. We were mostly running errands, but then we stopped at a local coffee shop and got to just sit and catch up without anyone demanding our attention. It was so cathartic, and I think we both needed it.

    We ate a lot of delicious food and had a great time taking the girls on a “nature walk” and to the park. It was just a little “froggy” out, as Sarah would say.

    The great thing about having a friend who lives on the Gulf Coast is the proximity to beaches and the nice temperature increase. It was about 10 degrees warmer than home, with temps in the low 70’s most of the time. That meant getting our feet wet wasn’t out of the question.

    And building sand castles is always fun.

    Though Norah did get royally pissed off after she made a break for the ocean, face-planted into the cold water and was forced to get out despite the fact she thought she could swim just fine by herself.

    Oh, and Mark was there, too.  We had to tag team chasing down the baby.

    Our last night there, the three grown ups went to The Half Shell, a nice New Orleans style restaurant, and enjoyed ourselves so much. I, of course, couldn’t drink, so I volunteered to be DD. The seafood was outstanding and the key lime pie some of the best I’ve ever had (it’s not good, after all, unless it makes your mouth clench up a little from the tartness).

    And while we had our share of mishaps on the trip with the kids (Susan’s daughter stole my toothbrush and ate Mark’s toothpaste at one point and Norah decided the toilet was an excellent place to play), overall the trip was so nice and so much fun. I’m so thankful we got to do it before it gets too uncomfortable for me to travel.

    And I think it’s safe to say the girls had a great time, too. You know they did when at least one of them does this as soon as we hit the road to drive home.

  • The Patient Traveler

    Date: 2014.10.15 | Category: Family, Health, Life, Me, Sarah, Travel | Response: 3

    My kids surprise me all the time, and while many of those surprises aren’t always pleasant, from time to time one of them will truly amaze me with their behavior.

    Last Thursday Sarah and I began our journey to Pittsburgh, where we stayed with Cassie and her family for a long weekend. Prior to leaving, I was very nervous about how Sarah would do with the airport and the planes. She hates loud noises and I had visions of me frantically trying to calm her while she freaked out over loud plane engines and the thousands of travelers we would encounter along the way.

    When the day arrived, we got to the airport in time and prepared to board… but then we didn’t board. Our plane, it seemed, was having a mechanical issue. In my mind I immediately thought, “What kind of mechanical issue?! Is it safe to take my child on this plane?, etc.” After an hour wait, they boarded us… only to have us sit on the plane for 20 minutes, drink water, then get back off the plane.

    It turns out the mechanical issue was a broken light on the outside of the plane. A part, it turns out, they did not have at our local airport and they would have to wait on the next flight in from Atlanta to obtain. They started projecting new estimated leave times. Our 8am flight was then a 9:30 flight. Not a problem, I thought, I built in long layovers on purpose. That 9:30 time came and went and our flight slowly started pushing further and further back.  (The missing part wasn’t on the first flight – the part finally came in and we had to wait on mechanics – mechanics finally fixed it, but it wasn’t not up to the pilot’s standard – pilot had a two hour long phone conversation – mechanics came back out and finally fixed it for real).

    I was getting so frustrated, as were nearly all the adults on the scheduled flight.

    Sarah, however, was having a great time. She would run up to the window, shout, “Mama! Look at the airplane! Why isn’t it pink?!” and then happily return to me where she would look at a book / play with the iPad / color pictures. She made several friends out of the other passengers with her sweet smiles and silly dances. At one point she started coloring pictures and handing them out to fellow passengers. People were charmed and I was floored by her great behavior.

    Our flight delay ended up being around 6.5 hours total. As we were finally boarding the flight, I had about 10 people come up to me and tell me how impressed they were by how well behaved Sarah was, she even, one lady said, behaved better than her teenagers would have.

    The flight itself proved not to be troublesome either. As we took off, Sarah delightedly squealed, “We’re FLYING MAMA! We’re flying! We’re like Care Bears up in the clouds!” People looked and smiled. Delta can go ahead and send us a thank you package for providing one of the few reasons all the passengers didn’t mutiny.

    They re-booked our second flight out of Atlanta for 10pm at night (ha! Can you even imagine what sort of state the two of us would have been in by then?!) But we finally managed to find a Delta agent in Atlanta who actually knew what he was doing and booked us on a flight that left within the hour. Now, if you know the Atlanta airport, then you know that means we had to haul it to get to the right terminal in time. I ended up at one point hustling while wearing my 30lb backpack, carrying my 35lb child, while she was carrying her much smaller backpack. Workout complete!

    We made that flight, on which Sarah made another friend who let her play games on her iPad, and we finally made it to Pittsburgh around 7:30 that evening, a full five hours late. Sarah passed out on the drive to Cassie’s house, but she deserved a rest after that crazy day.

    The travel home was also insane, but not nearly as bad. Terrible storms in the south caused our plane to have to take a different path, adding about 35 minutes onto our flight time. During the flight, Sarah and I had to take a bathroom break (side note: do you know how hard it is to squeeze into an airplane bathroom with another person?! That’s no joke). A lady came out of the bathroom while we waited and Sarah ran up to her and gave her a huge hug like they had been best friends forever. The lady was delighted. She was flying first class and saved her cookies to give to Sarah later.

    When we finally made it home, Sarah had a meltdown just as her daddy arrived at the airport, but she was such a trooper that we just stuck her in the car, let her have at it, then took her to Wendy’s for chicken nuggets. After all, I still think she handled the traveling better than me!

  • Biloxi

    Date: 2014.07.08 | Category: Family, Friends, Holidays, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Sarah, Travel | Response: 4

    Ever since our beach trip in May 2013, Sarah has been begging us to go back to the beach. She has set up towels in the living room, put on her swimsuit and pretended to swim through the water. She jumps in her kiddie pool in the backyard and tells me she’s a mermaid in the ocean. She spreads newspaper across the living room floor and calls it her beach picnic.

    So, it was with regret that I had to tell her that because Mama had a baby and burned all the vacation time on maternity leave, that a beach trip was not going to happen this year.

    She persisted in playing beach though and continued to ask when we were going to go to the beach.

    ***

    Last year my best friend Susan was assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to her and her sweet little girl as they packed up their bags and moved over six hours away.

    She’s been able to come in town a few times and visit, but the trip for us to go see her was impossible for a while due to new baby and my total lack of vacation time.

    Fortunately though, July 4 fell on a Friday this year and I figured it was high time to make a trip down to Biloxi and see my best friend.

    And while I vaguely knew there was a beach in Biloxi, I was thrilled to drive along it as we made our way to Susan’s house. Sarah cried out in delight when she saw it, yelling “Hey beach! Hi beach!” and then sobbed dramatically when we turned off Beach Boulevard. We had to reassure her that we would be making a trip or two to the beach while we visited.

    ***

    My reunion with Susan was sweet and we made the most of it by drinking wine and catching up while we watched our three girls play with one another. We took turns cooking and picking up food. And, of course, there were a couple of trips to the beach.

    The beautiful thing about Biloxi beaches is, that while they may not have the glowing blue water the Florida beaches have, they are relatively shallow and don’t have strong waves. That means they are perfect for adventurous, beach loving little girls.

    We did lots of other fun things too, like visiting the swimming pool and splash pad, tried out some amazing BBQ and event went to a Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives restaurant (Blow Fly Inn, anyone?)

    All of that was fun, but getting to hang out with my best friend for four days was the best part of all.

    Oh yea, and the beach was pretty nice too.

  • Winning at Balance

    Date: 2014.06.25 | Category: Family, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Travel, Work | Response: 5

    It may have taken me a few months, but I finally feel like I have this working mommy-of-two warrior princess thing down (most of the time).

    And I am happy to say that even with (or maybe despite) the demands of motherhood and family life, I love my job. When I’m at work, I do my best. I love a challenge and am always looking for ways to improve our magazine and keep people reading.

    Sometimes the role of Mother and the role of Editor clash though. This year that happened when I had to miss my annual work conference because I’m still breastfeeding Norah. I really really wanted to go. It’s the one chance I have all year to meet up with my counterparts across North America; a place where we all share the same language and the same problems. And this year it was in Charlotte, NC.

    Could I have figured out a way to make it work? Probably. But it wouldn’t have been something I was completely happy about. My milk supply is slowly dwindling as Norah races towards that one year mark and I haven’t been able to produce enough extra to store for the length of time I would be gone.  I knew that going to that conference would be the death nail in breastfeeding – something I’m not quite ready to give up yet. Even the thought of my baby outgrowing nursing in a few months makes me a little weepy.

    So, I made the decision, a little heavy heartedly, to skip the conference this year and prepare for next year instead.

    But, that’s not the end of this story.

    You see, that conference is where they announce the awards for the various publications in my field. Friday night a New Orleans number appeared on my phone. When I answered it was my counterpart  there calling to tell me that we had won a second place award for “Best Family Life Column.”

    Last year was our first time to win an award since I’ve been Editor. And last year we took third place in the same category. It was a jump up in rank and I was so very proud of our columnist, Katie, for that great achievement. Thrilled, I immediately sent Katie a message, then went to sleep and prepared for a busy day of work the next morning.

    When I got home from the morning’s work, I checked the award website to see who had come in first place in the family life category and I discovered something even more exciting – we had also won Second Place in Overall General Excellence in our magazine category. My jaw dropped. That’s a huge award y’all and the biggest recognition the magazine has received since I took its helm a little over six years ago.

    Alone at home, I sat there stunned… I may have cried a little. My husband had the kids at their grandparents and wouldn’t answer the phone, so I proceeded to call and message everyone I know who works with me on the magazine. While I may manage it all, it’s truly a combined effort of some amazing writing talents. What an awesome moment!

    The response at work on Monday was great, too. Lots of congratulations from my coworkers, supervisor and even a warm and excited personal congratulations from the very top. It was a good week.

    I should probably mention that out of the three issues I submitted for the General Excellence Award, two of them were put together while I was at home with a newborn – taking that whole family / work balance thing to a new level.

    I love my job and I love what I do. I am fortunate to work in a place that is not shy about sharing joy and happiness when things are done well, but sometimes things like this give me a great deal of validation, validation to keep me motivated and keep me pushing towards creating something even better, even stronger. And it’s moments like this that make me stop and realize that even when I feel like I’m having trouble keeping the work /family balance, I am doing it and somehow doing it right.

  • The End of the Year

    Date: 2013.12.31 | Category: Baby, Family, Friends, Halloween, Health, Holidays, Home, Kitties, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Pregnancy, Sam Cat, Sarah, Travel | Response: 1

    As I was looking back through photos from this past year, I found myself in awe over just how big my Sarah girl has grown. She looked like such a little baby way back in January, but now she is a big, talking, silly little girl. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about 2013, but we, mostly, had a really fantastic year.

    I typed up a pretty lengthy summary, but feel free to skip all that and just watch the video. :)

    2013 from Jessica Rinaudo on Vimeo.

    In January we found out we were expecting another baby, which changed our whole world. Sarah would no longer be an only child, and my yearlong obsession with getting pregnant again came to a close. We let our families know we were expecting by allowing Sarah to walk into their homes proudly wearing a “Big Sister” shirt.

    In February we took Sarah to her first Mardi Gras parade – the animal parade downtown. We missed the others we had planned to take her to thanks to illness. She also got sick on Valentine’s Day  for good measure. We also got to see our little bean on the ultrasound for the first time that month too!

    In March I quickly discovered that pregnancies show much faster the second time around. We spent a lot of time playing outside and going to friends’ birthday parties. We spent Good Friday at the pediatrician’s office after Sarah landed herself with croup. This meant we couldn’t go to church for Easter, but Nana and grandaddy were willing to let her come around them, so we visited there and hunted down a few Easter eggs.

    In April Sarah turned two and we celebrated with a Alice and Wonderland themed “Mad Tea Party” in our backyard. Friends and family came and jumped in the bounce house and ate homemade cupcakes. A few days later my nephew Jacob turned two and we celebrated at his construction themed party. Sarah also got to meet her “Italian granny,” Sr. Martinette Rivers, while she was home for a month.

    May was super exciting! Not only did we learn that we would be having another little girl, but we took Sarah on a big vacation that included her first trip to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We hit up the aquarium and ate lots of great food before heading to the beach in Florida. We stayed there with Susan and her family and had a great time in the sand and water. Sarah still talks about the beach all the time. We will have to plan another trip in 2014!

    In June my friend Tammy and her daughter Kiri came down for a visit from Indianapolis. I also got a new, bigger, family- sized vehicle that month to replace my tiny, but wonderful, Honda Fit. I also went to my conference in Denver in June with my friend Becki. In addition to the conference (where we won a big award for our magazine!), we ate at a lot of Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurants, went to the top of a mountain and checked out some campy museums. That was the longest I’d ever been away from Sarah!

    In July our cat Sam ran away and never came back. We held out hope for a long time without any good news. We also went to Austin in July to visit our friends Dana and Scott. We spent a lot of time in the swimming pool with the kids, and I loved the comfort the pool gave my growing pregnant body. Mys sisters also threw me a “Baby Sprinkle” in July, where close friends and family came and brought lots of goodies for baby #2, including some much needed diapers!

    In August I started having excruciating pain in my right side that lead to several rush trips to the OB’s office and lots of tests. A GI doc finally figured out that I had a bulging ligament that was pressing on a nerve. When the baby would move a lot, she would hit that spot and it would get inflamed. It was horrible! We also went to Baton Rouge in August to see my Aunt Amy get married and I had a great time with my whole family and spent more time in the pool!

    In September my coworkers threw me a baby shower and we started preparing ourselves for Norah’s scheduled c-section on September 23. Due to some horrible problems with Sarah knotting up her hair, we took Sarah to get her first haircut. On September 11 I was rear-ended and, for the sake of my 9 month pregnant baby, was taken by ambulance to a hospital where I stayed overnight to make sure we were both ok. I also had a false labor run on my sister’s birthday, and then went into labor for real on September 20, three days before my scheduled section. We welcomed Norah into the world at 12:38 p.m. and were immediately in love with our beautiful little girl.

    I started October off by turning 29! Cassie came to visit from Pittsburgh and helped us clean and paint our house while she was in town. October is also  when we began the long, hard road of dealing with colic. Norah kept us up every single night screaming hour after hour after hour. It quickly unfolded into months of sleep deprived torture. Mark and I learned the true meaning of being a team and worked out a way to take shifts with her all night long. It was terrible. We also took both girls trick-or-treating in October. Sarah went as Olivia the pig and Norah as Minnie Mouse.

    November gave us no relief from the colic, but we learned that Norah loved the Moby wrap and we put her in that often. Sarah also learned to start sleeping through the long nights of screaming. We also took Norah to meet her great grandparents who live an hour away. We celebrated Thanksgiving at my parents house.

    In December we started counting down until Norah turned 12 weeks – the magical age when the doctor and several friends said colic usually stops. At 12 weeks and 4 days old, Norah slept through the night for the first time because she found her thumb. We rejoiced! We took the girls to meet Santa (Sarah hated him, Norah liked his beard). We decorated for Christmas and then celebrated it with our families. It’s also the month Norah got her first honest to goodness cold – the same cold the whole family managed to share just in time for the holidays.

    A new baby, a couple of big trips, a new car and a lot of love. You were good to us 2013!

  • Annual Austin Trek

    Date: 2013.08.17 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Life, Mark, Me, OMG YAY!, Sarah, Travel | Response: 4

    We have had such an incredibly busy (and blessed) summer. I’m so glad we’ve gotten to share so many experiences with Sarah and take the time to enjoy being a family of three just a little bit longer.

    One of our summer highlights was making our annual trek to Austin to visit our friends Scott and Dana and their little boy. We had such a great time hanging out, eating good food and spending a lot of time poolside.

    Thanks to the handy dandy wagon, walking to the neighborhood pool each day was a breeze.

    Sarah is still a bit timid in the water, but little Sam was a natural and showed no fear! Dana and I just enjoyed the sunshine.

    And in the mornings, because Sarah is always the first one up, we took a walk down to the neighborhood playground so Sarah could run and scream and slide down huge slides without waking up the entire house.

    And enjoy playing outside before the 95+ temps kicked in.

    And when you’re in Austin, you have to eat great food. This time we picked up from Rudy’s one night, went to Chuy’s the next night (where Sarah was so worn out from swimming that she passed out while we waited, which never happens).

    And then, of course, we had to stop and get our traditional Amy’s Ice Cream. (Too bad Sarah was way too cool for dad in this photo).

    And just to prove that we do, in fact, hang out with adults while we’re there, here’s a photo of Dana and me extremely happy because the boys watched the kids while we went and got our nails done.

    And while we were getting our nails done, the tech informed me that my baby was very lucky because she will be a girl born in the Year of the Snake and she’s a “full snake,” meaning she was conceived and born in the same year. I’m not sure about her being snaky, but they assured me this was a good thing.

    I love going to Austin and am so glad we got to spend this trip eating, relaxing, visiting and spending time poolside!

  • Denver or Bust!

    Date: 2013.06.25 | Category: Food, Friends, Me, Sarah, Travel, Work | Response: 10

    I spent most of last week in Colorado at a conference for work.

    I had a great time while I was there, but I’m still trying to recover from the overwhelming exhaustion of the constant work, travel, late nights and altitude changes. And I haven’t even had a change to zombie out since I returned because I have so much more work waiting on me. But, as my husband always says, best to make hay while the sun is shining.

    So let me tell you a little bit about my trip (in bullet points because I’m tired).

    • They have direct flights from Denver from our airport now!
    • When we flew into Denver there were tornadoes everywhere, which meant we had to stay in the air and fly around for a bit until it was safe to land. The view from above was sort of creepy. But at least I didn’t end up in an airport tornado shelter like many of my colleagues!
    • My friend Becki traveled and roomed with me.

    • Her boyfriend’s family is from Denver and he was there too with a vehicle, which meant we had an extremely kind and dedicated chauffeur the entire time.
    • I think our hotel room bathroom had a poltergeist. We had to call maintenance FOUR times to repair our tub drain and toilet. At least we scored some breakfast room service as a consequence.
    • The conference was mostly great. I feel so much more well versed in the ins and outs of social media in the workplace.
    • I got to hear a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist speak on “finding the story” and it was amazing.
    • Lots of free swag!
    • We won a national award for our family life column! I am so proud of Katie for all her hard work each month.
    • My friend and counterpart in New Orleans, Peter, won the highest journalistic award there. So proud of him and our state!
    • There was an awful cheer camp going on outside my hotel window. Soooo many teeny boppers!
    • In my free time, Becki and I sampled two Diner, Drive in and Dive locations: Bagel Deli (a Jewish delicatessen) and Steuben’s (a hipster diner). Both were amazing. Katie Ett should be especially thrilled that I finally ate a lobster roll.
    • Oh we and also went to Downtown Denver. It’s really beautiful down there and very pedestrian friendly!
    • I went to the top of Pike’s Peak (elevation 14,110) on a cog train. There was snow at the top and I only got a little dizzy!

    • I saw some big horn sheep and a marmot on the way.
    • I made the entire train wait on me while I made a painful and panicked run to the porta potty halfway down the mountain. At least I could blame pregnancy!
    • I went to Garden of the Gods and was blown away by the giant red rock formations.
    • I also went to a great kitschy Old Wild West museum where I learned all about the gold rush.
    • Foods I tried for the first time included: lobster roll, brussle sprouts, boboa tea, matzo ball soup, knish, kishke and latke.
    • We went to a crazy candy store that sold things like ranch dressing and buffalo wing sauce soda, as well as bacon frosting. I played it safe and bought a key lime pie soda.
    • That was the longest I’ve ever been away from my baby and I only sort of cried once!
    • I came home to this beautiful face at the airport.
  • Leg 3: The Beach!

    Date: 2013.06.10 | Category: Family, Friends, Life, Mark, Me, Sarah, Travel | Response: 6

    Our family loves the beach. We drove from New Orleans to Ft. Walton Beach, FL where we met up with my best friend Susan, her 10-month-old daughter Livvy, and her parents. We shared a three bedroom beach front condo, ate a spectacular amount of food and enjoyed being outside in the gorgeous weather. Both babies loved the sand and the ocean water. The first thing Sarah would say when she woke up in the morning was “Water!” and then immediately ran for the balcony to stare at the ocean. Not long after she’d yell “Swimsuit!” and grab her floaty. It’s safe to say that girl loves the beach.

    There’s not much else to say about the trip except that it was the relaxing time away we all needed and we’re already planning our trip back for next year, baby and all.

    Enjoy some photos!

    Her dad taught her that by adding a little water, those castles will stay up… at least until she stomps them down.

    Daddy kisses.

    Play time for kiddos.

    Our first evening out onto the beach.

    Dinner at AJ’s.

    Walking along the wharf, watching the deep sea fishers come in with their big catches.

    We met a totally legit pirate.

    Beach side snoozes in mom’s lap are the best.

    Daddy hugs are pretty great too.

    Strike a pose.

    Me and my bestie with our girls.

    I could really post a thousand more of these photos, but I’ll spare you and myself. I’m already ready to go back now.

  • Leg 2: New Orleans

    Date: 2013.06.01 | Category: Family, Food, Life, Mark, Sarah, Travel | Response: 9

    We headed to New Orleans next in order to meet with my fellow editors and have a great farewell luncheon for one of my counterparts who has been in the biz a long time. We met at a great local place called Mandina’s, where we rejoiced in Louisiana and Italian food while sharing stories from our respective locations.

    And can I just say how proud I am that Sarah lasted the whole four hours of that luncheon happily coloring away, eating crackers and spaghetti? She wins the prize that day.

    We stayed over in New Orleans an extra day and got to see the city from the “family” perspective. Aka, we were back in our hotel room at the very early hour of 8 p.m., when nearly everyone else was just beginning to get ready for the evening. But hey, our hotel room had an awesome view.

    We managed to completely avoid Bourbon Street, but we did take Sarah on her first ride on the St. Charles Streetcar in order to go get some good eats.

    We also took her to Jackson Square where she thought that throwing pennies in the fountain was the best (though she nearly went in after them too).

    We also took my favorite photo of the trip there: Sarah having a meltdown in front of St. Louis Cathedral.

    We went to Cafe du Monde where, after fighting our way through nearly 200 high school seniors, the sweet women who worked there spotted us and put us at a table. Sarah was pleased with her first sampling of beignets!

    We also went to the Aquarium of the Americas, which Sarah was absolutely fascinated by! Of course we ran into a giant group of field trip kids that kept nearly knocking Sarah over. But I was totally an adult about it and shoved those sixth graders right back.

    She was fascinated by the fish and terrified of the sting rays. She LOVED the otters and the frogs as well.

    At the end of our trip through, I let her pick out one thing from the gift shop and she opted for the “otter wit a star.”

    Of course you can’t talk about New Orleans without talking about all the amazing things we ate. Since alcohol was sadly off the table for me anyway, I comforted myself with Louisiana cooking and saw it as appropriate calorie substitute.

    In addition to Mandina’s and Cafe du Monde, we ate at several local recommended places, including:
    ZEA on St. Charles Street (Rotisserie with home brew anyone?)
    Camillia’s in the French Quarter, a fantastic, affordable diner complete with hilarious wait staff. (Get the pecan pie that the cook on the griddle a la mode. Trust me.)
    Mother’s on Poydras Street (There’s a line out the door at 11, but Mark saw it on Food Network and wanted to try the Ferdi, so we pressed on. It was worth it! The etoufee was amazing and Sarah scarfed her red beans and rice and ham).


    Slim Goodies (one of my personal favorite diners on Magazine Street with outstanding pancakes).

    Plus, a couple there handed Sarah her very own Mardi Gras beads, which was the perfect ending to her first trip to New Orleans.