Our first trip to Disneyland!!

I have very fond memories of visiting Disney World as a child and I had the opportunity to make more memories there a few years ago with my own little family. And now, we can all say we’ve been to DisneyLAND — and none of us wanted to leave!! The smiles on my kids’ faces and the bounce in their steps — priceless!! My husband had some business in LA so we decided to tag along and get a little family time in the happiest place on earth.

Whenever I’m heading to a new place, I always seek advice from anyone I know that is familiar with my desired destination. In this case, I got some great advice from a friend so I thought I’d pass on the tips (and of course, share some photos, and places to eat).

We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa which was a great call for two reasons: 1. It’s an easy walk to both parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park) and 2. You qualify for the magic hour with your admission ticket (the magic hour was clutch — it wasn’t too crowded or too hot that early). We paid a little extra to get the FastPass and we used the Disneyland app to efficiently navigate through the parks. My kids’ favorite rides were Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Splash Mountain in Disney Park, and Toy Story Midway Mania and Goofy’s Sky School in the other park — I think we used the FastPass AT LEAST once for all of them!

Other things worth noting — I’m super proud of myself for not “doing the most.” We didn’t see the parade or fireworks either day but I decided to try to take our time and really enjoy the parks (and our resort which had nice pools / waterslides). Normally, I’d want to schedule every minute and not rest until we saw/did EVERYTHING possible but my philosophy has changed a bit and it seems to work for us. We had a really wonderful, magical weekend!!

 

None of the best meals of my life were had this weekend but we did have some really yummy food. One thing is for sure– you have OPTIONS. They have lots of specialty treats that are both “on theme” and delicious; there are also lots of healthy options. We ate at our hotel, Disneyland Park (next time I’ll try to reserve the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant), Disney California Adventure Park, and in the Downtown Disney District. Here are a few photos:

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Montgomery, Alabama: The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice have now been open for a few months and I wanted to dedicate a post to encourage people to visit. I had the opportunity to visit both sites in late June (2018), and I had a deeply spiritual experience. Parts of the day were sad, parts made me angry, parts were informative, parts made me think — and all of that is good. I left there educated about the past, aware of the present, and hopeful for the future. Please find photos from our visit below (most of the photos are from the Memorial because photography is not allowed inside the Museum), as well as a link to a piece that aired on 60 minutes that provides an inside look to these sites:

 

60 Minutes: Inside the memorial to victims of lynching

Horizons National — Nashville, TN

Summer is here and that means lots of travel and fun, AND camp! I work hard every summer to find camps that will be both enjoyable and enriching for my sons, and I believe that every parent should have that opportunity. That’s why I joined the board of Horizons National, why I raise money for them  (and I am so grateful to my family and friends that have donated), and why I work so hard to further the organization’s mission. Summer camp is expensive and the summer slide is real — there’s a major opportunity gap, but we can close it!

Board meetings and site visits are so important. We have over 55 sites across 18 states, and we have measurable results — our kids advance in math, science, literacy, and of course: swimming (critical, life-saving skill) — for more stats, check the website at the bottom of this post! Several months ago, I became aware that our next board meeting (and site visit) would be in Nashville, TN, on the day of my youngest son’s 5th birthday! The decision whether to go in person or to call in to the meeting was a tough one. I am, above everything else, a mom, so leaving my kids at all is difficult, ESPECIALLY on a birthday. But I spoke with my son, planned his party for the following weekend and coordinated to celebrate his birthday in preschool a little early, and I decided to go. As board members, we buy our own flights/pay our own way when we attend meetings/site visits, so I booked my flight. I’d be gone one night/two days… And THEN, one week later, two letters come home: 1. Jayce (my oldest son) has a field trip and I’m class mom, I need to be there. 2. Jonah has kindergarten orientation, on his birthday, I need to be there! I literally felt like the worst mother in the history of the world. Fortunately, I have amazing kids and a great husband! They helped me to gain some perspective… I have been on every field trip and gone over the top for every birthday… Missing me for two days was going to be OK, especially because I was going to be helping other children.

Every moment in Tennessee was incredible. The children were thriving in Horizons’ camp, and we discussed expansion. There is a waitlist of students that would like to attend, most of our sites have waitlists. As we talked about potential revenue streams, fundraising/capital campaign, I knew that I was where I was supposed to be. I had a working dinner, working breakfast, site visit, and of course, the board meeting. While I didn’t get to explore the city of Nashville, I could feel the warmth of the city. And, having met some of Nashville’s children, I was very impressed! I missed my family like crazy and worried constantly, but I made it home in time for birthday cake. Nashville, TN: next time, I’ll be back with the family! And Horizons National: I’ll continue to go where you need me.

Here are a few photos from my trip:

 

For more information on Horizons:

https://www.horizonsnational.org/

 

 

Photo Gallery: Floribama

We just returned from a week in: Floribama! We flew into Pensacola, FL and spent a few days with friends — we explored Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Breeze Zoo, and ate some amazing seafood at various local restaurants. Our favorite meal in Pensacola was at McGuire’s Irish Pub (where tourists, like us, sign dollar bills and tape them to the ceiling — some estimate that there is $3 million taped up there!!). After a few days in Pensacola we drove across the Floribama line and stayed two nights in Gulf Shores, AL. Our first stop in Gulf Shores was: Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, miniature golf is so much fun! Then we went to the famous restaurant, Lulu’s, for lunch. We spent the next day playing at the beach and in the pool and we ended the trip with a party at Craft Farms Golf Club (beautiful venue with excellent service)! It was a great trip; we are thankful for the memories with our family and friends!

 

Girls’ Trip 2018 (Argentina/Uruguay) / Happy International Women’s Day!

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Punta del Este, Uruguay

I just returned from a girls’ trip (3rd annual!) and it was marvelous! While it’s true that I missed my husband and children terribly, it is truly a blessing to be able to spend quality time with mi amigas once a year. It is especially important to honor that today, on International Women’s Day! When you attend college and graduate school in different states, and you move to different states to support your husband and his career, and then you have children and you befriend their parents… you develop meaningful bonds with women all over the country. We all have people in our lives that inspire and encourage us; my girl gang does that and then some! This is my story but I believe that everyone can relate on some level. Watching my friends thrive in various fields (engineering, medicine, design, education, forensics, photography, law, etc.) while holding down their families and trying to make the world a better place… YES they’re amazing and YES it’s exhausting. That’s why it is so special to be able to come together and recharge once a year; finding and feeding those parts of ourselves that we normally (and dare I say gladly) neglect. Women everywhere, we see you, we salute you, and we celebrate you!

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Hotel Fasano Las Piedras

Here are the details from our 3rd annual Chicas’ Trip:

 

All trips begin the same way: choosing a location! This year, my cousin provided the inspiration! She recently moved to Punta del Diablo, Uruguay (she is so brave, I am super proud of her) and, having never been to Uruguay myself, I thought it would be the perfect time to go! Rather than Punta del Diablo, I set my sights on Punta del Este – arguably the best resort town in all of South America! Next, it was time to see who was coming with!

 

Punta del Este, Uruguay is not the easiest place to get to (if you’re coming from the United States). The trip begins with an 11 hour flight to South America… I didn’t think that many of my friends would be interested/able but to my delight EIGHT of my favorite women said they wanted to come! In the end, there were seven women traveling from the states and we met up with my cousin in Uruguay!

 

First, we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina where we spent 2 days/1 night. You can read about our adventures in Buenos Aires here: https://tucktravel.wordpress.com/2018/03/07/24-hours-in-buenos-aires-argentina/

 

Next, we flew direct from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Punta del Este, Uruguay! We landed in Uruguay and went straight to our hotel: Hotel Fasano Las Piedras. The hotel is beautifully situated so that you have spectacular views of the Uruguyan countryside – and the sunsets are unforgettable! The hotel is not in downtown Punta del Este, so on the one hand it is incredibly private which is nice, but if you want to head to the public beach or go shopping, you need to anticipate a 20-40 minute drive (that involves going over a crazy bridge!). The first night we ate at one of the restaurants in our hotel: Locanda Fasano, the food was great, the views were better!

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Locanda Fasano

On our second day in Uruguay, we decided to explore the property so we spent some time at the spa and the pool. We also attempted horseback riding but we didn’t get very far. Many visitors to Punta del Este are from Argentina and Brazil so the primary languages are Spanish and Portuguese, this made communication difficult at times (especially when our group split up; we only had 1.5 Spanish speakers in our group haha!). We also practiced yoga with a local, and played some tennis!

 

That night, we went in to town and had a fabulous dinner right on the beach at Imarangatu! They had live music, and the pizza and the drinks were out of this world! I also want to take a moment to acknowledge how nice people were – our group did not exactly blend in (understatement haha!) but that prompted folks to come over and welcome us to their country. We genuinely appreciated the hospitality. We were given suggestions of where to go, what to eat, etc.

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Imarangatu

After we left Imarangatu, we explored downtown Punta del Este a bit. The highlights of our late night exploration include: churros (filled with dulce de leche!) and La Mano (The Hand; it is a sculpture on the beach by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal).

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Punta del Este, Uruguay
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La Mano de Punta del Este; Brava Beach

The next morning we ventured out to Casapueblo to admire the hotel and the museum (and the views from this part of town!). Casapueblo is part hotel and part museum. In the museum you can see works by the late painter, sculptor, etc.: Carlos Páez Vilaró. We enjoyed admiring his work.

 

After Casapueblo, we drove to José Ignacio to explore the beaches there and to eat at the renowned restaurant, La Huella. The food at La Huella did not disappoint. In fact, corvina is my new favorite fish (grilled and/or ceviche). After we ate at La Huella we spent the afternoon listening to music and playing on the beach!

The next day was really special, we went to a vineyard for a wine tasting and gourmet 3-course meal! Our new little paradise was called: Narbona (vineyard plus farm-to-table meals!). It was beautiful! We tasted several wines and learned more about the wine making process. My personal favorite was the tannat, specifically: Narbona Tannat Roble. In addition to the wine, we had homemade pasta, lamb, and of course: dulce de leche (it’s the most popular sweet treat in Uruguay).

After a fabulous day, we prepared for our last night in Uruguay. We had dinner and drinks by the pool (back at our hotel) and then we ventured out for a night on the town. We began the night at an Irish pub in Punta del Este called Moby Dick. The servers were friendly, the drinks were strong, and the music was great (90s hip hop anyone?!). We danced for a while at Moby Dick and then we headed next door to Soho for more dancing (purely Spanish music). It was so much fun! We LOVED the music in Uruguay (thanks to my cousin for prepping a fun playlist of local favorites for all of us); the fresh drinks were great too!

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Caipirinha or Caipiroska?

Before heading to the airport on our final morning we had breakfast together. Breakfasts were my favorite because they always had some sort of cake or pie with dulce de leche! I am so thankful for this trip with these women! The country was so beautiful and the friendly spirit of the locals was contagious, I feel lighter! I will miss Argentina and Uruguay, and I will miss these ladies and our conversations (soul bearing – next big thing – etc.) but I am grateful for the experience. Happy International Women’s Day and happy travels!

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Salud!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 hours in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The destination of my third annual “chicas’ trip/momcation” was Punta del Este, Uruguay. There are several ways to get there, but as a group, we decided to go through Buenos Aires, Argentina (basically giving ourselves an overnight layover). When you have less than 24 hours in a new city, every moment really counts! Here’s what we did:

We landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina and met up at our hotel: ALVEAR PALACE, in the Recoleta area of Buenos Aires. We wanted to maximize the time we had in Buenos Aires so after a quick snack at the hotel (and changing a small amount of money – the Argentine peso fluctuates a lot), we walked over to the Recoleta Cemetery to explore! There are over 4000 mausoleums in Recoleta Cemetery and each has a story! Without a guide, one could appreciate the beauty of the cemetery and find your way to the most famous graves (for example: Evita Peron) but we decided to pay a minimal fee (less than $10/person) to go with a tour guide. We went with “Free Walks Buenos Aires” and our tour guide, Loli, was fantastic! She was interesting, intelligent and thorough as she educated us about the cemetery and the history/drama surrounding those buried there (many past Presidents, Generals, etc.). If we had more time I would have absolutely gone on another walking tour with this company:

http://www.buenosairesfreewalks.com/recoleta-cemetery-tour/

 

 

 

 

At the conclusion of the cemetery tour, we hopped in a cab (FYI Uber exists in Buenos Aires but is not legal) and headed to the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. In Palermo, we went to a wine bar/shop called “Pain et Vin” for a wine tasting. The young man that hosted us was the son of wine makers (his family owns a vineyard in the Mendoza region), he was very knowledgeable. Our group especially loved the Torrontés (white wine that originated in Argentina); specifically: San Pedro de Yacochuya. We tasted four different wines and then shared a bottle of Malbec and some laughs! If we had more time we would have LOVED to explore/shop in this neighborhood.

https://www.pain-et-vin.com/home

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the wine tasting we went back to the hotel to change for dinner. We were all very excited to try the steak in Argentina! We opted for a restaurant in the same neighborhood as our hotel (Recoleta) called: El Mirasol (an Argentinean steak house open since 1967). It was delicious — and within walking distance so we got to enjoy an evening stroll through the city as well.

 

Our final stop for the evening was the rooftop bar at our hotel. The Alvear Roof Bar is on the 11th floor, it’s a beautiful outdoor space with views of Buenos Aires from every angle. We enjoyed desserts and champagne, and then called it a night!

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Our second day in Argentina consisted of breakfast in our hotel and then a visit (more of a drive by) to the “pink house”/La Casa Rosada. La Casa Rosada is the Government House; the President does not live there but he has offices there.

 

For lunch, we ate at Cabana Las Lilas in the Puerto Madero neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The restaurant is right on the water! The steak was excellent, the service was excellent (we waited less than 10 minutes for a table and were given a bottle of champagne on the house while we waited!), and the view was breathtaking! After lunch, we were full and off to the airport!

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February-March 2018

June: National Zoo & Aquarium Month

We love aquariums and zoos! They serve so many purposes: education, entertainment, conservation, etc. When traveling with our kiddos, we always research the area and make note of the local zoo and/or aquarium. It’s helpful to look up feeding times, special shows/exhibits, etc. I asked my boys which zoo/aquarium was their favorite and they said the Oakland Zoo (specifically, going to see the zoo lights around Christmas) and Turtle Back Zoo (specifically, feeding the birds). Over the last seven years (2010-2017), we have visited the following sites (and we’ve visited most of them more than once so if you have any questions feel free to reach out):

 

San Diego Zoo

San Francisco Zoo

Oakland Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo

Central Park Zoo

Turtle Back Zoo (West Orange, NJ)

Bronx Zoo

Birmingham Zoo

Duke Lemur Center

National Zoological Park / National Zoo (Washington, D.C.)

Tiergarten Schönbrunn / Vienna Zoo

 

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Adventure Aquarium (Camden, NJ)

Sea World Orlando

Georgia Aquarium

Aquarium of the Bay (San Francisco, CA)

Birch Aquarium (San Diego, CA)

Aquarium de Paris – Cinéaqua

 

Are we missing your favorite zoo or aquarium? Where should we go next?