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Virginia Bluebells in Bloom

I want to let you in on a secret…

Blooming Virginia Bluebells

… there’s an area at Shaw Nature Reserve that erupts into a sea of gorgeous blooms near the Meramac River.

Shaw Nature Reserve Blooming Bluebells

A carpet of delicate Virginia Bluebells layers the ground– it’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Virginia Bluebells Shaw Nature Reserve

This beautiful display is only around for a very short window of time. Just the cherry blossom season, its beauty shines brightly and quickly fades as nature reinvents itself.

We went in search of this beautiful display on Easter Sunday. It is quite a trek to get to their location. James checked his phone after our excursion and our hike clocked in at roughly 6 miles… over the bridge, across the prairie, along the wildflower path, and down a steep hill.

Shaw Nature Reserve Trail

When we arrived this year, the blooms were just about to burst open. The blossoms were a hit with Olivia since they are purple (her favorite color right now). It was just a bit too early to see them in their full glory. I bet that this weekend (April 11 & 12th) would probably be ideal if the area isn’t under water due to recent thunderstorms.

Spring Adventures 2015

I love discovering local, unique gems like this one. There’s just something magical about this place and event. It almost reminds me of an ephemeral secret garden since it’s off the beaten path and not many people know about it.

Another perk of visiting this time of year? Thousands of daffodil bulbs are in bloom!

Shaw Nature Daffodils

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Springtime in Paris Contest

Earlier this month, I saw that Michaels was having a fun contest centered on the theme: Paris in the Springtime. I’ve wanted to go to France and this gorgeous city for as long as I remember. I’ll never forget seeing the iconic Eiffel tower erupt in a dazzling display of golden light on New Year’s Eve 1999. For this project, I decided to create a DIY travel journal.

Paris DIY Journal

When I saw this Recollections Keepsake Book at Michaels, I immediately thought of the Eiffel tower’s beautiful sparkles! It was also the perfect size to throw in my purse or suitcase to document beautiful memories of the City of Light.

Paris DIY Journal Embellishments

I embellished the front with elements from the Trinkets Collection by Project Life, a die-cut image of The Eiffel Tower created by my silhouette machine, and punched flowers. In terms of design, I opted to almost everything flat and avoid additions that might “catch” as this journal was shuffled between suitcases/bags {no double-sided foam tape, no rhinestones, & no ribbon}.

Paris DIY Journal Supplies

James and I have been so fortunate to travel to a number of amazing places in the past: Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Aruba, Barbados, Hawaii, and the list continues… A common theme I’ve noticed: If I don’t write down a snapshot of our day while we are on the trip, it is 10x harder to remember an accurate timeline that captures daily adventures after the fact. In the past, I’ve taken a small little notebook with me and scratched down details I didn’t want to forget. The problem? I haven’t had time to do anything with them! What a messy collection of memories!

Travel Journals

This beautiful on-the-go journal solves my issue! It will allow me to capture all those candid moments and effectively start the documenting process immediately.

To prep this little book for journaling, I sprinkled decorative elements throughout its pages. Here’s a sample:

Paris DIY Journal Pages

Why the “keys”? …No, it isn’t in honor of The Pont des Arts {although I would have loved to have seen this tourist spot before glass panels were installed}. Instead, it symbolizes getting off the beaten path and discovering Paris through the lens of a local. I look forward to not only visiting the top 10 list of iconic attractions/museums, but also seeing fun landmarks that might not necessarily show up in a guidebook.

Paris DIY Journal Cover

My goal with this project was to create something worthy of capturing the ever-evolving beauty and grace of the city. I can’t wait to fill in the pages someday.

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Thoughts on Motherhood and Traveling: Part 2

To read Part 1, click HERE!

Aerial View

During a recent flight, I had the chance to sit next to the window and gaze out at some incredible cloud formations.  Perhaps I was just focused on missing Olivia, but the clouds (and really the whole process of flying) made me think about motherhood.

Some similarities that I was struck by:

… on both types of journeys, you alternate between periods of clarity and complete overwhelm.  As a new mother, you might feel like you are permanently stuck in a never-ending haze of confusion, panic, and stress… Similarly, to get to your cruising altitude, a plane must ascend through a dense and often murky layer of clouds.  I think I involuntary hold my breath for these moments- you can’t see anything and it feels like you’re traveling through a giant marshmallow!  Both scenarios require patience and trust that you are slowly getting closer to your destination.

Navigating Motherhood

… and then you emerge on the other side and it’s just grand.  This higher perspective fuels both gratitude and reflection.  These moments make the journey worthwhile and truly inspiring!

Clouds from the Plane

I’m still trying to navigate and find my footing on this precious journey of motherhood.  The highs and lows just seem so darn extreme!  Moods cycle so easily between clarity and overwhelm.  These days we are focusing on the good.

… precious baby smiles and laughter… watching new learning take place before our eyes….sweet baby snuggles and embraces… her joy in discovering something new… her delight in new independence and skills….

Flying

… all the steps and stages of learning to fly.

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Thoughts on Traveling and Motherhood: Part 1

Over the past two months, I’ve spent two weekends away from my sweet baby girl.  I’m happy to report that she did great!  I, on the other hand, was largely a hot mess.  Part of me was so excited to escape my current reality for just a few precious days.  The other part was overwhelmed with anxiety- about a million questions raced through my mind… is James feeding her something other than puffs?  Is she sleeping at my parent’s house?  Does she miss me?  Does she know we are coming back?  Does she feel like I abandoned her?  Are her teeth hurting her?  Am I missing any milestones?

Totally stereotypically.  Totally normal.  And, yet, I’ve never experienced this push-pull range of emotions so completely.  Traveling solo during my first weekend away also brought up another set of questions that I wasn’t necessarily prepared to answer.  All those pesky “what if” scenarios… What if something were to happen?  What if there was an accident?  I was quickly reminded how fragile life can be.  I also immediately thought of a post I had seen on Instagram by Holly from Decor8.  In one of her captions about her beautiful little boy on April 25th, she wrote “I’ve never valued my own life more than I do now…”

Decor8 inspirational words

Ah… I can completely relate.  Don’t you just love Holly’s inspirational words?  Being Olivia’s mama has definitely challenged me in a completely new way to be the best version of myself.  Taking exquisite care of my health, both physically and emotionally, is also a gift to my daughter.  Not only do I just want to be around for the next several decades, I want to make the most of it!  So many things to teach to her and so much love to give!

Motherhood Memories

Photo Credit: Karen Hendrix Photography

And, as if the universe heard my concerns and longing to be a great mama/teacher/friend, I happened to run across a little treasure along the aisles of our local Hallmark store: a recordable version of my most favorite book: Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You.  I’ve mentioned this beautiful story before HERE– I just adore it.  And, now, my sweet baby girl has a version to listen to in my voice.  Knowing Olivia could her me reading and feel all the love from this book’s message made leaving just a little more bearable.

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Cherry Blossoms of Japan

A few days ago, I posted this photo on Instagram for “throw back Thursday” with the caption: Remembering our incredible trip to Japan 4 years and all the gorgeous blooms!

Cherry Blossoms Japan 9

Today’s weather is just absolutely perfect- there’s a slight breeze in the air, the temperature is hovering around 70 degrees, and the cherry trees in our neighborhood are in full bloom.  In honor of this beautiful Spring day and my love of cherry blossoms, I gathered a collection of some of my favorite pictures from our trip to Japan.  Enjoy!

Cherry Blossoms Japan

Cherry Blossoms Japan 1 Cherry Blossoms Japan 7Cherry Blossoms Japan 8

The next few pictures are from the garden at Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto.  This space was filled with what seemed like hundreds of weeping cherry blossoms suspended from bamboo canopies.  I could have stayed in this spot for hours.

Cherry Blossoms Japan 6Cherry Blossoms Japan 3Cherry Blossoms Japan 5Cherry Blossoms Japan 4

Happy Spring and Easter weekend!

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Tips for Traveling with a 7 Month Old Baby

We survived our first BIG travel adventure with Olivia… and I learned a few things in the process about traveling with a baby!

Tips-for-Traveling-with-a-B

Things I will be remembering for our next trip:

1.  Make sure you have a copy of baby’s birth certificate handy for the flight!

We knew that children under 2 could fly for free.  The day before we left, however, we realized that we would actually need to PROVE Olivia’s age. Kiddos these days need an boarding pass EVEN if they aren’t taking up an official seat (at least if they are flying Southwest Airlines).  James and I both looked at each other and wondered, “Do we have a birth certificate?”  Nope, we didn’t.  Oh, the details!  Turns out, automatically mailing parents a birth certificate isn’t a standard practice.  We scrambled to get to our local records office to obtain a copy of this precious document.

2.  Distract, distract, distract (while on the plane)!

I was probably the most nervous about this portion of our trip.  I think I probably lost sleep wondering how Olivia’s ears would adjust to changing altitudes, whether we would have a diaper disaster mid-flight, or if she would cry the entire time.  Fortunately, Olivia did great!  In fact, she was all smiles on the flight to DC!

First-plane-ride

These strategies worked well for us:

    • We timed her bottles for take-off and landing, which probably helped her ears adjust.
    • We brought along a new toy for her to play with on the plane.  This one easily suctioned to the seat’s tray table and easily entertained her for a stretch.  Improvise as needed!  When our flight attendant brought us water, the drink’s straw became the next fascinating object for Olivia to explore.  (…and an excellent exercise in fine motor skills with supervision!)
    • Read this fantastic article by Joanna Goddard (A Cup of Jo) for other ideas, including an unconventional one on where to sit on the plane.

3.  Only bring washable toys.

On our next trip, I’m only going to bring toys that I can easily throw in the washing machine, wash quickly at the sink, or easily wipe down with a nontoxic cleaner.  This round, I brought along a mixture of toys that she loves- including some cloth books that aren’t designed to hold up in the washing machine.  When toys like these hit the ground of an airport floor, a part of me just cringes.  I’ll be packing all washable or wipe-able toys on our next adventure!

4.  Use a backpack as a diaper bag.

We brought Olivia’s standard over the shoulder diaper bag along for this trip, which works wonderfully for us at home.  We definitely needed something different for this trip where we were constantly on the go.  Our shoulders literally ached from carting around this incredible heavy tote.  Next time, I will use a backpack… so much easier to lug around.

5.  Bring your baby carrier EVERYWHERE!

Our Ergo baby carrier was a saving grace.  We used it all the time- traveling through the airport, exploring typical tourist spots, and lulling Olivia to sleep during nap time while we were on the go.

Baby-Carrier

It was very hot in DC while we were visiting.  At the zoo, I noticed a mom had clipped a mini-fan to her child’s stroller to help circulate air.  Depending on the weather forecast for our next trip, this little convenience item might become a necessity for the stroller or carrier!

6.  Bring lots of Ziploc baggies, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer.  And, a pacifier clip.

Ziploc baggies were wonderful for sorting toys, pacifiers… you name it!  I brought along 2 packs of the Clorox travel wipes that they sell in the dollar bins at Target to wipe down miscellaneous surfaces Olivia might encounter (…especially since everything is going in her mouth these days).  I used them to wipe off the plane’s tray table, arm rests, seat-belt buckle, as well as restaurant tables.  (You wouldn’t believe the grime that came up!)

Her pacifier clip was an absolute necessity!  Olivia is one strong cookie and has managed to pull several pacifier clip grippers loose in the past.  She just loves to shake the ribbon and pacifier up and down vigorously.  This one by Booginhead has worked really well for us.

7.  Bring this amazing play-mat.

Super-activity-mat

Photo: Twins! My adorable niece and Olivia on our favorite activity mat.

I can’t say enough about this fantastic mat: Tiny Love’s Super Mat.  I discovered this gem on Elena’s blog, The Art of Making a Baby.  You can read her review of this product HERE.  I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment.  I loved bringing this mat along when we traveled– it provided continuity for Olivia as it is a regular part of our routine at home, it delineated a safe and semi-padded space for her to roll around, and it folded up easily in our suitcase.

8.  Bring a collapsible tote to store toys.

At the last minute, I threw in a vinyl reusable shopping bag to throw all of Olivia’s toys in when we got to our destination.  I’m SO glad I included this item.  Instead of having all her toys scattered over her grandparent’s house where they might get stepped on or easily misplaced, I had a designated spot to throw all her toys in at night.  It’s the simple things.

9.  Strike a balance between trying to plan for everything and going with the flow.

I am a planner by nature and love to have a game plan in place for just about everything.  As the saying goes though, “best laid plans…”  For instance, I had planned to have formula and diapers delivered to our destination with our Amazon prime membership so I wouldn’t need to pack these bulky items.  When I went to place the order, however, I discovered Olivia’s specific formula was “out of stock” until after our return date!  So, plan B… a short trip to Target to stock-up when we got to DC.

I recently saw this post by Mrs. Limestone and loved that she didn’t set an agenda on her first adventure traveling with a baby.  She simply enjoyed the time and explored the city at the baby’s pace.

10. Schedule a chiropractic adjustment for yourself when you get home!

Olivia has seen a pediatric chiropractor regularly since she was born.  I happened to have a session scheduled for both of us two days after we got home.  What a happy coincidence!  Dr. Grein immediately remarked that she could literally see where the straps of our carrier had sunk into my muscles from all the baby carrying of the past week.  Travel can be rough!  Remember to take good care of yourself (and your aching muscles!) when you get home whether it’s scheduling a massage/adjustment OR simply taking some time-out to indulge in a relaxing bubble bath.

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Dreaming of Barbados

Trip-to-Barbados-Collage

This time two years ago, we were just returning from a whirlwind trip to Barbados with several good friends.  It feels like ages since I’ve seen the ocean and I am once again mesmerized by the crystal blue waters of this island.

Some Trip Highlights:

  • Swimming with the turtles!  These creatures were so amazing to see up close as they gracefully glided through the water.
  • Sampling the local fish cuisine at Cuz’s (see Tripadvisor review).  
  • Eating at The Tides restaurant.  James and I were seated in the Red Tile Room… and yes, the view on their website is 100% accurate.  Gorgeous food in a gorgeous setting.
  • Building a giant sand sea turtle on the beach!
  • Observing my husband figure out a way to practice “surfing” when the hotel refused to lend their out their water equipment. (The yellow advisory flag was posted on the beach indicating harsh waves.) James simply walked over to the nearest lifeguard station and asked them if they had any boogie boards they could use instead. To this day, I can’t imagine how tired they must have been after braving the pounding waves over and over.
  • … AND, celebrating the engagement of 2 of our friends. 

I also won’t forget almost missing our connecting flight back home because of the incredible wait at customs through Miami.  The lines were just insane- it took us a little over 1.5 hours to clear this hurdle.  Our agent told us that they were in the process of expanding their number of stations from 40ish to 80.  Hopefully, by now, all of this construction is completed.

Thoughts on Our Accommodations

The Hilton located on the peninsula of Needham’s Point

  • 3/5 Stars
  • Positives: Beautiful grounds and pool.  The grounds also encompass an area called  the Charles Fort Cannon Walk.  With the gorgeous blue ocean as a backdrop, this reconstructed historical area was absolutely stunning.  Lots of striking photo opportunities!
  • Negatives: The ocean was constantly churning in this location despite the presence of wave breakers.  This reality made it very difficult to take a leisurely swim. I wasn’t impressed with our actual room considering the price tag (… and I distinctly remember it being humid.)
  • Overall: Probably wouldn’t stay here again.  I would try booking somewhere on the western coast.
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August 2012 Trip to Wisconsin

James and I traveled to Wisconsin for a family reunion the first weekend in August.  Our weekend highlights included:

  • A reprieve from the scorching temps of our hometown!  The weather was absolutely delightful.  I might have mentioned to James at least once (or twice or three times!): “So, can we get a house up here for the summer months?!”
  • Baby’s first trip on an airplane!  Fortunately, the changing altitudes didn’t exacerbate my nausea or initiate any other pregnancy symptoms.
  • Meeting the extended family!  It was a pleasure to meet relatives on James’ side of the family at the reunion.  Everyone was so welcoming.
  • Spending time at J’s Aunt and Uncle’s farm.  Loved eating dinner outside while catching up with family as the sun washed this gorgeous setting in a haze of golden hues.

Since we flew into Minneapolis, we also had the opportunity to meet up with 2 of J’s college friends and take them to dinner at Manny’s Steakhouse as a belated wedding present.  I would venture to say that I had the best steak I’ve ever eaten at this restaurant.  I ordered it medium-well and hoped it wouldn’t be served as a charred mess.  It was absolutely perfect- completely cooked but incredibly moist and tender.  I enjoyed every bite!  James also gave the restaurant high marks for their ability to craft the classic “Brandy Old Fashioned,” his favorite drink.  To round out our meal, we decided to test out their “Hashbrown with Onions” potato side, which looked remarkably like a puffed up pancake!

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