A Weekend Away With Friends: Hocking Hills

B and I just got back from a weekend away with the kids. It was our first trip since our summer getaway to Toronto and Ithaca, and it was our first trip ever with some other couples with kids. And it was a success! We all got (some) sleep, had good food and had fun on some hiking trails. We spent the weekend away in Hocking Hills, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from our house (longer if you’re traveling with 2 kids and one gets carsick about halfway through …).We got into town around 8 ish or so on Friday night. We had dinner with the kids and just hung out for a while talking after the kids went to bed late. We were beat – the car ride down had not been easy. LM cried for a good portion of the trip, FW needed to get out to go to the bathroom when we were in the middle of nowhere, and then LM got carsick twice. But we did have this pie waiting for us when we got there (made by my friend Anson).Saturday, we started off with breakfast. I had made a French toast casserole that we just had to heat up before the day began. Our activities began with a drive to Ash Cave and a hike to the cave. We hiked the Gorge and Rim Trail. Those trails were only about 1/2 mile or so, so we ended up walking a bit on the Grandma Gatewood Trail before turning around and making it back to our car for a picnic lunch.After lunch, we opted for another trail – this time to Old Man’s Cave! We hiked the lower falls and Gorge Trail, both of which were fun and not too hard to do with the kids – we had the little ones in backpacks and preschoolers with us at all times (basically FW was holding my hand as we walked up the tons and tons of stairs and anytime we were along the cliffs).Then, back to the cabin for nap time. We finished the afternoon with a cookout, complete with s’mores and the s’mores cookie bars I had brought.

These were pretty good 🙂

Sunday morning we had to pack it up and leave. But not before one last hike! This time we walked a little around the property. It was 80s and the kids were getting tired so it wasn’t too long of a walk – just enough to get out some energy before the car ride home.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Being around 5 children at a time could be a little overwhelming, but I would definitely do it again!

Questions for you:

  • Have you been to Hocking Hills?
  • Have you done a trip with other couples and their families?

A Few Days in Ithaca

And just like that, the vacation that I have been looking forward to for several months is over. Earlier in the year, we had planned a short getaway with my parents and brother. We had decided to check out the Finger Lakes, finding an AirBNB in Ithaca that would host us for the few days. My brother flew in from Berlin, my parents drove in from Albany and we all stayed together.


The trip was great. It was so wonderful to be able to spend time with my family, and LM and FW loved all the “Nonna, Grandpa, Sweetie and Uncle Greg” time. We also had a good time checking out the city and some nearby sites. Some of the highlights included:

Grabbing dinner and ice cream around Ithaca Commons.

Hiking to and splashing around Taughannock Falls.

Lunching and wine tasting at Thirsty Owl Winery.

Exploring the area – I went running along their waterfront path one day and my family and I took walks as well.

It’s always hard to finish vacation, but this one is especially hard because of the great family time we had.  I don’t know when my parents, brother and I will be all together again!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you been to Ithaca?
  • Do you vacation with your family?

A Few Days in Toronto (With Kids)

Happy Canada Day (a day late)! B, FW, LM and I are spending the week off on a vacation and starting the week off with the four of us in Toronto. Shortly after LM was born, we got the kids passports, but haven’t used them. So, we decided to take a drive across the border and spend a few days in Canada.

If you’re planning a trip to Toronto anytime soon and have kids, here are a few things you may be interested in doing. Even if you don’t have kids, these are some fun things to do.

First (not in Toronto), spend some time in Niagara Falls

On our way up north, we stopped in Niagara Falls for lunch and a boat ride to see the Falls. We met up with some friends who live in Canada and joined them on the Hornblower.


I really enjoyed the boat ride! It was so amazing to see the falls up close and it was the perfect length of a ride for kids (20 minutes or so). Pro tip: Buy your tickets in advance online, and then you won’t have to wait in a long line to purchase tickets. We only had a 10 minute wait or so to take the funicula (which was also fun) down to the boat to the falls. And we definitely got wet!

See a Blue Jays Game

The Blue Jays were in town when we were and we were able to catch a game on Canada Day. This meant there was some pre-game entertainment (including a giant Canadian flag being unrolled onto the field, as well as some people rapelling a flag onto the field) and a great giveaway (a “relaxed denim Maple Leaf hat”). We got to the game early to catch all of these and stayed for all 9 innings to catch a win. Bonus – they also have poutine at the concession stands!

Toronto Blue Jays game Canada Day flag

Toronto Blue Jays game Canada Day flag

See that guy on the roof? He is about to rappel down

Grab gelato and sit by the waterfront

We were lucky enough to have some gorgeous weather the whole time we were there — sunny, upper 70s — and on two evenings we decided to get gelato and walk along the water. One night there was even a live band playing so we got in some music (and FW got some dancing).

Go for a run or walk along the water

You know me – I need to get in at least one run on vacation. So one morning while B was giving LM and FW a bath (super dad!), I got in a run by the water. The Martin Goodman Trail is a long bike path and running path near the water that runs for many miles, which was perfect for me to enjoy a run by myself. It would’ve been great for a stroller run as well. It was perfect weather during the run and made for the perfect way to start my day.

Go to Chinatown (and eat copious amounts of dumplings)

One day we walked from our AirBNB in the financial district to Chinatown and grabbed lunch. We went to the Dumpling House and ordered steamed dumplings, pan-fried dumplings and a green onion pancake. LM enjoyed all of it – and even FW ate a few of the dumplings (minus the filling #pickyeater). The waitstaff also loves kids – they kept carrying LM around the restaurant while we ate and playing with FW.

Dumplings at The Dumpling House in Toronto

These were our pan-fried dumplings

Waitstaff carrying LM

Some of the other kid-friendly restaurants we visited included Cafe Landwer (their kids’ breakfast had amazing toast toppings!), Pie Bar (their kids dinners come with gelato for dessert) and Jack Astors (their kids menu has steak, build your own tacos and more!).

Find a playground

Because you’re with kids, you may as well find a playground for them to run around/swing around/play around on. On our walk one morning we found a small playground with some swings, slides and a seesaw, which made both our kids happy campers.

Relax with drinks (after the kids are asleep)

Our AirBNB had a balcony with an amazing view of the city. There was a lot going on downtown and the humming/buzzing of the cars moving all night was relaxing (for me). One night after the kids were in bed, we just sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the night. It was the perfect end to a long day of vacation! (Vacation with kids = tiring)

View from our rooftop patio

We only had a few days, but I’d definitely go back. The last time B and I were there was before kids, several years ago and the middle of winter, so much has changed. The next time we go, we’d probably do a few more kid-friendly activities, like visit their zoo, see the aquarium, or go to the train museum (which was right across the street from where we were staying). We just didn’t have enough time to do it all!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been to Toronto?
  • Are there some standard things you try to do when vacationing with kids (e.g., find a playground, etc)?

24 Hours In Detroit

Well, that weekend went way too fast. Know why? We were hardly in Cleveland at all – we spent 22 hours in Detroit!

What does one do with 2 kids when they’re in Detroit for a day? Well, we spent most of the time with family. B’s brother lives downtown and his other brothers and dad were in own visiting, so we met up with them and hung out.

We did walk to the Eastern Market, which was a cool outdoor/indoor market with lots of different food vendors.

FW even got a free apple from one of the vendors!

After walking around the market, we ordered pizza and got some beers at Eastern Market Brewing I really liked their Session IPA and FW loved the pizza from Supino. He had 2 slices!

We saw some cool artwork. there are beautiful murals all over the city, and I really liked these two – the Welcome  to Detroit right under Stevie Wonder. 

Then, while the boys went to the Tigers vs. Indians game (Indians won!), LM and I walked around a little and got dinner. She loved the veggie sandwich from Avalon. Brownie not pictured.

Sunday morning we woke up to rain. And not a “hey it’s just drizzling, we’ll put on our raincoats and be fine” kind of rain – but the kind that had us bundling in our raincoats and as we walked outside we were immediately soaked. Even as we left the hotel, some guy commented, “You’re going outside? You’re gonna get wet.”

We walked a little around before hopping into Avalon (yes, again – but B and FW hadn’t been there) for breakfast. If I lived here, I could see myself going there a lot.

We had plans to walk around the city some more and check out the River Walk before our hotel checkout time, but even when we left the restaurant, it was still a complete downpour. So we went back to the hotel and before we knew it it was time to check out.

We will definitely have to go back to Detroit again soon – hopefully next time the weather will hold out and we’ll get to do some more stuff.

Questions for you:

  • Have you ever been to Detroit?
  • White pizza or saucy pizza?

 

We Traveled More than 8 Hours In the Car With 2 Kids and Lived to Tell About It

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go … Whoever wrote that idyllic song probably wasn’t traveling with two kids under the age of three during the holidays. Because just a few months ago, we packed up the car, put the kids in their car seats, and drove the 7+ hours to Nonna and Grandpa’s house for the holidays. And let me tell you, it was anything but idyllic. Babies were screaming, naps were missed, toddlers were crying “I wanna get out!” and that was only in the first hour. But we survived and here are some tips we learned along the way:

Don’t Expect it to be the Same as a Pre-Kid Trip

Before we went on our first road trip with my now toddler, I asked one of my friends if she had any tips. She replied, “Expect it to be awful and throw all your fond road trip memories out the window.” Is that harsh? Yes. But it makes a point. Long trips with two young kids are not easy. They’re not relaxing. But they don’t have to be awful; just manage your epectations and be prepared (see below).

B and I in Vietnam – traveling BEFORE kids

Pack Enough Toys/Activities/Games

Toddlers and infants are not made to sit in one place for eight hours. (But really, who is?) That means an eight hour car trip can be anything but fun for them, which means it’s not fun for you. So bring activities to distract them. Here’s a rule of thumb I like to follow: bring at least one new toy or activity per hour of your car trip. So for a six hour car ride, here are some of the things we bring for the toddler:

  1. Coloring book/paper and washable crayons
  2. Matchbox cars
  3. Paint-with-water activity book – we like the Melissa & Doug Water Wow! books
  4. CDs – we like to go to our local library before a trip and pick out kid-friendly CDs to listen to. Our toddler gets a kick out of picking them out and then choosing them during the car trip.
  5. Books – I like to bring 3-4 and let my toddler pick out 1-2 himself. This one, Let’s Play, is a good one that is interactive. 
  6. Post-it notes – they can stick them places and then you can clean up easily. They can color on them with aforementioned crayons. They can stick them together to make shapes.

For the baby, we brought things like baby books, rattles, blankets, and toys that lit up and made noise.

Bring Snacks

Bring plenty of snacks and food for the trip. In addition to meals, plan easy-to-eat and less-mess snacks for the car or any stops. Bonus points if the snacks are new or not part of your usual repertoire. Some of our favorites include Annie’s fruit snacks, pouches, yogurt covered raisins, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, Barbara’s Puffins cereal, grapes, sliced pear, grilled cheese cut up into fun shapes.

Be Flexible

Don’t go into the car trip with a rigid plan. Will you sit in the front or in the back with the kids? Be prepared to do either. Will you stop exactly two times for one hour each and make it to your final destination in exactly nine hours? Maybe not (what if the baby has a blowout after your 2nd stop?). Will your kids nap at their usual naptime? Possibly. It’s okay (and probably a good idea) to make a plan before you get into the car, but just be prepared to throw it out the window or adapt if needed.  

Plan Stops

If you don’t have a hard timeline (see above tip: be flexible), plan a few fun stops along the way. For an eight-hour car trip, it’s nice to plan one or two stops where our toddler can run around and use up some energy. For us, this has meant finding a park that is not far off the route (bonus points if there’s a playground) and near some kid-friendly restaurants so that we can stop, grab a bite to eat and then run around and play. Yes, this takes time, but it makes the trip much more fun for our toddler.

Leave at Night or Around Naptime

We have only done this once and it was the best. After about one hour of crying and whining, the kids slept for almost the whole ride. Getting them back to bed once we got to our final destination wasn’t easy, but it made for a quiet and hassle-free car ride.

Have a Secret Weapon (or Two)

Sometimes all the toys, snacks and stops are not enough. That’s when it’s time for your secret weapon. For our baby, this can mean a few extra toys that light up or play music. For the toddler, this means toys that aren’t used on a regular basis, such as his toy laptop and my iPad with Sesame Street or other kids’ TV downloaded on it. We don’t always have to bring these out, but they have definitely helped make the trips easier.

Questions for you:

  • What’s the longest you’ve ever traveled in the car with kids?
  • What age do you find easiest to travel with kids?

Note-  this post contains a few affiliate links. And aversion of this post originally appeared on Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine’s website.

Annapolis Eats: Fish+Ice Cream

Happy Wednesday! I’m back again for What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of my eats, and since I just got back from a trip to Annapolis, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the food we ate in Annapolis.

Before I show you some of the pictures, I’ll share with you my goals going into the trip:

  1. Taste the local beer.
  2. Eat plenty of local fish. Especially crab and oysters.
  3. Eat ice cream. Every day if possible.

Spoiler alert – I got to do ALL of the above! Successful vacation in my opinion. Here’s some of the goodness:

Ice cream.

Oysters.

Fish boil.

More ice cream.

More oysters.

GIANT crab cake.

Breakfast hash with CRAB.

Crab soup. Not pictured, sadly. But here’s a picture of one of the few non-crab or ice cream dishes I had- french toast!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you been to Annapolis?
  • What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  • Do you like crab?

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.

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!

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.

#TBT: Throwback Thursday – Travel Edition

As you probably know by now, B and I love to travel. We’ve gone to some great places – international and in the U.S. – together and had a great time trying out new meals, meeting new people and getting in as much of the local scene as we can.

We have two more trips planned this year – what we’re calling an “East Coast Foliage Tour” (which will include stops in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Boston and New York) and a trip to Asia (Hong Kong and Vietnam for now). So as I started to get excited about what’s to come, I began to also think about all the great trips we’ve had over the past few years. Here are some old photos from past trips, 2010 through last year:

2010 – New York City to see my brother play at Carnegie Hall

NYC 2010 Carnegie Hall

2010 – Road trip to Pittsburgh – checking out the city for the first time and of course their Hofbrauhaus

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Not sure if this counts as travel … but we go to upstate New York quite often to see my parents. These pictures are from our engagement shots in 2010 🙂 (thus the cheesiness)

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2011 – trip to Chicago!  We tasted our way through local beers and deep dish pizza, and did a walking tour, tried the architectural boat tour and got in great views.

Chicago + 391 Chicago + 408 Hemmingway Lou Malnottis

2012 Cape Cod – we ate lobster, went whale watching, tried tandem biking and even walked on the beach (even with my boot :()

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Also in 2012 we went to Ireland and England! More hiking, local food and drinks, and siteseeing.

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And we ended the year in Montreal and Toronto. In a snowy winter wonderland! We still managed to walk around, check out some amazing food (crepes, poutine, Chinatown) and had a great time.

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2013 started with a winter surprise vacation in Miami – which meant sunshine, running along the beach, fresh seafood and fruity drinks!

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Also, that year we spent a week checking out another midwestern city – Milwaukee!

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And 2013 ended with a great trip to the West Coast, with stops in San Francisco, NapaSeattle, the Redwoods, Los Angeles and more.

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This year, you probably remember we started off with some travel to Costa Rica. And I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2014 holds for us for travel!

Some questions for you:

  • Do you like to travel or do you prefer to stay home?
  • What’s the coolest place you’ve been – I need more places to add to my travel bucket list!
  • Ever been to Hong Kong or Vietnam? Recommendations?
  • Ever been to Portland, Maine? What do you recommend we do?
  • What’s on your travel bucket list?