Flag Pond’s Beach!

  
I was feeling adventurous and wanted to head to the beach on Monday. Norah and Ana were happy to oblige, especially after I read about a neat beach about an hour outside of DC on KidFriendlyDC

  
We hit the road about 9 am with our cooler, jogging stroller, and some beach toys. We were so excited! Norah kept saying, “Beach! Sand! Waves!” the whole ride there and was in a great mood. 

Once we parked and walked to the boardwalk (about 0.5 miles away, with a jogging stroller and a rolling cooler-no easy feat given all the recent rain!) we were greeted by this:

  
Expansive, picturesque sand dunes with driftwood and tidal pools. So pretty!! Worth the walk! And huge props to Ana for lugging our huge bag and cooler while I got the more manageable stroller and chairs.

   
We immediately set up camp and hit the water. Norah did great sitting right on the edge and making “castles” with her beach toys.

   
 
Eventually Norah was enticed to get into the water, and she ran right in! We did a lot of splashing and jumping in the water. It was perfect: about 12 inches deep and really clear! Norah loved looking for Minnows. 

  Then it was time for a picnic lunch and we dug into our sandwiches, chips and blueberries. And I learned that Ana doesn’t like soda, not even Diet Dr. Pepper. What?!? How are we even friends?!?

  
Then it was back to the water, where Norah put on her life jacket and ran into the deeper water and floated on her back for awhile. We searched for some seashells for Mike and Oma and we found a fossil! The beach is known for it’s fossils and shark’s teeth. 

As we packed up Norah modeled Ana’s hat:

   
 
We drove home during Norah’s nap and then an epic afternoon of cleaning commenced. We did tons of laundry, vacuumed and mopped the floors, and cleaned the bathrooms, all before dinner! 

With such a busy day yesterday, we took it easy this morning. I laid out clothes and began packing for our Lake Cumberland trip later this month while Norah played with trains.

  
We also discovered a scary metallic green spider on our deck chairs. Eek!

   
  

Celebrating Oma at the Imagination Stage

Saturday was a soggy, rainy day, but that’s ok! We had plans to see Oma! Oma’s Mother’s Day present from us was a morning spent together at a show and brunch. We absolutely love going to the “theater” with Norah at the Imagination Stage in Bethesda. They have awesome shows for little ones that are so simple but so full of creativity! The shows change every few months, and this month’s show was called Aquarium

  
My mom met us at home and we had no trouble finding the the theater and parking in the free garage, even with all of the rain! We picked up our tickets from Will Call then went inside to wait for the doors to open. 

  
Norah had fun running up and down the hallway, and exploring the canoe. (Theater-goers are encouraged to take a picture inside the canoe, but Norah would not oblige.)

   
 

Waiting for the show to start!

  
The play itself was wonderful! I thought the show would be about fish and aquarium creatures, but it was actually about a marooned sailor and his friend who were traveling together to find the island of Aquarium. They ran into characters along the way (with some help from audience volunteers!) and all the kiddos had a great time going on the adventure. There was a lot of opportunity for the children to get up and participate and it was so fun to watch Norah engage on the stage. She has not been as adventurous in previous shows at the Imagination Stage; I’ve loved watching her confidence grow! She jumped right up and joined the actors when asked, which is a big difference from when she would clutch my legs and refuse to  move! If we lived closer, I would love to enroll her in some of their summer camps, I bet they are great for building children’s confidence! 

After the show ended (it was about an hour), we headed to brunch! We went to Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church. While the company was great and the food decent, the service was so crummy! We’ve had similar experiences the last couple of times we’ve been there, which is unfortunate. We’d like to support local businesses, but it’s safe to say that we won’t be back anytime soon. 

  
After brunch, Oma headed home and Norah and I did the only respectable thing to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon: take a long nap! We both caught some zzzz’s then we read some new library books. The sky finally cleared and we took a really long walk. By the time we got home, Michael was finally done with work! We celebrated with an impromptu picnic via the Whole Foods hot food bar and cheese selection and watched some HGTV. Pretty perfect little Saturday! 

   
 

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Summer Break, Week 1!

Summer fun is in full swing around these parts. We began the first day of summer with relaxing, doing chores around the house and running errands to Target and Harris Teeter. We made a really easy chilled tomato-cantelope soup, and Norah had a lot of fun crumbling prosciutto and pushing the buttons on the blender. She also ate about three bowls of the soup for dinner, which blew my mind.

Tuesday morning, we had plans to see a show at the Children’s Theatre in the Woods at Wolf Trap. We met some friends for a concert by the Pop-Ups. It was hot. Like, h-o-t-t hot, but Norah loved it. She was entranced by the props and music. I think we’re going to need to break down and buy some “kid’s” music for her to sing along to in the car and at home-she loved it!

  
Check out those hot babies!

In other news, Annabelle got a bath on Tuesday! She was very overdue for a grooming appointment and she came home looking very spunky. This was the best picture I could get of her haircut, it’s too bad that you can’t see her sweet new bandana!

  

On Wednesday morning, we had plans for a Ladybug play date! Each Ladybug is hosting a play date at their house every Wednesday and this week we got to go to Molly and Owen’s house. Kim put out the sprinkler and kiddie pool and the babies had a blast! I forgot to take any pictures, so you’ll have to trust me when I say there were a ton of adorable toddlers running around. It was so nice to relax on the deck with other moms too! 

Thursday morning was another hot day so Norah and I decided to spend it indoors with Oma at the new Children’s Science Lab

  
We met at the Fair Oaks Mall and Norah had a great time exploring all of the gears, lights, animals, blocks and more! 

  
Afterwards, we went to lunch with Oma before heading home for nap time. 

Friday was another relaxing morning. We met friends at the library to check out some new books and then we went to Lost Dog Cafe for lunch! We are home now for Norah’s nap, but this afternoon we’re going to an ice cream social in our neighborhood and we are very excited to get to meet some moms and toddlers in our neighborhood! 

I’ve managed to nap every day during Norah’s naps, so I would say it has been a very successful first week of summer!

  
(Annabelle makes the best napping buddy, ever.)

Summer is here!

It is officially summer! The last day of school at The River School was on Thursday, and then I had a teacher work day on Friday.  But now it’s the first official Monday of summer, which means that Norah and I are hanging out and relaxing!

Check out these pictures from Norah’s first day of “school” in the Ladybugs this year:

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And Norah with her sweet teachers:

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And then this picture from Thursday!  Someone has gotten so big!

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We’ve already had a busy couple of days.  We went to a baseball game on Friday, hosted an engagement brunch for Ana on Saturday, then spent Sunday, Father’s Day on the lake!  Mike’s request for Father’s Day was a day on the water, which sounded perfect to us! We drove down to our boat and had a fun-filled sunny day just the three of us.  All of this lead to a tired baby, so Norah is now taking an epic nap while I clean up and get organized from the whirlwind weekend. Once she wakes up, it’s off to the grocery store so that we can pick up fixing’s for some fun BBQ dinner food!

I am so happy that summer is here so that we can play, recharge and have fun!

Rocky Mountain High?

It was another whirl-wind weekend! One of my best friends from IU had her wedding shower this past weekend in Denver, and I used it as an excuse to head west to the mountains and see my dad!

Given that it was such a quick trip, Mike decided to stay home with Norah so I flew out to DIA by myself Friday night. I had a bit of a wait at Dulles because there was weather causing a delay in Denver, so I treated myself to some red wine and duty-free shopping!


After a 4-hour flight, the pilot announced that we would be circling DIA until the airport opened up. The airport shut down to severe storms, and we were eventually re-routed to Albuquerque to re-fuel. Making it two Fridays in a row that I’ve been stranded somewhere that I haven’t wanted to be late at night. We eventually made it back to Denver, but by that point, my poor dad had been waiting at the airport for hours! We were both very relieved to pull into the house early Saturday morning.

We needed a good night’s sleep, because my dad had big plans! We went to breakfast at New Day Cafe, then we headed to Manitou Springs to hike The Incline!  Built on old railroad ties, the incline trail goes straight up a mountain for a mile. Yep, straight up.

My dad is hard-core and hikes this thing 2 or 3 times a week. Because he’s crazy. When I asked to join him, I really should have taken a couple of things into account. 1. I was coming from sea level. 2. I’m kind of out of shape. And 3. My dad is a bad ass, and there’s no way I can hope to ever keep up with him.

But, lo and behold, my dad and I found ourselves at the start of the trail Saturday morning.  Hiking the trail has become a bit of a local must-do and people time and race themselves to get to the top. The U.S. Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy are both in Colorado Springs and their athletes use the trail as a training course all the time. Apollo Ohno once ran to the top in 17 minutes, 45 seconds and my dad’s best time was 44 minutes. My goal to make it to the top in under an hour.

After lots of shaky legs, stops to catch a breath and cool off in the shade, my dad and I finally made it to the top!! The views were awesome.

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We made it to the top in 1 hour and 4 minutes, which I was a bit bummed about. If I had known we were so close to my goal, I would have taken a couple fewer stops, but oh well!  I might not have made it without those last couple of stops!  We hiked down Barr Trail to get back to our car in Manitou Springs, which was about 3 miles and it was really beautiful.

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We showered and headed to some nearby breweries for lunch.  A request of mine whenever I head home is to visit the brewery right in my parent’s neighborhood, TRiNiTY Brewing Company, and the food and beer this time did not disappoint!

My dad and I then went downtown because I wanted some new spices from my favorite store, Savory, and because I wanted to check out a new restaurant/coffee shop/bakery called The Ivywild School.

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Ivywild School is an awesome space!  Bristol Brewing Company converted the old school into their new brewery.  The downstairs is pretty much home to the brewery, but the ground floor was really cool.  The Cafeteria had a restaurant, serving Bristol Beers and a full menu; The Gymnasium has been turned into a cool concert venue and the science labs are now a coffee shop and bakery.  My favorite spot was The Principal’s Office, a cool, small room with a speak-easy feel making craft cocktails.  My dad and I enjoyed a beer or two and then we headed home for the evening.

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On Sunday morning, my dad drove me to Denver for Maggie’s shower.  Her friend Abbey hosted the most amazing shower, and all of the details are on her blog!

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The shower was hosted at a fun restaurant near Wash Park and the food was incredible.  We also played one of the most fun bridal shower games I’ve ever played. It was so wonderful to spend the morning catching up with Maggie and seeing old friends from school!

My dad then drove me to the airport and I headed back to Arlington on a (thankfully!) incident-free flight.  I can’t wait to be back in Colorado in August!

Amarillo by morning?

Howdy! Mike and I just got back from a weekend in Amarillo, TX to celebrate the wedding of our dear friend Tom.  Tom’s fiancé (now wife!) is from Amarillo, and the two of them planned the most amazing Texas weekend for us East Coasters.

However, our weekend began with a traveling nightmare.  We left DC early Friday morning and got to Dallas with no problems.  We had a four hour layover, and decided to spend our time at a Mexican cantina.  Some of our friends were also coming through Dallas, so we all met up together for a long lunch.

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In the midst of our lunch, Mike and I learned that our flight was CANCELLED, for no apparent reason. We got on standby for the next flight out, but didn’t make it, even though our friends did.  We then made the next flight, but our captain never showed up (?!?) so that flight was cancelled as well.  At this point, it was 9pm and we had been at the airport for nine hours.  We decided to call it and rent a car to drive to Dallas.  We saw another couple with ND shirts on, and figured they must be going to the same wedding….so we offered to drive them!  It was a five hour drive from Dallas to Amarillo, so we were very glad to have the extra help taking the late shift in driving across the panhandle of Texas.  We rolled in at 2:15 in the morning and collapsed into bed.  We were so bummed to miss the rehearsal dinner!  It was held at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park and it looked breathtakingly beautiful.  The silver lining in this is that we were so late getting in that the only room left was a suite on the top floor, so we were pretty pumped about our amenities! Party suite!

The next morning, we slept in and stumbled to a cool coffee shop called Palace Coffee Company for some scones and hipster coffee.  We had to take the rental car back to the airport, womp womp, which meant we missed breakfast burritos with the gang, but we met up with everyone for lunch at Crush, a wine bar.


The ceremony wasn’t until 5 pm, so we had the entire afternoon to play! First stop, Boots n’ Jeans warehouse!  The bride warned us that everyone would be wearing boots and hats at the reception, and she managed to get everyone in the wedding party a discount, so we headed out to wrestle up some boots!

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Once we were properly outfitted, our group headed to Funville, which had batting cages, Putt Putt and games galore.  We all took a shot at the batting cages, and then Jess showed us all up.  We were having fun in the “medium” and “fast” pitch cages, then Jess waltzed into the “expert” cage and knocked them all out of the park.  That girl was insane! We found out after the fact that she played softball, which helped soften the blow…


        

Swing batter batter…


Next up, some putt putt golf, couples vs. couples, and Mike and I completely and utterly lost.  We were awful!  Once we licked our wounds, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the shuttle that would take us to the church.  The shuttle dropped us off, and the ceremony began right away!  Michelle’s dress was lovely and she looked absolutely stunning.  I also loved being able to see Tom so happy!  He was ecstatic as she walked down the aisle.

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Once Tom and Michelle said “I do”, we boarded the shuttle and arrived at The Amarillo Club, a gorgeous venue on the top floor of the Chase building in downtown.  We enjoyed a fun cocktail hour while taking in the great views.


    

My favorite part of any wedding is the dancing, and we had an amazing time tearing up the dance floor after dinner and toasts.  Michelle’s sister gave, hands-down, the best maid of honor speech any of us had ever heard, and then we all worked our magic with the bandleader to get the band to play “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.  Towards the end of the night, our wishes were granted, and the house went crazy for the song.


After the reception ended, we headed to a cocktail bar associated with The Amarillo Club and hung out with the bride and groom and their families until closing time.  The bar’s speciality was a Moscow Mule, and we all enjoyed a few too many ;)

Sunday morning, our group headed out bright and early, but Mike and I decided to spend an extra day just the two of us.  Given the long travel time and the fact that weddings are not exactly baby friendly, we decided to leave Norah with her Oma.  We then decided to take advantage of the baby-free time and turned it into a mini-vacation! (Spoiler alert: there’s not much to do in Amarillo on a Sunday…EVERYTHING is closed!)  We managed to find a fun spot for lunch and we hit up Cadillac Ranch!

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Super weird…just a bunch of Cadillacs stuck in the ground with some spray paint.  Hmm.  Mike and I are not cool enough to appreciate their artistic value? But they made for great photos.  We then drove down historic Route 66.

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We decided to cut our losses with trying to find something touristy to do (next time, we’re definitely hitting up Ohms Cafe!) and headed to the movies.  We saw Aloha with Bradley Cooper, and it was pretty cute! Nothing great, but lots of eye candy to go around and it made us laugh several times.  After the movie, we went to Acapulco for some margaritas and chips and queso.  Our crew ended up there after the rehearsal dinner on Friday, and we heard it was quite the experience.  Our brief happy hour stint did not disappoint!


We asked the concierge for a good dinner recommendation, and we mentioned how much we liked beer, so he immediately suggested the “I Don’t Know Bar” (that’s the actual name of the bar!)  It was a fun, sports-bar like atmosphere, with over 250 beers on tap.  We enjoyed a couple of yummy, hard-for-us to find beers and then we headed back to the hotel for some Netflixed Mad Men.

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Everyone, including the bride Michelle, raved about Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and after missing the rehearsal dinner, Mike and I knew we had to see it.  We decided we would hike the Lighthouse Trail based on everyone’s recommendations, but then we actually got the park on Monday morning.  Even though we were fueled by some great coffee from 806 , we could not wrap our heads around the dire warnings in the park’s maps.  Our favorite excerpt was “Do take plenty of water, as most heat-related deaths occur on this trail”.  WHAT!?! We might be city slickers, but we’re not stupid.  We only had a liter of water each, and neither of us were prepared for a 5.5 mile hike in a Texas canyon.  We decided to stick to the Paseo del Rio trail, and had a fun time meandering along the bottom of the canyon, even though we both got eaten alive by bugs (and we almost got rammed by a young buck, and then we interrupted a male turkey trying to proposition 3 female turkeys…it was dicey for a couple of minutes).  The views were incredible and we are so glad we got to see the park!  Next time, we’ll be more prepared with enough water and bug spray!


    

We had a final lunch at Crush before heading to the airport, and then the real fun began (cue sarcastic voice…) Our flight to Dallas was delayed, and then we sat on the tarmac in Dallas for several minutes waiting for a gate.  I SPRINTED to the gate and begged, screamed, cried, cajoled and threatened the ground crew to wait for Mike to join us with our bags.  He had to wait for our bags on the jetway, and he ran up not a second too late.  I was watching the crew close the door on us (as they assured us that we were on the next flight out to Baltimore…yeah, sure) as he ran up and I couldn’t believe that we had actually gotten on the flight.  Our captain was a bad ass and landed during a thunderstorm.  It was the scariest landing that either Mike or I had been through, and our neighbor, a flight attendant, said she’d never been on a flight where a captain had attempted such a stupid landing (her words, not ours!)  All that being said, we could not believe we actually made it back to DC Monday night.  We managed to snag an Uber and paid a huge surge to take us home, and we finally walked through our doors at 1:30 in the morning.  So happy to be home.

While we enjoyed the wedding immensely, Mike and I have no desire to ever go back to Texas again!  We spent more than our fair share sitting in the Dallas airport.  Public service announcement: never fly American Airlines!!

St. Paddy’s Day 2015!

*While typing up a post about our recent trip to Amarillo, I realized that I never published this post…better late than never!*

Top o’ the evening to you! And Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day! St. Patrick’s Day is hands down one of my favorite holidays, because it’s so silly! Who doesn’t want to wear green, look for leprechauns and search for rainbows?

We kicked off the week with some yummy Shepard’s Pie on Sunday night, courtesy of Tom’s delicious recipe. Monday morning, we dressed Norah in one of her finest Irish outfits and headed to school.  I LOVE getting to play fun themed games with the kiddos during speech therapy, and we spent the beginning of the week making leprechaun traps, reading Green Shamrocks, and eating Skittles for oral motor work.

Monday night Norah and I got dinner ready for St. Patrick’s Day! We made slow cooker corned beef and cabbage and put it in the fridge so that everything was ready to start cooking Tuesday morning.

First we layered potatoes and cabbage:

Norah was very particular about separating all of the cabbage.

Then we dumped carrots in the pot before adding the corned beef!

We rubbed garlic, honey, and mustard on the beef before topping with whole cloves, all spice, peppercorns and onions. The last step was pouring two cans of beer and broth into the pot!

I put it in the slow cooker around 7 am, and it cooked on low until 6 pm, when we added two chopped Granny Smith apples (not traditional, but so good!)

Breakfast for St. Paddy’s Day was toast, hard boiled eggs and asparagus, with leftover Shepard’s Pie for lunch.

Work was really fun, because all of the kids and teachers get so into it. We made leprechaun traps after reading The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day and ate Lucky Charms for snack. I picked Norah up early from Ladybugs for a doctor’s appointment, and then we headed home to get dinner ready.

We had an appetizer of Irish cheddar cheese and soda bread, with some Beer for the adults:

Then we sat down to dinner with our special guest, Oma! My mom got into town Tuesday night and we had so much fun eating and spending the evening together. Check out our big girl eating her corned beef and cabbage this year compared to last year:

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Such a cutie!

After Norah went to bed, we hung out with my mom for awhile before going to bed. It was a great St. Patricks’s Day and now we are so excited to depart for our big trip to Mexico!