Category Archives: Travel

Got Fall? We’ll Travel.

Vacations. We need them to rest, to get rejuvenated, to break up the monotony, to disconnect from devices and reconnect with people, and sometimes to challenge ourselves in different ways. As Floridians, we also need them to experience some seasonal weather!

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We recently returned from our third trip to Blue Ridge, Georgia. It was one of the most beautiful, relaxing yet active, perfect vacations yet. For a recap of our first trip as well as the reasons we love to go read Mountains are hilly from two years ago.

It took about 7.5 hours to drive from Orlando to Blue Ridge. But it felt not much more than 5 hours because all of the girls (including this one!) slept in the car from 5:30-7:30 am. Thanks Bill! We stopped for a quick breakfast and once to get gas along the way, and then drove straight into town to stretch our legs, eat some lunch, and play in the leaves.

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Leaves!

After that, we headed to our cabin for the long weekend and played there for the rest of the day.

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The backyard came complete with a creek.

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We brought dinner from home that night, so Bill and I relaxed on the porch overlooking this beautiful backyard with a glass or two of wine while the girls enjoyed exploring the five acre piece of property that the house was on. They loved the creek and making trails.

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After dinner we roasted some marshmallows over a bonfire and then moved to the front yard where we all cuddled together and looked at the stars. Believe it or not, I have never ever seen a shooting star. We saw three (three!) the first night we were out there. The sky was so bright without all of the city lights obscuring our view. It was magical.

I ran the next two mornings. It was so nice not waking up to an alarm, and getting outside to explore whenever I felt like it. I ran a little over six miles the first day, and about four the following day. They were some of my best runs ever in terms of how I felt (especially given the hills), the scenery and the weather. Some views from my runs:

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Do you see the deer? It looks way farther away in the picture than it was in real life. Wild animals scare this city girl a little, but I kept my cool and kept running.

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We were supposed to pick apples on our first full day, but the orchard was no longer offering u-pick because they were picked out due to a summer drought. We were bummed about this because it’s one of our favorite things to do, but we stopped by the Mercier general store and picked up some of their apples to take home with us. Those Gold Rush apples. Mmmm.

With no apple picking option, we headed to Tennessee! It was only about twenty minutes to the Ocoee Whitewater Center in the Cherokee National Forest where we enjoyed some rock hopping and a 2.5 mile hike. It was our first time visiting here. The girls LOVED the rocks. These little gymnasts easily made it over the rocks (they were literally jumping from rock edge to rock edge). One of their parents may have taken a spill, but it’s cool.

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Cool thing about these rocks. They are natural rocks, but were removed prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and repositioned in the river to create the kayak course. During the summer, the rocks are less exposed and the river is full until Labor Day when it is partially drained. I’d love to see what it is like in the summer.

We hiked that day in the Cherokee Forest, and the next day back in Georgia on a trail we’ve hiked on every year (starting when our youngest was 2!) as well as part of a new trail. Being outside and hiking is our family’s happy place.

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Heeeyyyyy, Hey hey baby, I’d like to know-ow-ow if you’ll be my girl….

The very last thirty minutes of hiking on the last day was the only time this happened. These girls are troopers!

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On our second night, we met an awesome couple in downtown Blue Ridge for dinner. It was nice catching up with our Blue Ridge friends. I love how there are some people that you may not see for ages, but you are able to quickly reconnect with them when you see them. Bonfire and stargazing on repeat.

After my run the following morning we settled into our vacation morning routine again. How I love rush-less mornings!

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Vacation mornings
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One despises eggs (and this picture) so we relied on her to celebrate National Oatmeal Day. For real.

After a full day of hiking, we spend the evening at home with dinner we brought from Orlando. Bonfire and stargazing again too. I was so not ready to go home on Sunday. This trip was so easy, relaxing, peaceful, and yet super active every day. This is my ideal vacation recipe. I felt so in tune with nature and my family and myself. When can we go back?

I’ll leave you with a few more fun pictures from the trip.

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I call this (1) Urban Girl Goes Day Hiking and (2) Urban Girl Meets Friends for Dinner in Mountain Town
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Like Mother like Daughter. Love love love this girl’s eye for beauty.
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Hiking Family

Rounding out the summer

Greetings! Is it fall yet? I dream of jeans and sweaters and manageable hair. Meanwhile, some of us take this heat in stride.

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This last part of summer was busy but good. One went to a five night sleep away camp for the first time. I was supportive of her signing up, but when it came time for her to go, I surprised myself with how anxious I was about letting her go. For so many reasons that I won’t share lest you think I’m a complete crazy lady.

All I can think of is The Parent Trap. They also had an Arapahoe cabin.
All I can think of is The Parent Trap. They also had an Arapahoe cabin.

One day when we were all home, I took the girls to a community yoga class early one morning at the lovely East End Market. I loved this morning – sharing my love of yoga with my girls. Also, Two is totally down with crow pose. Like it’s no big deal.

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yogis

I’m a little obsessed with strawberry rhubarb, oh, EVERYTHING. I made a crumble and we devoured it in less than 24 hours. So the girls made another one. On their own. Completely impressed.

the making
the making
ta-da!
ta-da!

One of our most favorite things to do over the summer is to visit my family in Illinois. My parents live about 30 minutes outside of Chicago. We love relaxing at my parents’ house and hanging out with family and friends. I really enjoy not thinking about what to make for dinner every night and taking a cooking break. There is something about Midwest summers that will always make me happy.

The big girls headed up there with my dad a week early, and had the best time getting spoiled by my parents. They loved picking veggies from my mom’s garden, watering pots and pots of flowers, running around their basement (a novel thing for Floridians), swimming and checking out the Lincoln Park Zoo. It really is the little things.

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Love that background!

Meanwhile, Three and I chilled on the porch here at home.

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doll baby

Seriously though, having one child = way harder than having more than one child. I really underestimated how much the girls play together and entertain each other. I’m so grateful for the girls that they have each other, and will have each other for life. I’m also thankful that they have each other for me. Just sayin.’

Bill, Three and I eventually met the rest of the crew for a couple of days with my parents. I loved catching up with family and old friends, and also attending my twentieth high school reunion. I had the best time and I think Bill had a pretty good time too. There is something really cool about reconnecting with friends from high school, middle school and even elementary school. People that knew you before you really even knew yourself. I’ll always feel a special closeness with them.

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Goooooooo Hornets!

The running was also amazing up there. Although it was not as cool as I’d hoped, it felt so nice running without that humidity. Vacation running is one of my favorites. I know that some people look forward to taking time off from running and exercise during vacation, and that is great for them because vacation should be about what you truly find enjoyable and want to do. But I am the opposite. I can’t wait to get out there and run new routes and see new things. Experience different weather and terrain. Explore new areas. I always look forward to running when we travel. It was extra awesome on this trip because I could jump in my parents’ pool after my run. Best cool down ever.

Seen on my run
Seen on my run

A couple things about some of our travel eats. First, the corn on the cob. Fresh from The Farm. I mean, I can’t even. It tastes significantly different than the corn here in Florida. Juicier and way less corny, if that makes sense. Second, Portillo’s chopped salad every day for lunch? Don’t mind if I do. Can we also discuss why Orlando does not have a Standard Market? Overpriced (but so super cute) grocery store, maybe. But the Grill? Just plain good, simple food with tons of healthy options (and amazing pizza). Great place to eat a casual dinner with the whole family or pick up a quick meal. Please. Someone open one soon. I’ll be your best customer.

The day after we arrived back home in Orlando (yes, I realize that home is two places) One and Two started school. Yikes! Three started 4 Day preschool this past week. Back to the old grind here. Yay?

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sisters
celebrating/crying on her last first day of preschool
celebrating/crying on her last first day of preschool

Hope your school year is off to a great start!

What was the best part of your summer?

 

Rough Flight, All the Sights and Tasty Bites – Our weekend in Virginia and Washington, DC

Bill and I had a great time in Virginia and Washington, DC, last weekend. We had hoped to run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler at some point, and so last fall when our friends invited us to visit them in Virginia, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and run what we had heard was a great race. So we decided to try our luck on the race lottery.

I was thrilled to get into the race (Bill got an automatic entry based on his qualifying time), thrilled to visit our friends, and thrilled to have a reason to visit one of my favorite cities. And my parents were thrilled to stay with the girls. I call that a win win win.

We had a full weekend, but let’s start with the terrifying airplane ride out there on Friday afternoon. I’m a bit of a nervous flier, so there’s that. There was also a rather large patch of storms covering the southeast as well as a cold front moving in and fairly high winds in DC. The flight was extremely turbulent and the descent and landing were not particularly pleasant either. The pilot did not ease my fears when he kept saying, “This is Mother Nature showing us she is in charge.” I mean really. Feeling the plane slide around in the wind as our wing almost dipped into the Potomac (at least it looked that way) made me feel ridiculously happy to be alive once we landed. Lots of breath counting on that flight in an attempt to ease my nerves.

Anyway, after landing (Hallelujah!), a metro ride and drive, we arrived at our friends’ beautiful new home. I still can’t completely forgive them for leaving Orlando last year, but Bill and I were happy to catch up with them and their kids. I love how time doesn’t seem to pass when you reconnect with good friends.

 

Thanks for a great visit, Sue!
Thanks for a great visit, Sue!

 

Sue and Tiger (I crack myself up nicknaming friends here) prepared an amazing meal for us on Friday night. Homemade focaccia with soft Gouda cheese and an olive tapenade for appetizers, followed by a creamy homemade pasta and chicken dish (and by homemade I mean the pasta itself was made from scratch by Tiger), salad and roasted asparagus. Plus some great wine. Our friends know that good food is the way to our hearts.

After dinner we hung out on their porch and enjoyed great company and perfect weather.

Sue made a delicious breakfast on Saturday morning and, after much too quick a visit, we were off to the metro to get into the city. Sue, please reserve the room for a week next time!

After checking into our hotel, Bill and I ran about a mile and a half to pick up our race bibs. I was prepared for lines and chaos but it was well organized and we were out of there in no time. We ran back to the hotel, did some stretching and got ready to explore the city.

I spent a summer in college working in DC so I know some parts of the city fairly well. For so many reasons it was one of my most defining experiences and I will always love the city because of that summer. Plus, what’s not to love? It’s a gorgeous city with so much history.

Our hotel was in an unfamiliar (to me) area so we enjoyed exploring 14th street heading north from Thomas circle. What a fun trendy area! There were so many cute restaurants and shops.

We continued meandering for awhile, but then decided our feet needed a rest before racing the next day. Bill really wanted to head back to the hotel for a nap but I suggested a movie…during which I promptly fell asleep for about 30 minutes. John Goodman was entertaining and all, but I was just so tired, and it was dark, and the chairs were so comfy. Out.

Saturday evening, we headed back to Sette Osteria on 14th street for a delicious pre-race meal. Bill went with the Fettucini Alfredo and I had the Margherita pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. I loved that we were able to watch the chef make my pizza from our bar seats (which is what we get for not making reservations).

I followed that up with some Powerade and about one hundred checks of the weather before hitting the hay early in anticipation of our 5:30 alarm Sunday morning.

I need you, sweet Powerade, blue coloring and all.
I need you, sweet Powerade, blue coloring and all.

The race! You can check out my recap of the race here.

Bill and I finally caught up to each other after the race (somehow he missed me crossing the finish line) and, after a coffee/hot chocolate stop and a warm shower, we were ready to explore another part of the city. We walked back to the race start and enjoyed seeing the typical tourist sites: the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial (my favorite!) and the World War II Memorial. We walked by the White House and my former place of (unpaid) employment, the Old Executive Office Building.

I worked here!
I worked here! Also, our picture taking skills are a work in progress.
Blurry picture of my love and me.
Blurry picture of my love and me. Thank goodness for the sun. It was a chilly day.
The Korean War Memorial. Freedom is not free.
The Korean War Memorial. Freedom is not free.

Based on Hardcore and her family’s recommendation, we hit up GCDC for lunch. A buttery grilled cheese, egg and tomato sandwich and tomato soup for lunch, capped off with a beer? Don’t mind if I do.

Not sure it was well deserved, but a much enjoyed beer at GCDC.
Not sure it was well deserved, but a much enjoyed beer at GCDC.

We continued walking around the Foggy Bottom area (and saw my old apartment at 23rd and Virginia!) and Georgetown, stopping every so often for a tasty beverage. We also geeked out a bit in Dean and DeLuca. Before we knew it it was time for our dinner reservation at the highly recommended Founding Farmers.

Founding Farmers is owned by 40,000 family farms, and it strives to truly connect farm to table. I love that concept. And the meal did not disappoint.

We really outdid ourselves that night. We started with the skillet cornbread, which came in a cast iron skillet with enough to feed six, and the deviled eggs. I despise mayonnaise so deviled eggs is not something I’d typically order, but I was in the mood for eggs and these were really good – smooth, oniony and not too much mayonnaise.  We followed that up with salads – Bill had the wedge because bacon and blue cheese (although this version did not have bacon!). I had the Farmer’s salad which, while boring sounding, was one of the best house salads I’ve ever had. It was topped with avocado, dates, almonds, grapes and olives. It was such an interesting combination that worked well together (although I have to admit that my first bite of the date surprised me). The portion was pretty large too. Which didn’t stop me from finishing it. Obviously.

On to our main dishes. Bill chose the spareribs and I got the cedar plank salmon. The salmon had a slightly sweet glaze on top that complemented the fish perfectly. I enjoyed that with roasted winter vegetables and some sort of pickled cauliflower and onion side as well. I wish we had room for dessert because that looked good too.

Bill and I give Founding Farmers two thumbs up.
Bill and I give Founding Farmers two thumbs up.

We took our first Uber ride of the trip back to the hotel that night and crashed. We were out early the next morning on a (thankfully) uneventful flight back home.

We loved our time in Virginia and DC. We had so many great recommendations for things to do and restaurants to try in the DC area, I wish we had time to visit them all. I can’t wait until our next trip.

What are your favorite sights and restaurants in Washington, DC?

Which word is worse in your opinion: moist or mayonnaise? 

 

 

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve – The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I ran my first ever ten mile race on Sunday – the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in Washington, DC. This race has been on my list since I started running a few years ago. Mostly because I adore DC. I worked there for a summer in college and fell in love with the city. It’s hard for me to say it’s my numero uno, tip top, very favorite city because I’m from Chicago, which is also an amazing city, but it might be (shhh..don’t tell my family).

In the weeks leading up to the race, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to race it or run it for fun. Our local racing season is August through March, so by the last 10k in March, I’m usually kind of over racing, and my feet and calves were certainly over it. Although I’d run a few small short races in my hometown, I hadn’t ever run a large longer distance destination race. So I didn’t know what to expect on that front.

In the end, I decided to race it and was hoping to run it in the mid/high 1:16s to 1:17 which was consistent with my past few races and fitness level. And then I saw it was going to be 36 degrees at the start. With 20-30 mph winds and gusts of up to 50 mph. A 36 feels like 26 kind of thing. That threw me off a little bit, but I was committed. After surviving the awful flight to DC on Friday afternoon, I felt like I had a new lease on life and anything was possible!

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Pre race. I wish you could see more of my awesome sweater.

Bill and I woke up around 5:30 on Sunday morning, ate breakfast, got dressed and were out the door by about 6:10. We ran the 1.1 miles down to the race start and all was good until we stopped moving. Oh the wind. Oh the cold. I stayed extra long in the Porta-John just to be in a relatively warm and sheltered area. And that says a lot if you know anything about me. The good news is that Bill gave me a horrid throwaway sweater to wear until the race start so at least I had an extra layer on. I shed that at about 7:20 and stepped into what I thought was my corral. Spoiler alert. It was not my corral.

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So pretty. But seriously, look at those flags. It was windy!!

 

The race directors decided to not use any signage during the race due to the high winds. That was a safe decision but it made for a confusing start. It was unclear where my corral was, and I just stopped walking and cut through the gate when I saw some other red bibs in a corral.

Once the race started, my shivering decreased but my frustration went through the roof. At first I couldn’t understand why everyone around me was moving so slowly, but I quickly figured out, while on the Memorial Bridge, that the red group was way up ahead of me. Ugh! I spent the first two miles weaving around runners, up on sidewalks, down on sidewalks, nearly clipping other runners’ shoes. I found out afterward that I passed 2,856 runners during the race. I love racing technology!

Anyway, I saw myself losing so much time right up front and it was really disappointing. I’d planned to start out at a 7:40 pace and barely managed to break an 8:10 pace for the first mile. However, I tried to get past it and kept pushing through. I ended up with some good splits as the race progressed. I think my legs liked the cold! My splits per my watch:

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Strong gusts of wind hit around mile 8.5 and then the last mile included a hill. Still, my average pace per my watch was 7:41 which I would have been okay with but, since that included an extra .15 miles of completely failing to run the tangents with all the weaving, my official pace was 7:47 and total time was 1:17:53.

On the positive side, I did take note of the gorgeous city during the race. The race course included parts of routes I ran while I lived in DC which was so cool. And so 17 years ago. Yikes!

The weather during the race, other than the blast at mile 8.5, was perfect. The miles clicked by and the race was over before I knew it. I really liked the ten mile race distance.

I also thought it was cool how once you get to the staging area, a race is a race is a race. A runner in DC is the same as a runner in Orlando. We are all dealing with the weather, our nerves and the Porta-John line as best we can.

And finally, I saw Hardcore both during the race and afterward! She happened to be in DC this weekend for an unrelated reason, but got a bib transfer the day before the race and ended up running it. In a race with over 15,000 people I thought there was no way I would see her, but I was so glad I did. It’s such a boost to see a friendly face during a race. By the way, she ROCKED this race. She has gotten faster at every race she has run this year.

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Hardcore and me. I can’t believe I ran into her a THIRD time later that afternoon.

I’d love to say that I let go of my disappointing time once the race was over, but I’d be lying. It nagged at me all day long. If only I’d been more patient and double checked the corral. If only I’d been able to start off at my pace right off the bat. If only I had a better sense of where I was supposed to start. And the fact that I otherwise felt good and ran a strong race just made it worse. It sounds so silly; I mean, I’m a 37 year old mom of three who started running three years ago. I do not get paid to do this. There are like five two people who read my blog who would even care to find out how I did. Whether I run sixty seconds faster or not doesn’t matter at all. Like really at all. And maybe I wouldn’t have run any faster even if the race started differently.

I still care and I was still disappointed in myself.

So let’s focus on Bill who won the Master’s Division and came in 43rd place overall! He’s had to take a few weeks off of training (still running, but a significant decrease in mileage and no speed work) so he wasn’t sure what to expect. He was debating whether to push through some 5:40s or just chill out with Meb’s 6:00 group. He ended up running a 5:27 average pace and finished the race with a total time of 54:26. How ridiculous is that?!? Such a great race on such minimal training and some pretty serious foot pain. He’s tough. I am so proud of him.

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Done!

Thanks for the miles, DC! I have a feeling we will be back again.

 

 

 

 

Family skiing at Keystone

We arrived home from our first family ski trip a few days ago. Wow. What a blessing it was to be able to take our kiddos skiing. It’s something Bill and I have wanted to do since I was pregnant with One eight years ago. And then it was babies and pregnancy and nursing and the recession. It meant a lot to us to be able to share something that we love so much with our girls.

When we decided to book our trip this year we considered Steamboat (where Bill and I went last year), Keystone and Winter Park (the latter two based on friends’ recommendations as family friendly resorts). We ultimately decided on Keystone Resort in Colorado. Off to Denver we flew!

After a ninety minute shuttle ride from the Denver airport, we arrived at Keystone. It was a long day of travel, but we managed to check into our condo and pick up our gear before heading out to dinner.

Monday morning…ready to ski! We dropped the girls off at ski school at 9:30am. Keystone divides the ski school into two general groups: 3-6 year olds and 7-14 year olds. That meant that One was off on her own, and Two and Three were in the same class together. They were all super excited to learn how to ski!

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And off they go!

We didn’t have to pick the girls up until 3:30 so Bill and I enjoyed three days of skiing together which was awesome. For the first two days, the weather was unseasonably warm – I think the high temperature the first day was around 35. The second day was a little cooler but sunny and clear. The third day was chilly, windy and snowy, which I was less thrilled about, but I loved the constant fresh powder.

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All in all, we had a great time skiing at Keystone. We had access to three mountains and all of the lifts we rode moved quickly. We had to wait at the chairlifts/gondola for about five minutes three times while we were there (mostly at the base of the mountain). Other than that, we walked right on to every lift, and rarely had to share the lift with anyone else. At most, a local single skier hopped on with us and gave us great tips on where to ski.  The trails were fairly wide and the snow conditions were really good. We also loved the convenience of the resort. Keystone Sports, where we rented our skis, was twenty steps from our condo. The gondola and ski school were about 150 meters. The kids could store their skis at ski school so other than the first morning, we didn’t have to carry all.the.gear. We had breakfast at Inxpot, the cutest bakery/coffee shop, right next door to our condo, and walked less than 100 meters (can you tell we are runners?) to restaurants at night.

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all.the.gear.
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The view from our condo
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View from the top of the mountain with a side of Bill’s thumb.
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Breakfast at Inxpot. Homemade muffins the size of Two’s head.

The ski school was great as well. One struggled the first day, turned it around on the second, and was skiing greens from the top of the mountain the third day. Two and Three ended up at the same level after three days of ski school. They are able to do some turning and can stop themselves. Each night, their instructors sent an email to me indicating the number of new skills they learned and their new level. They also gave us plenty of verbal feedback when we picked the girls up. I appreciated that the instructors tailored the class to the kids and, especially in the younger group, took a lot of breaks and incorporated some snow play into their day. Their philosophy (which I totally agree with) is to foster a love of skiing rather than forcing them to learn more when the kids need a break.

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Apres ski kiddie style
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Apres ski proper. There was a wooden fort and snow hill for the kids to play on right across from this bar/restaurant. Genius.

There were some things I wasn’t crazy about at Keystone. First: the lack of non-mogul black diamond trails. These are our favorite type of runs, and Keystone didn’t have many. I think it had only one. And that one was great, but it would have been nice to have more options. The lack of black runs did force us to ski a bunch of blue runs, and we did discover that some of their blues had some zip to them. At other resorts, those same blues might have been labeled as blue/black, double blue or even black. So it was great that we found some fun blue runs, but I wish the more adventurous/steeper blues were better labeled because you never knew what you were going to get. 

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One after her last day of skiing. Icicles, tree branch, wild hair and all. She’ll be whizzing by us in a few years.

Second, there was a pretty big local snowboarding presence. Not my thing, but if it’s yours then this might be the right place for you.

Third, with the exception of Inxpot, which was an independently run bakery/coffee shop, the food was just….not that good. I mean you expect overpriced but I felt that, especially when compared to the amazing eats we had at Steamboat last year, the food was not of a very high quality. Which made paying the outrageous prices even harder to swallow. After a fairly unsatisfying lunch totaling $56 on the mountain the first day, we treated ourselves only to soup from the cafeteria style restaurant the following days and brought everything else with us (bananas, granola bars, muffins, water bottles, etc.). I’m super lucky that Bill doesn’t mind wearing a backpack while he skis. He even kept an extra layer for me with him. He’s the sweetest!

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This measly bowl of soup cost $13! At least the company was good.

All in all, our visit to Keystone was fun and memorable, and I feel very fortunate that we were able to make a family trip happen. All three girls learned a lot and can’t wait to ski again next year, Bill and I got some quality time doing one of our favorite activities, and we had a lot of great family time together.

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Three new skiers!

Best ski resort you have been to? Why? 

This is a hard one. Steamboat was an all around great place to ski with a great food and drink scene. Vail’s trails can’t be beat, but crowds.

What do you think is the best age for kids to learn to ski? 

After our experience this year, I’m going to agree with what pretty much everyone has always told us: 6-7 years old.

 

 

Eleven Pictures for Eleven Weeks

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OUC Half Marathon 2014. I finished (and enjoyed!) my first half.
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Sisters
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A lot of family walks and a little family tree climbing happened over Christmas break.
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Super runner…and tree climber.
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Speaking of Christmas, all of the kiddos were surprised with bikes on the big morning.
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I finally finished this book. It was so dense, but so interesting. Makes you think. A lot.
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Steamboat Springs, Colorado with my BFF.
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Our nine year reunion and it felt so good.
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Not a bad way to spend three days while the kiddos hung out with Grandma (she is the best!)
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This field trip to the Kennedy Space Center elevated Orlando theme parks big time for me.
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Valentine’s Day started off with a local 5k race with my Love and ended with movie night with my Lovies. Popcorn was involved. Couldn’t ask for more.

 

 

Mountains are hilly

Once our girls started asking whether it’s really true that leaves change color in the fall, Bill and I knew we had to take them somewhere where it’s actually, you know, fall right now. This is one of the challenges of not being from Florida but raising Florida kids. I suppose it’s human nature to think of our own experiences as not only authentic for us but as the authentic experience. So yeah, there were those weird kids who grew up in Florida who went swimming on Christmas, but the *real* Christmas experience was waking up in your flannel nightgown (already bought ones for our girls this year and yes they will sweat it out) on a snowy morning. And having hot chocolate and warm apple cider during the season not just because they are offered at Starbucks but because our nose hairs were frozen after being outside. Likewise, fall is about the glorious change of colors, sweaters, fun fall riding boots (Bill are you reading this? Size 9), apple trees, playing outside in the crunchy fallen leaves, etc. We are trying to reframe holidays and seasons in a meaningful way that is not dependent on traditional seasons and weather, but it’s hard to feel like the girls are experiencing *real* fall when we are in shorts and swimming and the leaves look the same as they always do. Now our kids are the weird kids that grew up in Florida.

So….we felt it was our obligation to take them somewhere to experience fall (or autumn if you are fancy). Some place where they could explore, hike, see the leaves change color, pick apples, wear a jacket and make s’mores around a fire on a cold night. Being the non-doers that we often are we  thought a lot about it but did nothing until our good friends asked us to join them on a trip to Blue Ridge, Georgia, during our kids’ fall break from school. In! We really have the best friends. So there were 4 adults and 6 kids (between the ages of 2 and 6) staying at a cabin in the mountains. So fun!

One of our top priorities was hiking. Here is my little forest fairy. All of the kids did great on the hike and really enjoyed it. It was around two miles or so and we took our time.

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The girls loved picking apples. We picked a ton of Pink Lady apples and then I bought some Gold Rush apples at the orchard market. So delicious! The trees were more like bushes so it was easy for everyone to pick apples. I highly recommend a trip HERE if you are visiting the area between April and October. Lots of different types of fruit to pick.

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We spent a relaxing afternoon with our friends at Serenberry Vineyards while all of the kiddos played in the big open field and woods out back. Six kids, six flight of wine. Just saying. For the record, we could see the kids the whole time and six flights was equal to one restaurant size glass of wine. We are highly supportive of relaxation and free play 🙂

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On the running front, I had scheduled my “back down long run day” during the trip. In training for my half marathon I’ve been upping my long run mileage (ever so slightly) for two weeks in a row and then backing the long run down to 7-8 miles before upping again the following two weeks. Injury prevention is the name of my game! So I had planned an 8 mile run the first morning we were in Blue Ridge. I got up, ready and excited to run “in the coolness” as my kids say and see some spectacular views. The scenery was AWESOME but I had forgotten that running in the mountains meant that there would be some pretty serious hills. And no running or biking lanes or really even a shoulder to run on. Just curvy hilly narrow roads and cars (pick-up trucks) whizzing past you. I talked myself down from eight to seven. And then to five. And then at 2.75 miles I realized there was no way in hell I could run all the way back up the hill I had just run down. So there was some walking and jogging. I was out about 45 minutes and did just under 5 miles. At first I was down on myself for backing down from the run, but then I reminded myself that I had planned this to be a down week, it was vacation and I enjoyed my surroundings even more when I wasn’t huffing and puffing the entire way back home.

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And then Bill got back from his six mile run which turned into a twelve mile run because he felt so good out there. And then I felt like a quitter. Bionic man, I tell you.

What is your favorite family vacation?

Any tips on running hills?

Any other warm-weather transplants who are nostalgic for real seasons during the holidays?