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  • Mile-high fun with the family

    Now that my dad, stepmom, sister and uncle all live in Denver, we thought we would make a trip out there to visit them. I love Colorado in the summertime. It's definitely warmer than it is here, but still cooler than some of the other places we've lived. So it was a nice change of pace.


    Dad played guitar for Harper. She loves it. 

    Plus, we had all those extra arms to hold Harper and keep her entertained. Now that was a vacation!


    Fun times with great-uncle Steve. He always knows how to get a kid to laugh.

    The first night Megan took us out for a dinner at this quirky bar in Broomfield called The Old Man. We were a little skeptical at first — we all got carded but there were lots of kids playing outside in back. Family place or party bar? But once we got our food we were totally won over.

    They specialize in heaping plates of barbecue. We tried brisket and pulled pork. But the best part was the appetizer — tater tots smothered in green chili.


    Totally weird and totally awesome.

    While we were in Denver we also checked out the mile-high flea market and took Harper to the pool in my dad's development.

    The little boat thing was a spontaneous purchase, but it totally worked. Plus it folds up small enough to fit in a suitcase.

    We attempted to take a family photo. Harper was pretty tired and cranky by that point, but we tried to make it work.

    I like this outtake.

    We also wanted to give ourselves a Boulder day, so we all gathered for breakfast at the Buff.

    You know you're in a college town when you can get a mimosa for $1!

    Harper showed off her present from auntie Megan, an "I dance for cupcakes" onesie from Tee and Cakes. (Later we stopped there for dessert and coffee — still amazing).

    We did our little knitwear photo shoot on Pearl Street. Harper helped.

    They had so many pretty flowers. It was the perfect backdrop for photos.

    I'm glad to see it's still such a fun place to hang out, shop, eat, watch street performers.

    On our last day in Colorado, Mike and I decided we needed a little time to ourselves so we left the baby with her grandparents and drove up Boulder canyon.

    We spotted some climbers, little dots on the side of a mountain.

    Unfortunately Boulder Falls was closed due to falling rocks. I would have loved to hike down there, but not badly enough to risk getting hit by a rock.

    So we just kept driving, up to Nederland and then back to Denver the long way. It was so nice and quiet back there. Almost no other cars.

    It's really hard to find anywhere that isn't crowded where we live, so this was really relaxing.

    It was so great to see everyone. I didn't get photos of this, but we also got together with old friends one night. Wish we could have stayed longer, but now we're back to reality!

  • Angel Island and Tiburon

    Though the night before Labor Day was a rough one in the Corey household (Miss Harper is teething), we decided, post-nap, to make the most of the rest of our holiday weekend. We drove to Tiburon in Marin County to catch the ferry to Angel Island.


    Harper's first boat ride!

    Though I can't say it was high on my California to-do list, exploring Angel Island did seem like the perfect affordable day trip for a family with a baby. The Bay Bridge closure made traffic out there worse, but by Monday it was similar to a normal weekend day.

    We ended up loving the island and wondering why no one had suggested it before. The views are incredible! And now that I know you can camp there, I definitely want to come back with friends and family (Brianne - adventure club reunion?)

    Historically, the island was used to quarantine Asian immigrants and for military purposes several decades ago. So there are some museums and lots of old buildings and housing to check out.

    It struck me as the kind of place where haunted souls reside. Kind of fascinating and creepy at the same time.

    It is a little sad that the state is so broke it can't afford to maintain those old buildings. Some of them seem really cool and worth saving. They could certainly use them for tourism.

    But there are a lot of nice hiking and biking trails throughout the island. We did a good job of getting lost but eventually found our way.

    And man, the payoff is huge. The views are the best I've seen anywhere. From one part of the island you get this whole panoramic view of San Francisco and the bridges.


    That's Alcatraz in the middle.


    You can just make out the new Bay Bridge in front of the old (ugly) span.


    And, the Golden Gate.

    I can't imagine how pretty it is to watch the sun go down while you camp there. I guess that's why they also do sunset cruises.

    I didn't want to leave, but we caught the last ferry back.


    She does this thing now that looks like a wave.

    When we got back to Tiburon we got some gelato and admired the views, which are pretty darn good there, too.

    Most of our Marin exploration has been of the state park variety, but I'm thinking we need to spend some time in the towns, too. The quirky houseboats in Sausalito are so much fun to check out. So I think we have more adventures ahead.

    *And speaking of islands, you should definitely check out my post on Goodsmiths about shopping at the Treasure Island Flea Market. It was amazing and we found so many cool things.

  • Harper's first pumpkin patch + trip to Google

    Two Fridays ago it was a beautiful day and Mike was off work, so we decided to take Harper to a pumpkin patch in the south bay.

    There were pre-picked pumpkins as far as the eye could see. Most of them were in good shape, so it was kind of hard to decide which ones to get.

    We ended up with two orange pumpkins and one white one. If it were up to me I probably would have taken home two giant wagonloads. I just love pumpkins. :)

    Harper got to sit on the big tractor, just like Mike did as a kid.

    And we had to sit her on a giant pumpkin just because.

    In addition to carving pumpkins, they had all kinds of squashes, gourds, and even popcorn.

    We took home one hubbard to cook. When she's a little older I think Harper will enjoy some of the other stuff they had, like a hay bale pyramid and wagon rides. There's also a whole park with farm animals there.

    Since we were so far from home already and we had some time to kill before dinner, we decided to drive around Silicon Valley. I had never been to Stanford or seen any of the social media headquarters, so it was fun to check them out.

    The Google campus is huge, and full of surprises like these sculptures.

    I didn't realize employees could borrow these multi-colored bikes to ride around anytime.

    I couldn't believe how many people were actually using them!

    Mike showed me the parking lot dedicated to electric vehicles.


    I love how someone has carefully swept around the sign on the ground.


    Tesla spotted in the wild!

    After that we spent some time in downtown Palo Alto, which has a really nice shopping area. They even have the only Plan Toys retail store, which was fun to check out.

    I loved our day of exploration, but man is it expensive down there! We were pretty happy to go back to our little bubble (with one new toy, of course).

  • Kansas + Iowa

    After last year's epic tour of the Midwest for Thanksgiving we decided to split up future holiday visits to our families. It's just too crazy to try to see everyone in one trip. So we put our Mason family celebration in Kansas first, and we made it a little early so we could get more affordable flights. I also really wanted to squeeze in a side trip to Des Moines to see friends there (plus all their new babies), so we rented a car to make that happen.

    We were really hoping to experience a true fall season, something we both greatly miss. And wow were we rewarded with fall in all its glory. We had great weather most of the time, with just a bit of chill and plenty of brilliant leaves to run through.

    And of course we had some excellent food. We went straight from the airport to Oklahoma Joe's for some authentic KC barbecue. Oh my gosh, it was unbelievable. And huge! Talk about a change of pace. I had enough fries to feed 3 people, and my whole lunch was like $6!

    I don't normally like ribs that much, but theirs were in a league of their own. Just fall-off-the-bone tender. I'm thinking we should make this a tradition every time we visit.

    Something about the sky on the way home was really lovely. Black trees against a golden sunset and fields of hay bales. I must have been away long enough to appreciate it in a new way.

    Friday we drove up to Des Moines. Can't say I see a lot of this in the bay area.

    We wanted to see the new Des Moines Register building. When we worked for the Register, the old building was in pretty sad shape. Now their new space looks fantastic, all shiny and new.

    We checked out their recording studio and got to pretend we were on the Bryce Miller show.

    It seems like so many of our former coworkers have moved on to other jobs, but we still know a ton of people there. It was great to catch up.


    Harper got to ring the copy desk joke bell. 

    After that we headed to the always adorable East Village where we got to say hi to my friend Karen from Ephemera.

    We also had to check out Stitch, a new knitting/sewing store that is exactly what I would create if I could design my own craft store.

    I definitely left with some gorgeous yarns. I couldn't help myself.

    Des Moines was looking particularly lovely that night as the sun set.

    This is the part where I could just kick myself for not taking some pictures. We went to visit our friends Tim and Gretchen who just had triplets a few months ago. (I always think of them when I think my life is hard.) They are handling it amazingly well. You can follow Tim on Instagram if you want to see their adorable babies.

    After that (yes, this was an epic day) we met up with our friends Brianne, Joe, and baby Emmett and our friend Arin with her baby Jonah for dinner at A Dong. It was kind of crazy with 3 babies, as you can imagine, but so much fun. We miss A Dong so much!

    After that we just hung out, drank wine, and ate cupcakes from Creme Cupcake. They only had vegan stuff left at the end of the day, but my coconut cupcake was damn good.

    The next morning our babies got to hang out a little bit.


    Someday the paper will go from chew toy to actual reading.


    Sweetness.

    Harper gets a kick out of all dogs, so of course she was entertained by Wilbur, who looks like a fox.

    Emmett is just such a sweet baby. I kind of wanted to put him in my bag and carry him off.

    Before we left town that morning we decided to take a walk around Brianne's lovely neighborhood. I was kind of obsessing over the trees, but they were so pretty.


    You too could own a pair of hand-knit baby legwarmers

    I mean look at that!

    I definitely get a lump in my throat when I think about how much I wish I could do this every day.

    But I'm glad we got the chance to spend some time together.

    When we got back to Lawrence we had a big family gathering with our Mason cousins. Harper got to play with her cousin Isla, who was only 5 weeks old when I met her last year.

    Both of the great grandmas were there, which was so cute. We got to take some four-generation photos.

    Harper got ultra spoiled with gifts. She basically giggled and shrieked all night. I think she was really overstimulated, but I know she was having fun.

    Auntie Erin had to put in a bunch of laps while uncle Jason made the stuffed dog bark.

    Later we got to have a little date while my mom stayed with Harper. Erin and Jason invited us to Merchants Pub & Plate in downtown Lawrence. We had some drinks and dessert (sweet potato donuts - fab!). Then we stopped by Erin's parents' house to meet their dogs. Believe it or not they have 3 Newfoundland mixes and a Great Pyrenees. Miss Bella owned the dog bed though.

    Speaking of dogs, Charlotte was pretty jealous of Harper getting all the attention. She did eventually warm up to her though.

    And she knew exactly where to stand when we had friends over for dinner.

    The rest of the time we got to relax a little.

    We made a big trip to Home Depot so Mike could take on some home-improvement projects.


    The extent of our plumbing knowledge. 

    The rest of us took some photos in the back yard. Mom's weeping willow was looking so beautiful.

    And we found Harper looked really cute in this red metal chair.

    I also did a little shopping in downtown Lawrence. I picked up some cute earrings for Megan at Made, which carries all handmade goodies (including some familiar ones from the bay area!).

    I also got a onesie made for Harper from Acme Tshirts. They have so many good ones to choose from.

    We were sad to leave, but we have more family visits coming up in December. My dad and stepmom will be here mid-month. And then we'll be traveling to Wisconsin and Minnesota for Christmas. Looking forward to seeing many more familiar faces.

  • 11 months

    I feel like this month someone took my baby and streeetched her out. Though she still has plenty of baby chub, she is starting to grow more up than out.

    She is all energy and curiosity lately. December was so busy with craft sales and travel that I really needed her to be on her best behavior. And by some miracle, she was.

    Of course most of the time she was crab-crawling or cruising around the house getting into trouble. But at least she was in a good mood!

    Early in the month her Denver grandparents came to visit and took on the back-breaking job of walking her all over the place.

    We had early Christmas with them, which featured these adorable Babiators.

    She's always looking around for someone to engage with. She's big on clapping and waving when she feels like it.

    She learned to shake her head no. But I think it only means no about half the time.

    Our house looks like it has been hit by a toy tornado. But most of the time she can be found playing with anything but toys. It's messy, but I like that she's trying to learn more about the world around her.


    The hair refuses to be tamed.

    She still eats pretty much anything we give her, but I don't think it will be long before she starts getting picky. We've also discovered the magic of Cheerios as both a toy and food.

    For Christmas we traveled to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where she got to experience a number of firsts:

    First bone-chilling cold. It was -13 the morning we left.

    First time seeing snow.

    And eating it.


    She got to hang out with her buddy, Aldo, in Minneapolis.

    First sledding with daddy.

    We even had a sleigh ride, which was pretty cool.

    First pom-pom hat.

    First Packer jersey.

    And of course, first Christmas.

    She and her cousin Grace were pretty darn cute in their matching Christmas pjs.

    I know her Wisconsin grandparents really enjoyed the time with her. And Mike and I enjoyed our first overnight trip to Duluth, just the two of us.

    We were pretty grateful for a baby who traveled so well.

    The plane ride home was full of babies, including maybe 18-month-old twins who screamed most of the flight. Instead of being annoyed, I just felt terrible for the mom. Harper can be a handful, but lately a pretty happy one.

    I almost forgot to say that she took a few steps on her own during our trip. She's not walking yet, but as soon as she decides she's ready, she'll just do it. Then we'll really be in trouble.

  • Road trips recap

    I was just watching this show about fun not-so-touristy things to do in San Francisco (note to self: book sunset kayaking tour), and it made me think I should gather up all the posts I wrote about our road trips in California. Summer isn't really the best time weather-wise here, so sometimes I forget that it's still the main tourist season. But regardless of when you come, these are all road trips I would recommend taking at some point.

    Close to San Francisco:

    Angel Island
    Take the ferry from Tiburon in Marin County for a day trip or overnight camping. Lots of history and beautiful views of the city, bay and bridges. 


    Point Bonita Lighthouse and Crissy Field
    Great places to escape the crowded city and take photos, especially at sunset. 


    Rockaway Beach/Pacifica
    Not far from the city you can really escape to this little beach on the ocean. 


    Point Reyes
    One of our favorite places to relax is Limantour Beach, and it is just one of many cool places to explore in Point Reyes.

    Wine country:

    Coppola Winery
    Frances Ford Coppola's winery is really worth a visit up north. It has a museum about his cinematic roots plus a swimming pool and restaurant. And of course, wine!


    Sonoma
    Napa's less-snooty sister, Sonoma is a really relaxing getaway less than an hour from our house.

    North of SF:

    Bodega Bay and Eureka
    Bodega Bay for fresh crab sandwiches and spectacular ocean views. Eureka for the Avenue of the Giants, which better be on your bucket list.


    Reno/Lake Tahoe
    Reno is much more than slot machines (wild horses!). Don't miss the Awful Awful burger.

    And Lake Tahoe is one pretty place I intend to visit much more.

    South of SF:

    Los Angeles
    I loved LA much more than I expected to. The hipster food culture doesn't hurt. And there's so much to explore in all the different neighborhoods.


    San Diego
    One word: tacos. Actually two words: al pastor.


    Catalina Island
    This is a really beautiful side trip if you can swing it. Touristy, yes, but you can also escape the crowds and go for a hike.


    Palm Springs
    Palm Springs is hot as hell and super quirky, but we really loved it. Don't miss the Ace Hotel and the crazy mountain tram.

    Full-on nature:

    Sequoia National Forest, part I and part II
    Unfortunately, this trip always makes me think of being 8 weeks pregnant and super nauseous. But man, was it spectacular. I highly recommend you explore the giant sequoias and King's Canyon if you get a chance.


    Mono Hot Springs
    Will I ever make the extreme journey to Mono Hot Springs again? I don't know. But I'm glad I went once. It was beautiful, peaceful and endearingly weird.


    Monterey and Big Sur
    In this case, I definitely saved the best for last. The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur is absolutely incredible. It's right out of a movie. And when you get to Big Sur, the redwood forest is equally amazing. Airstream glamping there is on my life list.

    Putting together this post has made me realize how much we need to get back in the car and start traveling again! As many places as we've been, we still have many more to see (thinking of Joshua Tree and Yosemite, for starters). Anywhere else we should go?

  • Heading west

    So back up about 4 weeks. 

    My mom and I enjoyed an unseasonably cool week in Kansas (THANK GOD) while selling her stuff, packing and cleaning her house. But by the time we left Lawrence it was sweltering. We were not sad to leave 100+ degrees and 80 percent humidity, not at all.


    Thankfully we had a full-on midwestern buffet at mom's sendoff.

    But after all that chaos the drive really was peaceful and beautiful.

    I was heartened to see that wind energy has really taken off in unexpected (albeit incredibly windy places) like western Kansas and Wyoming. Wind farms made for spectacular sunsets.

    Charlotte only wanted to be in one place: on the passenger's lap. She's a great traveling dog, just along for the ride.

    We stopped in Denver to visit my sister, dad and stepmom. Wish I could have stayed longer, but not this time.


    We kept remarking on how much taffy there was at truck stops. 

    On day 2 we made it to Salt Lake City just as a storm threatened to make our drive a lot scarier. But instead of hitting us we just drove alongside the storm, which was really kind of cool.

    The cheap hotel I picked was pretty awful, but had the benefit of making us leave extra early on day 3. We were so motivated to get home to Mike and Harper that we barreled through the salt flats (isn't that what you're supposed to do?) and arrived at home before Harper's bedtime. 

    It's been a tough few weeks, but it was all worth it for moments like this. 

  • Beach day in Pescadero

    Last weekend we really needed a break from all the projects around the house, so we decided to get out of town and take a hike. Except that when we arrived at our starting point, Bean Hollow beach in Pescadero, we realized our hike was going to turn into a day at the beach. So we went with it. 

    I knew that Harper, being the adventurous soul that she is, would want to go in the water. But I didn't realize just how much she would like it, or how eager she would be to walk into some pretty strong waves. 

    So we took turns holding her while the waves splashed over her little legs. She kept signing "more" over and over. I'm not sure I've ever seen her do that for anything other than food. 

    It's a pretty long drive to Pescadero, but we really liked that beach. It seemed less crowded than most beaches around here, and it had lots of interesting rocks and birds. 

    Mike even found a sea anemone. 

    The people there seemed really friendly, too. One guy even came up and offered to take some pictures of Mike and Harper. He did a great job!

    Afterward we drove to Santa Cruz and had dinner at Pizzeria Avanti. I was a little skeptical when we drove up to this worn strip mall, but the restaurant was nice inside and the food (artichokes, padron peppers, and a sausage pizza) were excellent. 

    My sister is coming in less than two weeks and we're already planning our next adventure to Big Sur!

  • Road trip: Napa Valley

    Last weekend my dad and stepmom were visiting from Denver, so we decided to meet one of Bonnie's friends at a winery near Calistoga. It made for a lovely road trip passing through several Napa Valley wineries during harvest season.

    The winery we toured, Castello di Amorosa, is pretty spectacular and a little quirky. Though it's newly built, the castle looks like something you'd find touring ancient properties in Europe.

    Outside we were surprised to find goats and sheep running loose among the guests.

    Harper loved all the animals, especially the chickens.

    We were just cracking up watching these goats munch on grape vines, but apparently the grapes had already been picked so it was OK.

    We would have liked to tour the wine caves and other parts of the castle, but we were on toddler time, so we went straight to the tasting. Harper got to color and drink grape juice while the adults tasted wines. I highly recommend this place if you need a kid friendly winery.

    After that, we went to a really good restaurant in St. Helena called Archetype. Since it was brunch time, I ordered an omelet and bloody Mary, and everything was fantastic. A little pricey, but I would definitely come back.

    We've done this kind of trip before (to the Coppola winery), so I'm thinking this could become a fun tradition.

  • Fort Bragg glass beach

    At long last Mike and I got away for a toddler-free trip. We decided sort of last-minute to book a place in the Mendocino area. Since it was Valentine's Day weekend, a lot of things were booked. But he had President's Day off, so we went for a Sunday/Monday trip and a motel in Fort Bragg rather than pricier Mendocino.

    My favorite part of the trip (other than the couples massage we splurged on), was this glass beach.

    It basically runs along the coastline cliffs, where trash used to be dumped into the water. Now these beautiful pieces of colorful glass wash ashore in the little inlets.

    We climbed down a sort of ridiculously unsafe hill to get to the beach (note to self: do not wear a dress and Toms for this activity!). But once there it was totally worth it.

    The ground is just covered with glass pieces shimmering in the sunlight. And the view is spectacular. It's one of those places you can't believe is real.

    Though the drive there along the PCH made me carsick, I am so glad we took this trip. It was instantly restorative to drive through some redwoods. We bought too many souvenirs at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company along the way and we shopped and lingered and did all the things we don't normally do. We really want to take a similar trip to New Orleans, so after this I'm super motivated to make it happen.

  • Bay Area fun for kids

    I realized that my Bay Area travel guide really needed an update, so I added a whole bunch more restaurants and things to do and took off some that either closed or aren't really hot spots for us. And because I know it's a huge list, I still have my top 10 list so you can cut to the chase.

    Mike and Harper at Codornices Park in Berkeley. This one has a cool hill slide and a tunnel to the Rose Garden. 

    Now that we're parents, though, we have a whole new perspective on travel and dining out. Most touristy places — well, let's be honest, most everywhere in the Bay Area — can be crowded with long lines and inadequate parking. When you're hauling around small children and all the stuff that goes with them, you want to make sure you're going to be able to keep them entertained while finding things like clean bathrooms and high chairs. So, I wanted to put together a list of our favorite places to hang out with kids. When I first moved here I thought this wasn't a particularly kid friendly place (more like dog friendly!) but now I realize that there are plenty of super fun places that cater to kids. You just have to find them. *When in doubt, search Red Tricycle.

    Here are a few that are definitely worth checking out:

    Steam trains and Little Farm. It's a nice drive through the eucalyptus trees to reach Tilden Regional Park, which is up in the Berkeley hills. You can stop at one of the overlooks for a view of the whole bay. Then continue on to one of our favorite stops, the steam trains. It's about a 10-minute ride through the woods in a cute little train. There's a spot nearby where you can have a picnic in the grass.

    You can also drive to the carousel and the Little Farm, where kids can feed farm animals. And there are some great hiking trails in the area. 

    Children's Fairyland. They call this Oakland's storybook theme park, and I'd say that's a perfect description. It's full of tiny houses to explore, plus a train ride, puppet show and other performances. Bigger kids can go down slides and ride the carousel. 

    Harper inside one of the little houses in Fairyland.

    Lake Merritt. Fairyland is right next to gorgeous Lake Merritt, which has a great playground and nature center. Harper likes to watch the ducks and geese. There's a huge lawn where you can have a picnic. 

    Running near the playground at Lake Merritt.

    Bay Area Discovery Museum. This place is much more than a museum. It's like a theme park without all the schmaltz. Kids can explore different areas, inside and out, with climbing obstacles, water to splash in, musical instruments and a lot more.

    It's a little pricey, but the first Wednesday of the month is free! Plus, you can't beat the Golden Gate Bridge view and the proximity to Sausalito and other fun things in Marin. 

    The view from the parking lot at the discovery museum.

    Treasure Island Flea. The last weekend of every month there's a huge flea market on Treasure Island. It's only $3 admission and kids under 12 are free. They have activities set up for kids and food trucks, where you can get a really yummy lunch. The market's great, but it's also just a fun place to hang out. 

    Crissy Field and East Beach. Harper loves the water, so even if it's freezing cold, we still have fun taking her to the beach. The one near Crissy Field is right in San Francisco and has great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge. It has a nice walking/bike trail and bathrooms nearby. 

    She also loved the beach in Pescadero, which is a bit of a drive but a nice getaway. 

    Lafayette Park playground. If you're looking for a playground in the city, you'll love the one at Lafayette Park. We went there for a birthday party and couldn't believe how nice it was.  

    The playground at Lafayette park.

    Berkeley Marina/Cesar Chavez Park. When Harper was a baby, my moms group used to meet here to walk our strollers on the wide path through this waterfront park. People come to "kite hill" to fly kites here, which is fun to watch. Nearby at the marina there is a nice playground and then a big adventure playground for older kids.

    I might do a separate list for kid-friendly restaurants, but there are a few places I can recommend. For breakfast, we love Mel's Diner. They have a bunch of bay area locations (apparently these are different from the Mel's Drive-Ins, which would also be good), which have kids menus, crayons and balloons. For Mexican food, the Talavera in Berkeley is great because it's right next to a little park. For ice cream, we love Fentons in Oakland. You can get huge sundaes to share, and although there's sometimes a line, you can usually get a table pretty quickly. 

    Baby-size sundae at Fenton's.

    I will keep adding to this list as we discover new things!

  • Montreal-Vermont-Pittsburgh

    As usual, I'm a little behind in posting here, but I wanted to share some photos of our cross-country trip (without a kid!). We decided that if we were going to fly all the way to Vermont for our friends' wedding in May, we might as well make a bigger vacation out of it. Mom agreed to watch Harper for a full week, so we went for it.

    We started by flying to Montreal and staying at a super hip Airbnb apartment in the Mount Royal neighborhood. It turned out to be a great decision to stay there. We walked all over, shopping and trying out restaurants. Even though we had a rental car, we didn't need it in that area.

    I loved all the street art. It really reflects the city's artsy personality.

    Architecturally, it felt very European, with lots of brick row houses and wrought iron railings. The neighborhood was crawling with hipsters wearing man buns. Coming from San Francisco, it was oddly comforting.

    For once we didn't really have an agenda other than to explore the city. We did a lot of eating and a lot of relaxing. It was nice.

    But let's talk about the food. It was wonderful. We started out with poutine, of course. A friend recommended La Banquise, which is pretty casual and affordable. We ordered a classic poutine with cheese curds and gravy, and a giant one with beef, hot peppers and guacamole. They were both amazing and we pretty much stuffed ourselves way past full.

    For breakfast we knew we wanted to try bagels. I didn't realize Montreal was so famous for them, but they are definitely in the do-not-miss category. They're thinner and crispier on the outside than New York bagels. We had some at a little cafe where you could watch them slide the bagels into a brick oven with a super long and skinny peel.

    For lunch we had to try Schwartz's. It's a trip. You walk in and there are just tons of people squeezed into these long tables, so you are bunched up against strangers while you eat. It was actually kind of cool. We talked to the people next to us (and by the way, not knowing French well didn't seem to be a problem at all). On the menu is "smoked meat." Apparently that is a thing in that region. It's basically brisket, and you get to choose your level of fattiness. We had sandwiches with mustard and pickles, and they were super good and filling. Don't ask questions, just order the smoked meat!

    For another meal we tried a Tibetan restaurant, which was also very good. Probably the best mango lassi I've ever had. And we got to try this Tibetan bread, that is basically wrapped up like a cinnamon roll.

    On our last day there, we walked around Old Montreal, which feels much more like historical areas in Europe. But very touristy! We picked up some souvenirs and had crepes.

    Overall, I really liked Montreal and it made me wonder why I have not traveled more in Canada. Especially after crossing both the US and Canadian borders twice, I really felt like Canada is so much more laid back. They just don't get as worked up about things as Americans do. For example, when we went to rent a car we just gave them our reservation and they gave us the keys. No trying to convince us to buy insurance or inspect the car for 15 minutes or whatever else they do. Little things like that happened over and over. Plus, it's like getting to Europe for half the price, and your money goes farther in Canada. So yeah, I'm definitely putting more Canadian cities on my to-do list.

    After Montreal, we drove across the border to Vermont. We stayed at an adorable inn near Waitsfield, where they told us not to worry about coming in late because they literally never lock the door. Sigh. I loved Vermont so much. It is my kind of place. Laid back, outdoorsy, full of hippies. Into pickling and homebrew.

    We went to the Waitsfield farmers market, which is surprisingly big and great for such a small area. We kind of went nuts and bought jam, cheese, soap and a tie dye T-shirt for Harper. We even bought whiskey from a local distillery to gift to our friends. Afterward we found the best baby/kids store and talked to the owner for a while. Everyone was so friendly!

    Then of course we had to tour the Ben & Jerry's factory. The tour was super cheesy, but at least there was ice cream at the end. That evening we went to the wedding, which was just beautiful and perfect. Congrats Torey and Chase! I'm sorry I didn't take pictures, I just ate delicious barbecue and ice cream sandwiches.

    The last leg of our trip was to Pittsburgh to visit our friends Jennie and Patrick. They traveled all over the country looking for a new city and ended up picking Pittsburgh. So I was anxious to see what it was like, since it sounded like a city going through a lot of changes. Plus, Mike lived there briefly before we started dating and he wanted to see how much it had changed.

    It really did seem like the whole city was under construction and a lot of cool things were happening. As Patrick says, it's got good bones. The infrastructure is there (and affordable), so people are converting old buildings into new bars, restaurants, and other cool spots. But it still has a lot of history and plenty of old-school joints. Like Primanti Brothers! That restaurant has been on my wish list for a long time. It's the one where they put fries and cole slaw on the sandwiches and mash it all together. I could only manage to eat half a sandwich (they are huge!). And honestly, I thought each part would have been better separately. But I'm still glad I got to try it.

    One thing I thought was really cool were the inclines. In order to get up or down these super steep bluffs that look out over the city, you can ride on little cable cars. I'm not the best with heights, so it was a little scary. But the views at the top are amazing. And I'm glad they preserved the cars — it's a really unique thing.

    So that was our trip. It was kind of crazy, but all the parts came together and we really enjoyed some time to relax and do adult things, for once.

  • Girls weekend in Santa Rosa

    About a year ago Erin and I were planning a girls weekend in wine country when I realized that my grandma's funeral was scheduled for the same weekend. Needless to say I would much rather have had a vacation than travelled to Kansas with a toddler for such a sad occasion. But I wouldn't have missed saying goodbye to my grandmother, and so we had to reschedule. We finally got our trip pulled together, and it was so amazing!

    I needed this trip so badly. Life is stressful and exhausting lately, and these trips (even the shortest ones) are so restorative. We got an airbnb guesthouse in Santa Rosa for a very reasonable price, and then we set aside some money for food and pampering. It really helps to have a best friend with experience as an event planner. I pretty much just had to show up and everything was ready to go.

    The back yard where we stayed, complete with bubbling fountain.

    This gorgeous Victorian was right across the street AND it had an Airstream. I am clearly living in the wrong place.

    Our first food stop in the area was the Squeeze Inn in Napa. I have been wanting to try a Squeezeburger for ages! It's basically a classic California burger topped with so much cheddar cheese that it forms a "cheese skirt" you have to peel off and eat. It was really good, and since I couldn't finish mine I got to keep eating it all weekend.

    Squeezeburgers.

    That night we walked around downtown Santa Rosa and found this cute magician-themed ice cream shop. It was huge and very kid-friendly, the kind of place I wish we had in our neighborhood. I had a sundae made with sugar cookie ice cream that was as good as it sounds.

    The next morning we decided to try the Naked Pig for breakfast. Thankfully, a friend had just posted on Facebook about going there, so I wanted to try it. I had to take this picture so that you could see how this farm-to-table restaurant is situated in the parking lot across from a garage. Kind of funny.

    But oh man was this little place a winner. They have these homemade biscuits served with butter and honey that certainly rival any I've ever made. And although our food was pretty simple, you could tell they pay attention to every single ingredient. The bacon tasted like maple syrup and the tomatoes in Erin's frittata looked just like the ones in my garden.

    It was so good we actually went back for breakfast the next day. I had to try the bacon waffle, which was SO good. It was light and crispy and just crammed full of bacon.

    After that we were ready for pampering. We got hour-long massages. I was so excited that the pillow arrangement allowed me to lay on my stomach. I haven't done that in months! After that we got a taco lunch and picked up some beer from Russian River Brewing. None for me, but Erin and Mike are big fans.

    Then it was onto more pampering! We got the world's most affordable mani-pedis at Sea Spa. The older lady who did my toes was obsessed with my baby belly. By the end of the appointment she was giving me hugs.

    After that we were feeling like we needed to get out and explore the outdoors a little. So we drove all the way out to the Sonoma coast. It was about 20 degrees cooler out there, with such a pretty view.

    Then we decided to head back to Guerneville (note to self, stay in this cute area sometime!) to see the Armstrong Redwoods park. I had no idea this beautiful place was up there, but I will definitely be going back.

    It has the perfect set of easy trails through an amazing redwood canopy. As soon as I get to a place like that, my blood pressure drops 20 points and I am just so restored.

    After that very full day we wanted something good to eat. We had the hardest time deciding on a restaurant. At first we wanted Indian or Himalayan, but there are just so many restaurants to choose from. So somehow we landed on Belly, which is sort of a gastropub. We were able to walk there from our airbnb place and we got seated right away. They have a lot of small plates that are good for sharing so we went kind of crazy trying them all. And they were all so good I didn't even take pictures.

    We had chorizo with brussels sprouts, mac 'n cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, a wedge salad and then the surprise of the night, corned beef tacos. We kind of rolled the dice on those, but they were so much better than anything I could have pictured. They kind of crisped the meat like carnitas, and then served it with a cream sauce and cabbage (St. Patrick's Day alternative meal next year?). We actually didn't even eat the guacamole it came with because the tacos were already so flavorful. After that we were in total bliss and about to burst. But then we saw the table next to us order this incredible looking chocolate mousse served on a wood slab with whipped cream and berries. So yeah, we had to have that too. We ended up taking so much food home.

    When we got back, Harper couldn't get enough of her "auntie Erin."

    All in all I'd say we crammed in just about as much enjoyable stuff as you possibly could in two days. And yet it still seemed incredibly relaxing. I cannot wait to do something like this again!

  • Max 7-9 months and Harper 3.5

    I had to take this picture to document the fact that prior to this I had left him sitting on the floor on the other side of the room. Apparently he can pull himself to standing and push his little play table several feet.

    At 9 months, Max is doing a lot of the same things Harper was at that age.

    Yup, that was Harper!

    He can balance standing up as long as he's holding onto something.

    He really likes to be walked around the house. He doesn't quite crawl, but he seems close to crab crawling with one leg out the way Harper did.

    For a while I had him rigged up in the Jenny Jump Up so that he could stand at the table, but he already doesn't need it.

    We learned the hard way that you can't leave him on a couch or bed anymore. He will totally roll off (head first, of course).

    7 months.

    8 months.

    It seems strange to say, but the last 3 months have been much harder than the previous 3. I think it's mostly because of teeth. Max has 6 now, and every time he gets a new one, he is miserable and sleepless.

    That picture pretty much sums up how I've felt lately — tiiired.

    Then a few weeks ago, we all got sick, but Max got it the worst. He had a fever for like 4 days, and he couldn't sleep for being so stuffed up. And we just could not get his sleep on track after that.

    He was so tired he fell asleep playing with toys.

    Fortunately, we accomplished a couple of things after that. We got a second car (an electric Leaf!) and I found a daycare for Max. I'm not sure if it's related to his daycare provider or not, but he's been sleeping most of the night ever since.

    So we have our happy Max back, and it's great.

    The biggest thing that happened over the last 3 months, though, was our vacation to Portland and Seattle. Traveling with two little kids was tough, but they did great on their flights.

    The hardest part was lugging around all the stuff (stroller, 2 carseats, luggage, diaper bag, etc.). And then traveling between the two cities, which took WAY longer than we had anticipated.

    We did get some family photos, which was nice.

    This one, from a Portland breakfast spot, is my favorite.

    This one kind of sums up the chaos of our trip.

    We stayed at Air BnBs, which worked out great. Plus, I got two blissful days of wandering around Portland while the kids had free daycare from Mike's conference.

    Still dreaming about Blue Star Donuts.

    We took a break for a mall carousel.

    Max loves playing in the grass.

    One of the best things we got to do was meet up with an old friend from Kansas and ride on her family's boat. They took us around Lake Union in Seattle, which was just unbelievably beautiful.

    Harper was a little scared, but she did great.

    We tried to do the public market in Seattle, but it was too crazy crowded.

    Instead we headed to Discovery Park for a hike.

    This picture is so Harper — all dirt and shin bruises.

    On our last day we took the kids to Alki Beach and we got some great photos of them playing in the sand together.

    They still get along really well. These pictures of them with Harper's Soccer Shots headband crack me up.

    Grammie came to visit for a couple weeks, which was so nice.

    We are planning TWO trips to visit family for the holidays, so it will be fun to see everyone we've missed.

    I've been super busy and stressed from all the knitting orders that have come in, but it's kind of par for the course.

    My boss is opening another store in Breckenridge, so I am making a whole bunch of items for that.

    We did have a nice respite at a local beach we found. There are so few really quiet places around, so we'll have to remember this one.

    This time with two little kids can be really brutal some days. But I also feel this sense of fulfillment I never have before. It's not perfect, but I have so many of the things I always wanted. And especially now that we have the house pretty much finished and I'm back to work, it's easier to appreciate it all.

    I love this picture. Oh, to be 3 again.

    As Harper gets closer to 4, I think she's calming down a little. She's learning how to spell and how to communicate better, and she says the most adorable things like, "mommy, you're my best friend."

    Harper's taking yoga and I bought a jogging stroller so I can run. Hopefully if Max keeps sleeping well we can all come out of the haze and feel normal again. I have some new products, including these adorable crowns.

    I should have more to share soon!

  • Harper, 4, and Max, 1

    It's been so long I hardly remember how to do this! I guess my absence tells you what's it's like to have two little kids. I really liked the part of blogging where I kept a record of my kids growing, though.

    At this age they have kind of flipped roles a bit. Harper can communicate well enough to follow directions and she goes to bed reliably at 7:30, then sleeps until 7:30 (sometimes even later!). She's still grappling with toddler emotions and SO MUCH ENERGY, but generally she's a lot more mature. I can't believe I'm going to be signing her up for kindergarten next summer.

    Mellow Max on the other hand has become quite a handful. I had forgotten about the 18-months-ish age, where they can walk, climb and generally get into trouble, but they can't really communicate yet. So if they want something and can't make it happen, they just whine or cry. He does take naps, but he stays up later than Harper and during these really bright summer months, he wakes up ready to party at 6:30.

    Max has figured out how to open the fridge and take things out. Poor guy is just hungry all.the.time. I can't even imagine how much he will eat as a teenager.

    Harper is getting a lot pickier about what foods she'll eat. She still tries a lot of things, but she wants mac 'n cheese and cereal, and if I make something with peppers and onions, she wants me to pick them out. They're both all about the chocolate ice cream.

    It is cute the way they play together now. Harper likes to help get Max set up in his high chair and sometimes she will even get him something he needs without being asked.

    The problem is that they fight about toys all the time. They always want what the other one has, even if they have no real interest in it. Luckily they have different enough interests and we have enough toys that they can usually find something else to do.

    Harper is still really into art projects and dressing up. We now have 3 cubbies and an overflowing bin of dress-up toys in her room.

    Her biggest love right now is Moana. I actually think it's a great movie, although I've seen it enough times to be a little over it. And of course she is always down to wear a princess dress to school over her clothes.

    Max is super into trains lately. He says "choo choo" when a bart train goes by - it's adorable. He also loves to build little things with Legos.

    It's interesting to see him developing language in kind of a different way than Harper. She didn't say as many words, but she would say them perfectly. He'll try more, even if it comes out all garbled. Sometimes he just kind of talks in gibberish and you're like, OK buddy. I have no idea what you want, but right on.

    Mike and I got a rare vacation when we turned his work trip to Vancouver into a long weekend without kids. My mom flew in from Kansas to watch them. It was so nice and over way too soon.

    Our next trip will be with the kids to Minnesota in September. We wanted to go back to Lutsen for our anniversary (Sept. 18) and we thought we could have some alone time and then some with the whole family. I can't believe we haven't been back there since the wedding almost 7 years ago.

    This stage of life is just tough. I think it was actually easier when Max was a baby. The not-sleeping part is super hard, but then their needs are pretty much limited to eating, sleeping and diaper changes. Now you have to be on all the time, and it's intense. Especially for an introvert who needs alone time to recharge. I think when they're old enough to have a little more independence it will be easier. But hey, no one does this because it's easy.

    Last week we finally got enough free time to take the kids on a bike ride in our neighborhood. It was really fun, and it was a little taste of the kind of outdoorsy things we can as a family, especially as they get older.

    I have Max in daycare 4 days a week now, and I am starting to work a lot more. I now work at 2 stores (1 in Sausalito and 1 in San Francisco). I'm doing some PR work for one store and organizing classes at the other. And now I'm branching out and trying to teach more classes. I think that is really where it's at for me. It's the perfect intersection of crafts, media and retail, it pays well, and there are a lot of opportunities to teach around here.

    I'm also trying to get back in shape, post-babies, so hopefully I'll get a minute to share about that soon.