A Weekend Getaway with My Favorite Ladies

I’m writing this after finishing up from an amazing girls weekend with my best friends from high school. Me, Jane, Alisa and Melgar have been friends for 20 years and each year we try to do a girls weekend / getaway somewhere.

SO looking forward to seeing these ladies this weekend!!! #tbt

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This year, we spent the weekend in California, visiting Melgar who lives in San Jose. We did some day trips and spent time catching up at her new house.

The weekend included:

Some hiking in Big Basin. Alisa was our fearless leader (we called her the trail maven).

An overnight in Monterey, which included some day trips and scenic driving around Bixby Bridge, 17 Mile Drive and visiting Carmel.

Relaxing by Melgar’s pool. Her new house is gorgeous AND she has a great walking/running path right next to it, along with a pool!

Going for a little run. Melgar is pregnant and still running!

Some amazing food. Including my first cragel – croissant + bagel – which is waaay better than a cronut in my opinion. And Melgar’s husband Jon cooked us an amazing meal of crispy prosciutto and risotto.

And some baking in Melgar’s gorgeous kitchen!

It wouldn’t be a trip with my favorite ladies without some sort of adventure. We ended up semi-getting lost along our drive (that’s what you get when I’m the co-pilot … thank goodness Jane woke up from her nap and showed us the map!).

But it didn’t matter, because we were all together. Singing the Spice Girls and acting like we were in junior high all over again.

These are the friends that I can just truly be myself with. Share my darkest secrets with. Say what’s on my mind. We can laugh together. Cry together. And we did both this weekend. While we only get together like this once a year, we always pick up right where we left off. I know I am so lucky to have friends like these!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been hiking in the Redwoods?
  • What songs bring you back to high school/middle school?

I’m linking up with the weekly wraps!

Family Travel Tips: The Biltmore with a Baby

B and I love traveling. We’ve been around the globe together, from Cambodia to Mexico City, Burlington to Los Angeles.

I’m not gonna lie, traveling has slowed down a bit since FW was born eight months ago. Since then, the only places we’ve gone outside of Cleveland have been New York to see my family and Columbus for a weekend getaway. But we finally got in a little family vacation, with a trip to Asheville and Atlanta.

One of the highlights of Asheville was the trip to the Biltmore. If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend it. AND if you’re traveling with a baby – it’s definitely doable! Here are some tips to make it work:

5 Tips to Experiencing The Biltmore with a Baby

1. Go early. We bought tickets for 9 a.m. and got to the house around that time. It was great- not only was it nearly empty (look at all my photos – where are all the people?!) but it was prime time for FW. He is a morning person and naps well in the a.m. so going there when he was in a good mood – and then sleepy – was perfect! He was great for the self-guided house tour and even napped a little bit.

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Selfie when got there. See – nobody on the lawn or anywhere!

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Snoozing in the Halloween room at the Biltmore

2. Buy tickets in advance.

Don’t waste time going to the ticket office the day-of your visit. You’ll either waste time in line or not be able to get in and see the house when you want (fact- this happened to B and I a few years ago when we first went to Asheville around Christmastime. We went to get tickets the day of and they were sold out!). Instead, buy tickets in advance. I’ve been told that some AAA offices sell discount tickets (not the ones in Cleveland, sadly), but if you buy your tickets more than week in advance, the Biltmore often offers a discount. And if you’re going with a baby, great news – they’re free!

3. Travel light.

My definition of “traveling light” has changed significantly since FW was born. Babies need so much stuff! But for the Biltmore, since I knew we’d be walking around a lot and have a baby to carry, I wanted to bring as little stuff as possible. And we did! In my Baggu (which has become my all-purpose FW bag) I had our Skip Hop diaper changing system with some diapers and wipes, 2 small toys, a bottle, my wallet, my Baby Bjorn and our tickets. That was it. And guess what – I didn’t even use any of the toys OR the bottle during the trip!

4. Go stroller-less if possible.

Yes, the Biltmore lets you bring in strollers (yay for them!) but there are TONS of stairs in the house. Knowing this, we opted to go stroller-less and were very happy. B wore FW in our backpack carrier (I also had my Baby Bjorn in case FW didn’t like the backpack – it was our first time using it for a long time period) and it worked out perfectly. We were able to go up all the stairs and not miss any of the exhibits. We were even able to go for a walk around the grounds, including visiting the ponds and gardens, without having to worry about the terrain, more stairs, etc. Which brings me to the last tip …

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5. Explore more than just the house.

The Biltmore is more than just the beautiful historic home. It has several gardens, a village (with a winery!), walking trails, ponds, etc. If your baby is being good, explore as much of it as possible! And if you’re going early (see tip #1), you’ll find you have much of the grounds to yourself.

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Taking in the view

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Visiting the indoor orchid exhibit

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Beautiful grounds

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FW enjoying his walk to Bass Pond

I highly recommend you visit the Biltmore the next time you’re in Asheville. It’s a great place to check out – with or without a baby!

A Week in Atlanta

B, FW and I just got back from our first extended vacation as a family of 3! It’s still funny to say that … anyway,  we spent a few days in Atlanta taking in some sights, doing all the touristy things and eating as much southern food as possible.
20170208_180932I’ll first say,  don’t be fooled by all the smiling photos.  Traveling with a 7 month old is no easy feat.  They are not interested in museums,  breweries or nice restaurants.  They’re cranky of they don’t nap and go to bed early (or in our case remind you they want to go to bed early when you keep them out too late).  That being said, it was a great first family vacation.

Some of the highlights-
Checking out the Olympic Park. FW liked the fountains especially. 20170206_163328

Going for long walks and taking photos along the way.20170208_105739

While I didn’t run daily like I do at home, I did get in 2 runs, including one outside one day. It was 60 degrees and humid- so different from Cleveland in February!20170208_110729

Getting in some local beer tasting.20170208_171634

Going to the World of Coca-Cola. 20170208_130122 20170208_140740

The last room features a taste of 100+ flavors of Coke products from around the world! 20170208_142522

Visiting the Martin Luther King Jr home and memorial. 20170207_114116

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Seeing what the hype was about at The Varsity. We ate our weight in hot dogs, peach pie, chicken sandwiches and onion rings. 20170209_131738

A little hotel gym run.20170209_085057

The Civil Rights museum. Also checking out the human rights exhibition.20170209_123331

I love going to local markets wherever we go. Atlanta’s Municipal Market was a small market but I got some tasty tea, pralines and popcorn!20170209_164028

Though we weren’t out after dark too much (see previous statement about baby who likes to be in bed by 7), we did get in a few nighttime walks.img_20170208_185659_051

All in all it was a great trip. It had a little of everything I like in a vacation – some relaxing, good food, walking around, warm weather and of course some runs!

I’m linking up with ErinKatie and the weekly wraps.

Mini Vacation with the Baby

We’re back from a weekend away and the baby’s first hotel stay! B and I got in a quick weekend away with FW in Columbus and enjoyed some good food, drinks and even family time.

The weekend started off with pizza (yup,  every Friday) from Pies and Pints.  We didn’t get in until late, so we ended up not going out. Instead,  I picked up the pizza and grabbed a drink at the bar while B put FW to bed.  #winningmom

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Saturday we had a while day of exploring to do! We started with breakfast and a walk in the Short North.

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And then we spent the day on our feet walking – we walked to the Columbus Topiary Garden, downtown and German Village.

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In front of the statehouse where his great grandfather worked

We also had to stop by North Market.

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And then we were back again to grab drinks at the Short North.

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Saturday night,  we enjoyed dinner at a cute (and baby friendly!) restaurant- Hubbard.

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I had amazing food.  We started off with fried Brussels sprouts and then I enjoyed a cauliflower sandwich with arugula quinoa salad. Jeni’s ice cream not pictured.

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Sunday morning, we got up early and went for a stroller run around the city. We made it to a trail with a nice view of downtown.

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Then, it was time for brunch! We ended our trip with brunch at B’s cousins’ house and FW got to meet his great aunt and cousins.

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B, FW and cousin Pete – the Wolfpack! (I swear FW is howling at the moon, not crying)

And of course, we ended Sunday with dinner with B’s parents. We celebrated B and two of his brothers’ birthdays with B’s favorite – steak, mashed potatoes and chocolate chocolate cake!

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Questions:

  • What is your favorite birthday cake? Ice cream cake!! Love me some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake- Heath bar (I know it’s not called that anymore) or Peanut Butter fudge.
  • Have you ever been to Columbus, Ohio?

And because it’s Monday, I’m linking up with ErinKatie and the weekly wraps.

Three Weekends In One

What a weekend.  It was fun, tiring and a whirlwind of activity.  I need a weekend to recover I think!

If I had to sum up my weekend, I’d say it was like 3 weekends in one. I feel like I had enough going on to fill three weekends – and it was great!

The weekend started Friday night, with a dinner date and comedy show. B and had tickets to a 9:30 show (late for 8 month pregnant me) to see one of our favorite comica, Sebastian Maniscalco. We started off with a late dinner at Cowell & Hubbard, splitting cheese and a few appetizers.

our Cowell & Hubbard assortment

our Cowell & Hubbard assortment

And then the show. We’ve seen Sebastian several times throughout the years at Hilarities, but he has gotten bigger now (he was even on Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee) and even though he was playing at a different, bigger venue, we almost didn’t get tickets in time!

Saturday morning started early with a 5 am alarm- B and I were headed to the airport to fly to Boston for the day to celebrate our anniversary! It was a great, but quick trip and we were able to get in a lot of walking (nearly 30,000 steps) and see many of our old favorite places (we met in Boston in college). From Beacon Hill to the Boston Common to the Public Gardens to Newbury Street to Faneuil Hall to Fenway to the Isabella Gardner Museum, I’d say we hit nearly everything.

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We even got in a celebrity sighting- we were told we couldn’t post photos on social media but I did share info to my Snapchat story (@koskim). Here’s a hint- he was promoting Walhburgers and his name rhymes with Bark 🙂

We ended the day with a great Italian meal in the North End, complete with cannoli, tiramisu and coffee of course.

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Sunday started early again- we had to fly back to Cleveland first thing, as I was emceeing a board event Sunday at lunch time. I’m the Vice President of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Cleveland, and Sunday was our annual scholarship banquet. I had the pleasure of speaking and announcing the names of all the student award recipients. Brought me back to my days of high school awards events!

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We finally made it home Sunday evening and I am so grateful for B who could tell I was pooped and volunteered to make dinner. I was so worn out that even after 3 nights out, he could have convinced me to order pizza….shh don’t tell him I said that!

And that was my weekend. Not relaxing in the least, but fun.

Some questions for you:

  1. Do you tend to have good or bad flight karma?
  2. Do you have a favorite comedian?
  3. Have you ever been to Boston?

I’m linking up today with ErinKatie and the weekly wraps.

Unas Días en la Ciudad de México – A few days in Mexico City (Parte Dos)

This is part two from my first post about our recent Mexico City vacation. I know I suggested that this would be done Tuesday, but between getting home late from the airport and starting to catch up on work – it didn’t happen! AND as you know, there was just too much info to include in one blog post! Part one: here—aquí.

Other trip highlights:

Walking everywhere (and a run!)

B and I stayed in La Zona la Condesa, a really cute neighborhood just a few miles from the main downtown and historic areas. Our neighborhood had a lot of coffee shops, mezcalerias and restaurants for us to choose from. AND plenty of large parques and green spaces where people were walking, running and just relaxing with their families and dogs. B and I walked everywhere the first few days before we figured out how easy their subway system is and the first full day alone I got 34,000+ steps (that’s without a run). Also, there are rental bikes everywhere (like in most cities) where you can rent a bike from one destination and drop it off at another for really cheap. I don’t ride a bike, but they have bike lanes and we saw plenty of people riding along the city streets.

love the parks!

love the parks!

walking around downtown

walking around downtown

walking around the old part of town

walking around the old part of town

beautiful architecture

beautiful architecture

love the way these houses look

love the way these houses look

B and I finally got out for a run through our neighborhood and the park areas on my birthday. We had been in town for nearly a week but the high altitude was still killing me – I was burnt after nearly 3.5 miles! Still, I enjoyed it – running in short sleeves and sunshine in January isn’t something I get to do often 🙂

during our run - downtown in the distance

during our run – downtown in the distance

Lucha Libre

I’m not going to lie – I was a little skeptical at first about going to see the luchadores. I’ve never been a boxing or wrestling or fighting fan – but when in Rome Mexico … the event was so much fun! People (especially kids) get all dressed up in the máscaras de luchadores (masks of their favorite fighters) and watch fight after fight after fight in a crowded arena. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in each fight, but I do know that it was quite the experience I won’t soon forget. (if you’re going to Mexico, you can buy tickets when you get there pretty easily. Or, if you want to buy them in advance, ticketmaster sells international tickets and you can buy them from the U.S.)

before the fight, vendors sell masks, snacks, shirts, etc.

before the fight, vendors sell masks, snacks, shirts, etc.

some of one of the fights

some of one of the fights

B (in his mask) and me at the fights

B (in his mask) and me at the fights

The old pyramids of Teotihuacan

This was one of the favorite things we did on our entire trip. B had arranged for a private tour of Teotihuacan, an old city with pyramids from before the Mayans and Aztecs arrived in Mexico.

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The ruins are amazing. During the tour, we were able to see the old huge pyramids, some old paintings and other areas of the old city. We even climbed the Moon and Sun Pyramids, which was a lot of fun. I was a little nervous about being out of breath climbing all the stairs in such high altitude, but we made it and in not that bad shape. I guess the running helps 🙂 (if you’re going to Mexico – we used this tour service: ToursByLocals.com).

on the steps

on the steps

in front of the sun pyramid - we climbed to the top!

in front of the sun pyramid – we climbed to the top!

All in all it was an amazing trip. Mexico City is a great tourist destination and I would definitely recommend you add it to your travel bucket list. Here’s why:

  • B and I felt pretty safe the entire time (it’s like any major city – I’m sure there are worse parts, but we stuck to areas we felt safe in), and it was easy to get around in – we walked a ton and even took the Metro (they also have Uber if you’re taxi or train-averse). Just be smart and aware.
  • Once we were there, things were very affordable (even our nicest dinner out for my birthday at a nice restaurant was more affordable than a nice dinner out in Cleveland … and museum admission was all under $10).
  • It was not a huge tourist (at least tourists outside Mexico) destination. Which means that things weren’t tooooo crowded (Teotihuacan during the week was nearly empty – you can see from our photos we had no lines!) and you didn’t feel like you were an outsider invading their space (as you often feel in touristy areas); instead, you felt like you were sharing it. It was great to practice our Spanish, see the sites and go somewhere that wasn’t too touristy but still had a ton to do.
  • All of the above! The food, the museums, the churches, the history – unless you’re only looking for a place with tropical beaches (sorry, Mexico City is too far inland), Mexico City really does have it all.

Some questions for you:

  • Have you been to Mexico? Where?
  • What type of things do you look for when planning a vacation?
  • What’s next on your travel bucket list? Have I convinced you to add Mexico City?

Unas Días en la Ciudad de México (A few days in Mexico City)

I know I’ve been somewhat incommunicado the past few days, but if you follow me on Instagram (@koskim), you probably noticed that B and I are on a fabulous vacation to Mexico City.  It had been a year since we’d been abroad (see: trip to Asia posts), and the vacation was definitely needed. It was (semi) warm (60-70 degrees as opposed to the Cleveland winter), and we got to enjoy some great food, culture, lots of walking and practicing our Spanish.

Have you ever been to Mexico City? It was our first time, and there was SO much to do. I’d definitely recommend the city if you’re looking for a fun getaway. I didn’t know what to expect, but overall the city had much MORE than I expected – more walking-friendly and safe areas, more clean streets, more parks, more fun restaurants and really just had more to offer.

Some highlights from our trip – I’ve put this in two blog posts because there’s just too much to include in one. Pardon the Spanglish – Here’s Parte Uno:

All of the food

I’ll do a whole What I Ate Wednesday post on the food from our trip, but overall everything was tan rico. Neither B nor I got sick from the food (yay! Let’s just say that B got sick twice in Asia so I was hoping for the best but prepared for the not-so-good) and we enjoyed some great tacos al pastor and other tacos, seafood, guacamole (even with grasshoppers!), roasted cactus, tons of meat and cheese and even some fruit.

enchiladas

enchiladas

tacos al pastor - featuring this amazing meat

tacos al pastor – featuring this amazing meat on a stick

said tacos al pastor

said al pastor meat

flan imposible

flan imposible

torta! (great sandwiches)

torta! (great sandwiches)

Cooking class

Speaking of food, B surprised me with a Mexican cooking class for my birthday. It was increíble! We started out with a local market tour (and of course we got some stuff to take home with us, along with some fresh fruit, ice cream, cheese and coffee to enjoy during the tour), and ended up with a multi-course cooking experience at the instructors homes. If you’re ever in Mexico City and have a day to spare, I highly recommend the course. The instructors, Jorge and Beto, were perfecto – friendly, knowledgeable and welcoming us in their home. They shared with us some family recipes as well as some tips on what to do during the rest of our time in their city.

beautiful setup for course

beautiful setup for course

learning how to roll our tamales

learning how to roll our tamales

B and me at the table

B and me at the table

And of course – la comida. Also great. We made chalupas, guacamole (with roasted grasshoppers), tamales, salsas, tacos al pastor de pescado (fish tacos al pastor style) and even enjoyed some wine and a local mescal tasting. (if you’re going to Mexico, I highly recommend you book this class – Casa Jacaranda)

Museums, art and churches

Mexico City and the surrounding areas are known for their great culture – both history and art scene. We didn’t have enough time to take it all in sadly, but we did enjoy our visits to the Anthropology Museum, Frida Kahlo home and museum, National Palace and a few other museums and cathedrals in the old part of downtown and beyond.

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Diego Rivera mural

loved the Frida Kahlo museum.

loved the Frida Kahlo museum.

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So many old churches!

So many old churches!

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Stay tuned for Parte Dos (hopefully tomorrow) AND have a great week! I’m linking up with Erin for my weekend snapshot post, Katie for MIMM and as usual, the weekly wraps.