For the Love of Travel: Our Family Must Haves

travel

We knew even before we had our daughter we were going to have a lot of adventures with her. If simply didn’t occur to us that our love of exploring would ever exclude her. I have loved being able to show her from a very young age all the exciting things this world has to offer. At three months old she officially became our little traveler, and we haven’t stopped since.

To be honest, I have travel anxiety as it is. Then add a baby to the mix and you know there were some restless nights tossing and turning with thoughts like “Am I really going to take a baby on an airplane?!” With lots of reassurance from family, friends and our amazing pediatrician, I conquered my fears and have been able to let my daughter explore! It’s amazing to watch even a young baby’s eyes light up at new experiences. We took her recently to the California Academy of Science and you would have thought it was Christmas for us all. The squeals of delight over the floor to ceiling aquarium were beyond priceless.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some added stress with traveling. Packing has become a little easier as she is getting older, but there is always that fear of forgetting something. (I act like we are going to the moon without a local Target!)I think we packed everything including the kitchen sink for our first trip away from home.

Here are my top items we bring traveling with our babe! Notice they are pretty basic items, most of which are things you already use, just repurposed for on the go!

Make sure to check out the bottom for my Go-To tips and tricks which can be applied to just about any age group, including adults!

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|ONE| In the beginning the second we walked into the hotel room I wiped EVERYTHING down. I didn’t to set a toy on a nightstand without making sure it was properly cleaned. Now that she is older, I have relaxed a bit (growing immune system and all) and use this to keep her toys and hands clean between washing. The also come individually wrapped (here) which is a must have in our diaper bag. (We love these at home too!) And I can’t lie, totally used these after a round of spicy buffalo wings!

|TWO| When you need to put a baby down in a hotel room, you want a lot of options. It has been worth lugging this thing around for play and of course sleep. Also a great place to stash everything before the cleaning crew comes. I remember not being sure if I really wanted a pack n play, but now I am so beyond glad we actually have two!

|THREE| If you are taking long car rides the more little toys you can cram in your bag the better. When one is tossed to the floor out of boredom I am quick to have another. I try to pack an array from things that light up, make noise, have a part that spins, etc. for a little variety and our own sanity. Board books are another great option. When all else fails or you run out, don’t underestimate that little scrap of paper found in the bottom of your purse! Although we haven’t hit the toddler stage yet, I am already prepared with this list of kid friendly Apps.

|FOUR| Hotel carpet. Enough said. My parents scooped this bad boy up at Costco, but similar can be found on Amazon. We use it at home on the lawn, and on the floor while traveling. Now that she is mobile it has gotten more tricky keeping her on the blanket, but at least there is somewhere to lay out her toys and give her some time to stretch and move around a bit. I love using a moving blanket because of the durability and thickness. And I am sure somewhere out there in cyberspace are some fab color choices.

|FIVE| We try to get a new toy for traveling. Being in different, new surroundings with a child that is mobile usually means they will be potential breaking something due to lack of baby proofing. A new toy can give some distraction from Aunt Betty’s ceramic cat collection. The more bells and whistles the better! This toy has been amazing because now she can cruise around the room without having to crawl around on the floor.

|SIX| We like to make a lot of our own food while home, but on the go these are great. Target and Whole Foods usually both have great sales and I still feel that I am giving her wholesome food on the go. A pouch, an (optional) spoon and a bib and you’re good! And don’t think these stop once your child reaches their toddler years. These would make awesome mess free and filling snacks in line at a theme park or traveling by plane.

*TIP* Packing clothes was super overwhelming for me. How can I predict weather passed what I read on the weather app. To make it a little easier, and save me time when we get there, I fold a onesie or shirt over a pair of leggings, a pair of shorts and matching socks. I grab one out of the suitcase and am done. Then we layer with sweaters, hoodies and hats as needed. I tend to bring an pre-matched outfit a day, two pairs of pjs, and about 3 extra outfits for those just in case moments.

*TRICK* This works really well for any age group. Make a list of all the things you use or touch as you go about your typical day at home. For example, Mornings:

  • Washed bottles (Used: baby friendly dish soap, brush, dish basket, drying rack).
  • Made bottle (Used: bottles, baby water, formula, bottle warmer).
  • Ate breakfast (Used: dish, spoon, oatmeal, water, banana, silicon bib).
  • Play time (Used: board books, activity mat, teething rings).
  • Nap time (Used: pacifier, book, stuffed animal, blanket).

Continue on with the rest of your day. Now highlight all of the the “used” items you have listed . What can you cross off that you could easily live without while traveling? This will build your packing list and help you remember those things that you may have easily forgotten. I almost forgot all of my bottle washing supplies before I did this!

*TIP* Try to plan around the your normal routine as much as possible. I know this is SO much easier said then done. Be prepared to leave early morning and stop for your normal scheduled feeding. Take off shortly before nap time for a little play time before catching some Zzzz’s. This also goes beyond the actual travel time. I am convinced our little is such a good travel because we try our damndest to stick to our normal routine as much as humanly possible. Bedtime is bedtime regardless of where we are. Exceptions of course will happen, but traveling is overwhelming enough without an overly tired kid throwing a tantrum.

*TRICK* Research ideal places to stop. We discovered Raley’s grocery store has a little sitting area in their deli which makes a healthy pit stop for us, and little stretching room for the kiddo. (Not to mention a great place to grab anything you may have forgotten!) Know where you can find a bathroom and a Target (and a Starbucks for the parents) at all times!

Traveling does not have to be taboo once you have kids. If anything having our daughter has renewed our love for some of our favorite places. We have “been there done that” as a couple, now we are experiencing life all over again with our babe!

Enjoy, be safe, and remember to keep your arms and legs safety inside the vehicle at all times!

Weekly Distract

So ridiculously busy these days, and yet none of my projects are actually getting done. More on my poor time management later. I bring you what has filled my free time aka “everyone is sleeping and I have time to play on the internet” time (Do they make a clock that tracks that time zone?) Here is my complete and utter randomness, I wish I could say there was some sort of a theme, but I am all over the board lately!

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One | My husband and I received an ice cream maker as a gift at some point (maybe a year ago?) and love it. But we somehow forget to freeze the bowl, thus leading one of us to drive to the store for a sugar fix, and the other of us still not putting the thing in the freezer. With our peach tree finally ready to eat, we made it a priority to make some yummy peach ice cream. Now we remember why we are in love with that thing! My mind has been swirling (nice ice cream reference there!) on all the flavor creations we need to try. With flavors like Black Berry Brown Sugar Mascarpone how can I resist?!

Two | I am tying to get birthday invitations into the mail by the first of August, and have yet to actually start them. Time crunch! But this amazing tutorial for letterpress design is perfect for helping me to create something really unique. Very excited to put it to use once I have mastered the example project. (If only I didn’t get distracted by all the other goodness this blog as to offer!)

Three | I had a major case of the Mondays this week. That carried over to the Tuesday’s. I will admit I did something I rarely do, went to work without makeup on and in my glasses. I just had a hard time getting into the groove. So I put on my big girl panties, laid on a smile and sucked it up. Even broke out a super bright, happy almost not appropriate work dress. Sometimes looking the part is half the battle.

Four | We are traveling soon which always seems to mean new flip-flops in our house. Not sure why, but our feet need new vacation wear. Thankfully I am a VIP Zappos member, and not too proud to admit it, and got these with free shipping. If ever a flip-flop was made for walking, Reefs are it!

Five | I will admit it, I got sidetrack looking at drink recipes this week. The temp has been so back and forth lately, I am wishing for some hot days by a pool. With a drink in hand. With this drink in hand. I realize this will only lesson the chance of any real projects getting done…

Coming soon… our family travel favorites. We have been dragging this kid everywhere since she was born, so we have this down (I think!)

Birthday Shenanigans

We have hit the 10 month mark which officially sets off BIRTHDAY PARTY PLANNING! I have been counting down to this day seriously since my baby shower. I love planning parties. For me, for other people, doesn’t matter. Get me a color theme and some invitation designing and I am a happy camper! If someone could tell me how soon is too soon to renew your vows with a fabulous party that would be fab. (My poor husband!)

With just under two months to go I feel behind already. It takes me some time to get my invitation vision just right, then printed and in the mail. This mama needs to hustle!

Luckily I have been (secretly) scheming planning the basic feel of the party for a while via some fun Pinterest boards. Time to get creative!

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One | Two | Three | Four | Five

I am stuck somewhere in my head between a really amazing color theme (see above) and this idea of cupcake and sprinkle madness (see below). Somehow the two are going to collide into magical birthday goodness. (I hope!)

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One | Two | Three | Four  | Five

Decisions, decisions. (Thoughts?!) Stay tuned for the party planning progress. On to invitations!

And if you like what you have read so far please don’t forget to subscribe! I hope to be adding a little beauty and some food for thought to your daily lives!

When We Change the Rules of Friendship

I have been thinking so much about friendships lately. I feel like I am at a place in my life where my friends are sort of sitting up on the shelf. Still there, available to play with or talk to, but getting gathering a little dust. Between work and home, I don’t have a lot of time (or energy) to go out and play. My weekends are truly the only solid, quality time my family has together, so I try to play the balancing act between getting things done, and spending time with sweet pea and the hubs.

But I am seeing more talk lately from moms complaining less about balance and more that their childless friends don’t understand, are selfish, slipping away, complain about silly things, etc. I’ll be honest, I have said these things myself. But I got to thinking about a recent episode of Sex and the City rerun I watched. (Yep, I think this is my second SATC reference for your reading pleasure.) Carrie goes to a party to welcome a friends new baby and is asked to remove her shoes, which end up missing. Yep, you know already which episode I am referring to. For those of you stuck under a rock, the episode refers to the general idea that unmarried, childless people are shelling out a lot of money on gifts and altering their own lifestyles for their friend’s life decisions.

So this is the question I pose: What do you do when you change the rules of your friendship?

Why shouldn’t my single gal pals want to go out at 10:30pm for drinks? Why shouldn’t they be able to complain that they are tired? They did not choose for me to have a child, I did. They do not have children, I do. I changed the game, I made new rules, I changed the guidelines of our friendship.

As you get older your friendships will change. This is inevitable. We each take a different path in life, and we walk down that path with different people at different times. I am a strong believer that you have a choice when it comes to friends, you can accept the type of relationship they are offering you, or you can walk away knowing you had a good run, no hard feelings. Some of my friends, for example, are more superficial (for lack of a better term) than others. We get together once in a while for coffee or lunch, chat about life, play catch up and laugh together. They aren’t people I call when I have the most exciting news or need a shoulder to cry on. We have accepted this friendship with each other simply because we genuinely  enjoy each other’s company. Then I have friends that are my family. These are the friends I talk to nearly every day and they share in every moment of my journey. We bicker like sisters and give advice like mothers. And of course I have the friends that fall somewhere in the middle of these two (and the typical non-friend Facebook friends). I have accepted my relationships, and when my path has turned, or they have ventured to a new course, I expect that our terms have changed. It may be a little sad, but that is life, forever growing and changing. We may pass by each other occasionally or one day fall back in step. Not all is lost, we may just need to put a part of our lives on a shelf for a bit.

Getting back to my question, what happens when we change the rules, well… that is far from an answerable question. I could go on and on arguing both sides of this, as a parent and as a friend. But unfortunately, much like raising a child, there is no handbook for cultivating healthy friendships.

I can only tell you this, when you change the rules, or have the rules changed on you, make sure everyone knows what they are playing. Decide if the friendship you are being offered is something you are willing to accept for exactly what it is. Be honest and open. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t feel like you come around since I have had the baby” or “I don’t feel like I can invite you anywhere because you always say no.” Then, from either side, take a step back. Are you being selfish? Are you asking too much? And if it isn’t a friendship you willing to accept, why? What can you do about it? Do you want to do anything about it? Ask yourself the hard questions.

You may be surprised.

Dinner Inspiration: Spicy Shrimp Tacos

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So very proud of myself. Tonight I managed to complete 3 items on my Happiness List. I cooked an amazing dinner, checked an item off my Pinterest List, and enjoyed the company of one of my top 3 favorite people. Aren’t I accomplished for a Tuesday!

I am always looking for easy recipes that get me out of a cooking rut. We seem to rotate the same few items, and occasionally I throw in a pasta (and by throw in I literally mean throw in whatever random ingredients are left over).

We love Mexican food in this house and I would say eat something involving a tortilla at least twice a week. We do the usual enchiladas, tacos with rotisserrie chicken, burritos. But tonight I decided to mix it up and throw together a little shrimp.

Warning: This is by NO means a recipe. I literally searched “Shrimp Taco” checked out some pictures and figured I could do that! The result: Spicy goodness!

Half pound (serving 3 for dinner) of shrimp in store-bought Baja Marinade sautéed over medium heat with a dash of red chile flakes. Topped with chopped cilantro, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basic bag of cole slaw mix and chipotle sauce. Served on a warmed Chipotle Tortilla. (Chipotle Sauce is a can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, puree in food processor and mixed with sour cream to taste). Served with a side of refried beans. 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. No measuring here! I have a belief that cooking should be easy and simple. When I see a recipe with more than 10 ingredients for dinner I feel overwhelmed. A “half a teaspoon” of anything seems ridiculous, but I digress…

These easy, thrown together tacos were fabulous, as well was my company! Now time to let my food finish settling with a little crappy TV.

Enjoy!

12 Ways to Add Happiness to Your Life Right Now!

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I recently read a great article on ways to gain happiness over the next year. It was full of simple ways to change your lifestyle over the course of the year. But for me, I cannot stick to resolutions. I need instant gratification, plausible changes that I can make every single day. I was inspired by this wonderful article to list out simple changes we can all make today to promote a happy, healthy, full lifestyle. Work the below suggestions into your life right now, and see if a bigger smile is added to you daily life.

1. Cook Dinner at least 3 Times a Week

There is something that makes me really happy about cooking and eating my own meal. Once I get over the stress of figuring out what to cook, and who is going to run to the store, sitting down at the table with my family is one of my favorite ways to wrap up the day. With a little planning, aim to eat in at a minimum of three times a week. I will let you in a well known secret: There is nothing healthy about eating out. Cooking your own food is the best way to measure what you are putting into your body. Even the finest dinning establishments overload just about everything with butter. (There is a reason it’s that good!) Find a cookbook, a website, or the family recipe box and take the stress out of cooking. Planning a week ahead and making the trip to the grocery store prepared will help you achieve your goal.

2. Clean Out Your Closet(s)

I often find myself putting together a bag of clothes that I no longer wear only to stop myself. Well, I might wear that shirt again, find a top that looks cute with that skirt, need that 50th hoodie. And guess what, I never do. Same goes for the hall closet and kitchen cabinets. I find an excuse every time. Then each morning when I go to find something to wear, I am bombarded with a row of things I won’t even touch. It’s time to purge. If you have not worn it, used it, or needed it within the last 6 months, get rid of it (seasonal things are the exception). Don’t stop and justify why you should keep it, because you shouldn’t, and deep down you know it. Gain a little cash for new items and host a garage sale. Whatever doesn’t sell immediately take to your local Good Will or thrift shop. Repeat this process every six months, or as you notice items are starting to accumulate. Less clutter will result in less mess, which I can guarantee will put a smile on your face.

3. Get Organized

See item 2. Now take that a step further. We all get busy and counter space becomes storage space. Shoes are left on the closet floor instead of their boxes. Paperwork and mail liter the house. Baby toys are left where they are thrown. When our house is a mess, my husband and I are on edge. He is much more tidy then I am, and I can tell that a messy house annoys him. Which in turn makes him grumpy. When in turn makes me defensive. Which in turn puts us both into bad moods. Truth me told, there is time to clean up, if you make it a priority. I read not long ago that every time you walk out of a room take a item that needs to be put away with you. This is beyond brilliant advice! It makes cleaning up manageable, not so overwhelming. A “clean as you go” concept. Before you go to bed at night, make sure your main traffic area is clean. For us, our bar top receives the brunt of the damage. Before going to bed, taking two minutes to quickly clear it off means waking up to a fresh house. On the weekends pick one project to tackle. Organize old photos, make a binder of important information, dust the back room, set up a new way of storing your makeup, whatever it is that needs to get done that is not your usual household maintenance. Once you set up a way to be organized you will be amazed at how routine it comes.

4. Plan a Girls Day/Night/Lunch/Brunch/Trip

Whenever I go out with the girls I always go home thinking I need to do this more often. A simple coffee date, shopping trip, or a weekend getaway always leave me feeling relaxed. Your girlfriends know you like no one else. I know there are things I will share or say that I would otherwise keep inside. They give me advice, perspective and an outlet. They make me appreciate my own life as I reflect on it. We all get insanely busy, and we all have a lot on our plates, so planning ahead is key. And don’t cancel. Unless the sky is falling, try not to be the flake. We all have things come up but time is precious. Once you write it down on your calendar stick to it! You will never regret spending some bonding time with the ladies.

5. Get Active, Every Day

There is no excuse to not do something every single day that promotes a fit, healthy lifestyle. We make it a priority in our household to go for a family stroll every evening after dinner. Getting outside and stretching our legs for a quick walk helps settle our meal and gives us time to reflect on our day with little distraction. No time in the evening? How about on your lunch break? Hit a class at your local gym. Do it even if you need to leave early. Make going a part of your daily routine. Have 5 minutes before you hop in the shower? Get in a quick ab routine or yoga stretch. There are enough hours in the day to fit in some sort of activity, as small as it may be. You will feel accomplished, your energy levels will go up, and it will up put a smile on your face (and make the dimples on your butt vanish!)

6. Set a Budget

The number one thing couples fight about is money, so the study says. In my household, that is not the case, but I would say in my own personal top 10 stresses, money is one of them. My husband and I have very similar views on money, spending it and earning it. But still I stress over student loans, working full time verse being home more, and the balance of savings accounts. So I set up a budget on Mint.com to track where all my money is going. This is not to say I limit myself, not yet at least. But it is a way to see how I spend. I notice I was spending a lot of money drinking coffee and random food for lunch. So now when I am crunched for time I opt for the free cup at work and pack some snacks instead of walking to the store. I limit myself to $50 worth of new clothes a month. Sometimes I spend over this, other months not a dime. Once you get a handle on where you money is going, it becomes a lot easier to manage where you can cut back.

7. Make a Summer (and Winter) Bucket List

I feel like once again, summer is slipping away from me. I mark the downhill decent to fall with Fourth of July. Don’t ask me why, it just seems like once the fireworks hit, we are staring to wrap it all up. I know I need to be a better planner. There are so many fun, festive summer activities I want to do but time starts slipping by. So this year I am starting a bucket list. And I am taking it one step further and marking the calendar. (Found this lovely free printable here) I refuse to spend the end of the summer bummed that we never made it to the zoo! And the same can be done with winter. Don’t let the seasons pass you by!

8. Start those Pintrest Projects

I have about 800 pins on my personal Pintrest board. Some are inspiration, quotes, cute outfits, but a lot are recipes and DIY projects. It is time to stop pinning and get to it. We can easily live our lives as lookers, pinners if you will, but where is the fun in that? My goal is to attempt one new recipe a week and one project a month. What an amazing way to get out of a cooking rut and add some beauty to your home! I will be sure to update on my progress and share any amazing foods I discover as long as ya’ll do the same!

9. Make some “You” Time

I have always loved some good ole quality time with myself. But with a baby, a hubby, and a job there is very little “me” time in my day. So I gotta get in where I fit in (I think that is a lyric reference…?). I stay up late. The best solution, no, but it does work for me. Staying up an hour or so later gives me that little extra time to play online or watch my Pretty Little Liars obsession. I try to limit this to once or twice a week, as my husband and I like going to bed together. Find some time that you can fit in you! And don’t feel guilty about it. We all need to unwind and have our own list of things we would like to get done. Chill during nap time for a half hour, take a stroll on a work break, wake up 30 minutes earlier just to watch part of a movie. Whatever it is that gets you alone with you, make the time!

10. Be Passionate, Live Passionately

There is the passion we see in the movies (Hello The Notebook sex scene) and there is the passion we feel toward a certain non profit organization. There is no reason our lives should not be full of passion of all types. We should exude passion for the things and people we love. Never fear putting yourself or your passions out there. Find what it is you really care about and go for it, whole heartedly.

11. Soundtrack Your Life

Looking through my high school mixed CD’s titles were often “Summer Boat Mix” and “Break Up Mix.” With everything digital these days don’t leave the days of playlists behind. Create a mix that lifts your mood and gets you ready to conquer your day. Sunshine by Atmosphere is always number on my list. Something about the sweet beat makes me smile every time, regardless of a crappy mood. Music is a mood changer. Don’t let yourself wallow, when you are having a shitty day, pick yourself back up with your own personal mood changing melody.

12. Get Outside the Box

Put your phone down. Okay, wait, finish reading this, then put your phone down. We spend so much time checking in that we are really just checking out. Yes I know that this is the most overheard advice ever, but you aren’t listening to it, so I am saying it again. There is a time and a place for Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. It is not while driving. It is not at the dinner table. It is not while talking to someone. It is while unwinding at the end of a long day. It is while waiting in the doctors office. It is while you truly have nothing else is front of you. Make it a game. First one to pick up their phone pays for coffee. First one to update their status buys lunch. I love my social media as much as the next person, but I am learning to put my phone down and pay a little more attention to what is right in front of me.

Create you own version of Happy

No two lives are the same, nor should they be. The above are ways to spread some smiles, make life a little easier, and have some fun from time to time. It is what works for me, but that does mean that any of it is right for you. We all need to create our happiness, whatever that entails and whatever our own definition of happiness is. My hope for this list is a little inspiration to list your own plan of attack in putting a smile on your face right now. Because why stretch out something over a year that we can accomplish every single day?