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Saturday, May 14, 2016

I am so happy to say I am officially back on the air!

And man, does it feel good.

This has been an extremely eventful first half of the year. Our life in Arizona seems like a sweet but very distant memory (if you are new to our site, you can read about our cross-country move here). A new city, new jobs for both of us, an often frustrating search for a new home (has anyone else been trying to purchase a house in this market? YOWZERS.) and some other unforeseen curve balls meant any free time I had was spent away from my laptop and with my family instead.

No complaints here: my boys are healthy and safe, we are surrounded by folks that love our little dude, Tampa is really growing on me (hello, old brick cigar factory buildings, 1920s bungalows and cobblestone streets), and we are just about to settle into our new place. Summer is right around the corner, and I can finally dust off my blog's draft folder. I missed writing, I missed reading your entertaining blog posts and sweet comments. So to get our conversation up and running again, I would love to hear from you:

What are your summer plans?

Thank you for taking the time to read my words, and I can't wait to share our summer adventures with you!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Above photo credit:

We left Phoenix over a month ago, and I finally got a chance to compile my favorite family-friendly spots downtown. I love that downtowns all over the country have become much more kid-friendly these days! (During the day, at least) Below are 10 places we recommend and truly enjoyed visiting with our son while we lived in the Valley of the Sun:


1. Phoenix Open Air Market & Cafe

The Phoenix Public Market happens Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings, and it's a great place to stroll and get some fresh ingredients! Their adjacent cafe, which serves fresh and season ingredients from the market, has plenty of space, an unpretentious/casual/rustic feel, and even toys for the little ones while waiting for food!

2. Desoto Central Market

DeSoto is pure charm. Originally built in 1928 as the C.P. Stephens DeSoto Six Motorcars dealership, the DeSoto building is a hub for local artists and artisans, craft events, and restaurants. The outdoor patio and wide open plan make this historic downtown building easy to navigate with little ones.

3. Cibo Pizzeria

My pal Kelsey from Stories Told Media after our blogger meet up!

Set in a restored 1913 bungalow, Cibo (pronounced "CHEE-boh") has hardwood floors, exposed brick, stained-glass, and a fireplace that make you feel at home. Plenty of outdoor seating for the cool months and a cute garden for the littles to run around! They serve delicious fresh food, and have plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian alternatives.


4. Roosevelt Row

Grabbing some ice cream at Melt with my bestie from Florida!

This funky part of town is a walkable, creative district known for its arts and cultural events, award-winning restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlors, galleries, boutiques and live music. First Fridays are a big thing in town, and if you go early enough, fun for the little ones too.

5. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Speaking of First Friday, that's when we first visited the Children's museum and had a blast! There was plenty of hands-on, interactive exhibits for the older kids, but I was excited about the entire floor dedicated to the teeny tiny ones. My little guy had a blast!

6. Arizona Science Center

Image credit:

This was the only place in the list I didn't get to visit, but I heard great things about it! I mean, how can you go wrong with a science museum and kiddos?


7. Chase Field

We got to watch the Diamondbacks play at Chase field, and even had the awesome opportunity of stepping on the field before the game started! Ballparks are just about the most family-friendly sporting arenas I can think of, and Chase field was no different. This little guy got a certificate for attending his very first MLB game and everything. So sweet!

8. Talking Stick Resort Arena

We are definitely sports people, so we also got to watch the Phoenix Suns play Orlando Magic at  the Talking Stick Resort arena and had a blast! Although for this game, we had the chance to be baby-free for an evening. We took our date night and ran fast, but we know our little dude would've enjoyed himself too!


9. Cityscape

CityScape is a place where people come for dining, nightlife, shopping, entertainment, business, community events and celebrations of all kinds. My favorite are the free movie nights on the second Friday of each month, splash pad in the warmer months and ice skating rink in the winter.

10. Arizona Center

The Arizona Center is a little urban oasis in the middle of the Phoenix desert. Besides the movie theater, galleries, shops and restaurants, there's a lush garden grotto right in the middle of it all. The Herberger Theater Center is across the street, and the US Airways Center, Chase Field, and Phoenix Convention Center are walking distance from it.

Have you been to downtown Phoenix?

Friday, January 8, 2016

We're an outdoorsy family. And by that I mean no pretention. We are not experienced backpackers, long-distance hikers, professional campers. We just love being outside in nature whenever we can.

Last November (I can't even believe how long ago November seems), our friends at REI invited us to participate in their latest campaign, #optoutside. The company closed its doors on black Friday and instead encouraged folks to skip the bargain-hunting and to head outdoors. That was our original plan anyway, so after a sweet Friendsgiving in Palm Springs, we headed to Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park is a 40-minute drive from Palm Springs. We got a late start, so our plan was to hike and explore in the afternoon and head back to town early evening. The forecast for the afternoon was a sunny 50 degrees. By the time we got to the park entrance, we noticed flurries of snow. Actual snow. It was instead 38 degrees and overcast.

It didn't snow for long at all, but not totally prepared for that kind of weather with a toddler in tow, we ended up doing most of our exploring by car. We drove through a big portion of the park and stopped a few times for quick hikes, sightseeing, and pictures. Just being there was enough of a treat, and I was grateful to even set foot in this amazing park.

Our first stop was at Jumbo Tree campground - which was completely booked, even in that weather! We did a short hike up to Skull Rock (you can also drive right up to it), while our little slept completely bundled up and cozy in his baby carrier/cocoon. Skull Rock is one of the most popular trails, and even though it was a holiday weekend and there were people everywhere, it wasn't overwhelming and overly crowded at all.

Now, the absolute best part about Joshua Tree NP was its sheer vastness; sometimes it felt like we were in an entirely different planet. Nearly 800,000 acres of mountains and rocks and Joshua trees and trails as far as the eye could see. I already miss that about the west - so much space, so much silence. (Fun fact: two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park).

Can you see the TINY person in black on the right? For perspective.

The park's website is quite helpful, and it lists a ton of activities depending on how much time you have to explore and what your level of experience is. There are several short nature hikes (some are wheelchair accessible), longer hikes, rock climbing, camping, backcountry roads, backpacking, mountain biking, and so on. Pets are limited to certain areas only, so we left our little guy back in Palm Springs with his cousin Zoe.

The Story Behind the Name

The JTNP website writes that according to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. Others were not as visionary. Early explorer John Fremont described them as “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom."

Harsh eh? Shoot, I like them. For more on Joshua Tree National Park (including fees and hours) click here. As usual, linking up with these blogs for the week!

Have you ever visited JTNP? What was your favorite aspect?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Exactly a month ago I wrote my last blog post of 2015. And in the span of that month we managed to cover 4,232 miles (6,811 km) by plane and car across the United States; first we moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Tampa, Florida. A few days later we drove up to West Virginia and back to spend the holidays with family.

It was nuts. And awesome.

The best word we could find to describe our cross-country move was bittersweet. We absolutely adore the American Southwest and were so sad to leave it. But we were also raising a toddler on our own, very far from all of our family and most of our friends. If you have little ones in your life, you know that is one hard task. People still ask us how in the world we managed. Well, we simply did the best we could.

So when a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity could take us back to our home state, there was no hesitating. We had a month to relocate, which needless to say, flew by. We worked hard to sell and donate about 90 percent of our belongings; we kept only what was useful or brought us joy (side note: thank you to The Minimalists for the life lessons and constant motivation). We said goodbye to our friends over in the desert, packed up all we could fit in two cars (we shipped them and flew), and here we are.

It feels so good to be home. For example, New Year's Eve doubled as date night and girls night with my best friends in the world (neither had happened too often this past year), all because we had loving grandparents who watched our son while we remembered what it was like to be our pre-parenting selves. We've been able to "sleep in." We get to see the ocean. I get some extra time to do yoga and blog and read. It's the real deal. If all this sounds mundane to you, please don't take it for granted. If you're in the same situation as we were, hang in there. And try your best to enlist as much help as you can find. 

Photo credit (both pictures): Deepika Haldankar

I've got a few blogs posts already drafted and almost ready to go for 2016, and I can't wait to share them with y'all (I'm back in the South now). Meanwhile, happy new year! And if you are familiar with Florida (especially the Tampa Bay/St Pete area):

What are your favorite Sunshine State attractions?

Linking up with these blogs for the week!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Not quite sure how it happened so fast, but here we are - 20 days away from Christmas. My last Christmas with a three-month-old was so fun (but a total blur), as many of our family and friends got to meet him for the first time. This year is gearing up to be even more fun with a toddler! When it comes to gifts, we're trying to maximize convenience and minimize costs. Below is a small round up of fun and/or useful gifts for the adventure-lovers in your life, all under $50. I received review samples of some of the products featured, and some are from small family businesses, which I'm always happy to support.

1. 59 Illustrated National Parks: Celebrating 100 Years of Wilderness and Wonder

I love art, retro style, and our amazing national parks, so this books was a big hit with me. It celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the United States National Park Service with 70 original illustrations (inspired by the classic WPA posters), photos, facts and stories of people who help preserve our great American wilderness parks. By Joel Anderson (Anderson Design Group, 2015). 160-page, 9"x12” hardcover, full-color. $49.95. 

2. Globe Totters City Blocks

My travel IGer pals Justin and Angela Clair just launched Globe Totters, an adorable line of handmade organic cotton blocks depicting different cities of the world. Ethically handmade in Brooklyn, NY, they use non-toxic water-based inks and are filled with 100% biodegradable materials.  The jingly cubes are machine-washable and suitable for newborn babies & up. Bi-Coastal Pack (NY + LA): $45.
I'm always searching for ways to take my yoga practice on the road. With this strap, I can easily attach my mat (or a sleeping bag!) to a backpack with a set of carabiners. It also simplifies trips to the yoga studio, since it has a removable zipper pocket for ID, credit cards, and D-rings to hang keys and a water bottle. It takes barely any space alone, and it's easy and quick to use. $29.50.

4) Armadillo LT Gaiter

Ok, this one is a little more obscure for non-extreme hikers, but with a mountaineer brother, I had to include it! (Shhhh he doesn't know he might be getting a pair of these for christmas!) These gaiters help keep mud, trail debris, and snow out of socks and hiking boots, keeping you dry during year-round hiking, snowshoeing, and other outdoor adventures. $49.00.

5) Hydrapak Stash Bottle

I'm cool with carrying around my glass/silicone water bottle, but my fiancé? Forget about it. He was a bit more interested in this bottle, however, since it's flexible and collapses when empty to less than three inches. That means no unnecessary weight and bulk in his man-diaper-bag. It's a pretty sweet bottle for traveling, too! $18 for 750ML; $23 for 1L.

What would you like to see in your stocking this year?